When Life Changes, Renegotiate

At many of the bridal showers I have attended, there is often an activity asking attendees to write out a piece of marriage advice for the bride. While some people may write things like, “Never go to bed angry,” or “Kiss each other every morning when you wake up,” I write something more practical (and slightly sarcastic):

“Choose your household chores carefully because you will be doing them until you die.”

I know, romantic, right?

And yet, many of us who have been married a few years or more know it’s true. In the first year of marriage/cohabitation, we fall into patterns of division of labor. One person pays the bills, the other takes out the garbage, one mows the lawn, the other writes the thank you notes. I think my husband and I fell into chores that we enjoyed, or at least didn’t mind doing (at first). I started doing the laundry because I like my clothes and want them to retain their size and color. He did the bills because he has a degree in business (and I do not). He loves to do yard work to decompress, I do not. 

But when the kids came along, things got muddy. After all, we both created (or participated in the adoption of) each human as they arrived, so, shouldn’t we share equally in the responsibilities of keeping him or her alive?

Ideally, yes.

Additionally, as we make an attempt to divide the labor that goes with each new human, should we also maintain the workload we already have established (more on that later)? Just like the rest of our duties, my husband and I started to fall into a pattern as children entered the picture. He works full time, I stay home. At first, for practical reasons, I began doing more related to the kids because I was physically there when he was not. As time went on, I found that it was often easier to do more not related to the kids as well because it was more efficient. But as the years went by, if something was viewed as, “my job,” needed to be done, it became harder and harder for him to understand why he should do it. And, when he would, it was labeled by him as “helping out,” along with the expectation of a pat on the back (Cringe).

As the years have gone by those chores that we chose in the early years of our marriage have become firmly cemented into our routine. Our yard looks fantastic, our bills get paid and my car is well maintained. I know my husband does these things but I don’t really notice anymore. And, I’m confident that my husband may believe that hot meals appear magically in the kitchen most nights when he gets home from work. School supplies are purchased, new shoes are put on kids’ feet as needed and recently a kid got glasses for the first time. All under his radar.

Life can clip along at an alarming pace and one day you realize that what you’ve been doing is not working for you anymore (because life has changed). THIS is what happened to me and there is no one to blame but me, myself and I. Our family dynamic is different than it was twenty some years ago, why am I still doing the same jobs? Why is he?

I’m not alone. Many of my friends are entering a new phase of life. Their kids are starting preschool, or elementary school, or high school or college. Some are going back to work after staying home, some are going back to school, and some are just taking on more responsibilities at work. Wouldn’t it make sense to sit down with your partner and renegotiate in light of changes in your present circumstances?

Yes, it does make sense and, I don’t know about you, but this was a revelation for me.

Negotiations are ongoing, but recently I loudly announced that I would no longer be the person that makes sure we have enough toilet paper in the house. With a few clicks of his mouse, my husband set up our Amazon account to have toilet paper show up at our door on a regular basis. I now have one less thing taking up residence in my already overly cluttered brain AND, most importantly, he is now, technically, in charge of the toilet paper. BOOM!

So, sit down with your partner and let the negotiations begin. Make a list of things that are going really well and things that aren’t. Talk about what regularly falls through the cracks and how you can come up with a solution. Most importantly, make a plan that you make you both happy. Because, “Until death…” does not mean doing the dishes exclusively until you die.

Julie Jensen is a mom of five boys and one girl. She is a runner, biker, yoga instructor and socializer. That about sums it up. Believe it or not, she really does enjoy the soccer, cross country, swim team, track, dance classes, basketball, and theater her kids are involved in as long as she has another mom (or dad) to talk to during these events. Julie works part time at Fleet Feet Sports where she gets to talk to other (adult) runners and is also a yoga instructor and owner of Red Ox Yoga - https://redoxyoga.com/ You can follow her on Instagram at @out_numbered_mama6


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