EMOTIONAL LABOR SERIES: Why We All Need Downtime

by | Jun 29, 2020 | Uncategorized | 48 comments

Emotional Labor Series: Why Both Spouses Need Downtime
Merchandise is Here!

You can’t be emotionally healthy if you don’t have downtime–time when you can relax, pursue passions, or care for yourself.

We’re finally here–at the conclusion of our mental load/emotional labor series for the month of June! We’ve talked about the problem of mental load and emotional labor; we’ve covered the Fair Play system that can help solve the problem; we’ve looked at how to decide what needs to be done; how to divide up the daily grind (and why you should); and how to stop nagging for good.

And today we’re going to end the series by talking about the ultimate aim: that everyone has some head space and free time to develop themselves, relax, and care for themselves.

In other words–that everybody gets to be emotionally healthy.

Before we get started on that, I want to do a shoutout for my Sheila’s Spotlight product of the day, an affiliate product that I love and use, where your support helps me eliminate ads from the blog. Can I point you to Passion4Dancing? This online ballroom dancing course breaks down all the different dances into very small steps, so that each video builds on itself. It’s how Keith and I learned to chacha, swing, rhumba, and more! I love it, and if you’ve been having a stressful time with COVID, here’s a way to inject some romance back into your marriage.

This month, as we’ve been talking about mental load, we’ve been focusing on the book Fair Play by Eve Rodsky. It’s not a Christian book, so there is some language, but she explains the issues so well, and she guides you through how to have conversations as a couple about this stuff.

 

 

Fair Play:

A Game-Changing Solution for Sharing Mental Load and Emotional Labor–

that will transform your marriage!

If I can sum up Rodsky’s system, it’s that:

  • Everyone “owns” different tasks in their entirety–conception, planning, and execution.
  • Everyone has to take at least 6 of the 30 daily grind tasks.
  • Everyone should have roughly equal amounts of downtime, even though the household areas of responsibility don’t need to be shared equally.

Everyone needs downtime.

But in our families, we often act like one person’s time is more important than another person’s time.  Why is it that one spouse may be able to make plans to see friends or go golfing or head out on Saturday without checking with the other? Because there’s an assumption that they are not responsible for what happens in the home. They act like their time is more valuable than their spouse’s time. They can take time off, because they don’t need to consider what their spouse may want to be doing.

And that’s just plain wrong.

Yes, one person may have a stressful career.

But having the chronic stress of carrying the load for all the details in the family is routinely rated as one of the most stressful jobs there is. In fact, stress levels of stay at home moms are higher than that of working moms, according to a Gallup poll of 60,000 women. That’s not to say you shouldn’t stay at home with the kids. It’s only to say that we need to realize that this is a very stressful job, largely because you are never “off”.

And pssstttt….this can be why we grow apart!

Not just that women feel taken for granted–which we often do. It’s also that we start forgetting what made us truly us.

Before you were married, what were your passions, your hobbies, your interests? What did you like to talk about? What subjects were you really interested in, and where you knew everything?

Chances are a few things come to mind. These are the things that made you uniquely you. These are the things that made you interesting, and that your spouse saw in you when you married.

And yet, for so many women, these things disappear when they take ownership of what goes on in the household.

Maybe she even used to always have her makeup done and she chose great clothes and her hair was always cut, but now she wears it super long with split ends always tied up in a messy bun because she simply doesn’t have time to go to the hairdresser.

And then the spark is gone from marriage, because she doesn’t even feel like a woman anymore. She simply feels like “Mommy.” He feels like he married a wonderful, vibrant woman, but soon they only ever talk about the kids.

You can’t expect to have a relationship based on interests, ideas, and activities if she has no space to cultivate these things in her life anymore. 

That’s what Rodsky says in Fair Play:

 

When my husband and I started dating, I was an ambitious, dynamic woman who challenged the status quo, fought for the underdog, and always had eyes wide open to civil rights issues that shouldn’t be left for the next generation. I was engaged. I was passionate. I was interesting, damn it. But after kids rocked our world so completely, I lost some of my spark.

Eve Rodsky

Fair Play

What Rodsky realized is that this lack of time to pursue who you were made to be is one of the biggest drivers of women’s stress, and also of marital distance.

In short, we should all be able to be interested in something, and to be interesting.

This is not to say that SAHMs aren’t interesting–not at all! And I’ve always said that I consider being home with my kids one of the highlights of my life. But unless we carve out time to make sure we stay who we were made to be, it’s easy to feel as if we’ve disappeared. And that’s very lonely.

And so Rodsky introduced what she calls “Unicorn Space”

It’s that time where you can pursue a passion or a calling that makes you feel more like “you”. For me, it’s a combination of working on this blog and writing and also knitting (I have the joy that my Unicorn Space and my job coincide). For Keith, his Unicorn Space is definitely birdwatching (and here’s something extra he saw on a walk just last Friday!)

Black Bear

I would add a Jesus component to this: He has prepared good works for us to do before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 2:10), and these good works are not ONLY about our family. They’re about our unique giftings and talents and circumstances. Maybe it’s volunteering somewhere, or leading a Bible study. Maybe it’s getting politically involved. Maybe it’s helping refugees get settled, or tutoring some kids who live down your street. I don’t know. But we’re all uniquely equipped to help in some way, and we all need to feel as if we’re listening to God and following His leading.

Rodsky’s Happiness Trio

Adult friendships, Self-care, and Unicorn Space.

We all need to spend time on these areas every week–and this is the only area where 50/50 time split is absolutely encouraged. 

“If you’re resenting the time your partner spends on the Happiness Trio, you’re likely not claiming or carving out equal time for yourself, inevitably triggering feelings of jealousy and creating even more contention within your marriage.”

 
Eve Rodsky

Fair Play

How to Negotiate Time Off with Your Spouse

Maybe your home is just really busy, and you may only be able to garner a few hours by yourself each week. When my husband was working really hard in his pediatric office everyday, plus call at night, and I was homeschooling our girls when they were young, he ended up taking a half day off a week so that I could write. That was him honouring my “Unicorn Space”. He gave that to me so that I could start pursuing what I felt was my passion and calling, and it’s grown from there. I know other guys who take the kids Saturday mornings so their wives can head to a Starbucks and write for a few hours, or who do the bedtime routine and dinner routine one night a week so their wives can take a class.

And while Keith gave me Thursday afternoons to write, I gave him Tuesday nights to spend time with some friends in a historical war game club. So he had time to pursue something he loved, and I had time to pursue something I did.

1. If a spouse takes time off, they should not have to do more work when they get home

Don’t create the Sandra and Mark story from day one of our emotional labor series! If she gets time off, then he should do the chores that would normally get done during that time. If she gets three hours without the kids, but then comes home and has to cram three hours of housework into the next two hours, she isn’t going to feel rested or rejuvenated. So have a list of what needs to be done at that time, and make sure you both understand it!

2. Relaxation is important, in and of itself

We should not have to justify our time off. Everyone needs down time. If his downtime is fixing up a car that will never run and that will never be sold, and she would rather he be more productive, that judgment should stop. We all have certain ways we relax, and we all need to relax. It shouldn’t go on for hours upon hours, but we shouldn’t make judgments on how each person spends their time (unless it’s going to a bar or getting drunk or something!)

3. Down time works best if it’s regularly scheduled

Let’s say that he takes half an hour when he gets home to work to himself while she makes dinner, and then he does the bedtime routine with the kids while she takes time to herself. Plus she gets 3 hours on Saturday morning, and he gets Thursday evenings. When it’s regularly scheduled, then each spouse also knows that at other times, they’re expected to be pitching in and helping. 

4. At all other times, if one spouse is working, both spouses should be working

If there is nothing to do and you’re all caught up, by all means take a rest and have some fun! But if one spouse is run off of their feet, and another is playing video games, that’s going to lead to a lot of resentment.

5. Just because you’re tired doesn’t mean you get to sit down

Here’s a tough one, where some grace is needed: sometimes someone has had a really bad day–way worse than usual. And they need to be by themselves. That’s valid, and please give it to them. Sometimes one spouse may have major health issues, or even just exhuastion from pregnancy, and they need to be able to sit and take care of themselves more than usual. Again, totally valid.

But if every single day one spouse comes home and says, “I’m tired, I’m just going to relax,” that’s not okay. If you are so tired that you absolutely cannot help around the house ever, or be engaged with the kids ever, then you likely need to get a different job. Everybody is tired. Everybody is stressed. Talk to your spouse about it and figure out how we can have a “down” evening, but you simply cannot justify playing video games all the time because “you’re tired”, and then making your wife the default for caring for the kids all the time and for cleaning up after you. Similarly, a woman can’t say, “I’m tired after looking after the kids all day,” and then have him make dinner most nights when he gets home, and have him put the kids to bed by himself most nights, while she does nothing.

You both need down time, and it isn’t right for one spouse to be put in the role of the servant of the other. That’s not teamwork or partnership. That’s using someone.

One of the most chronic stressors of women especially is seeing men have time to sit down while they are running around after everyone else

How many family events have you been to where the guys sit around talking and the women run around getting the food ready and clearing the table and washing the dishes? How many church potlucks have you been to where the women are busy setting everything up and taking everything down, while the men sit around and talk? How many nights has she put the kids in bed and made dinner and managed homework while he sits on the couch and stares at his phone or plays video games?

This is very disheartening to so many women. This is one of the biggest causes of stress and resentment in marriage. Many men have the luxury of sitting down and doing nothing, while many women don’t.

If we want marriages to be strong, and we want women to feel supported–and even if we want great sex lives–women simply can’t feel taken for granted anymore. 

And the best way around this is to make sure that everyone has equal downtime, and that, outside of those times, if one person is working, they both are working.

This isn’t a lot to ask. This is simply fair and right. I have had such a deluge of emails from women thanking me this month for finally putting to words the exhaustion they’re feeling, and this, I believe is the final piece of the puzzle.

I hope we can work towards this–giving each other space to be both be interested in something, and to be interesting. To pursue God’s calling, and to take time to hear from God again. To feel as if we’re part of a partnership and part of a team, rather than a master-servant relationship.

That’s my heart for this. And now, I think, I’m done.

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Founder of Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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48 Comments

  1. E

    I’d like to hear about how other families carve out time for doing their interests or hobbies. I’m a SAHM who also homeschools 4 kids from elementary to high school. The kids have a lot of chores so that is really helpful so I do find time to workout most days and read here and there during the day. Once a month or so my husband takes the kids out for 4 hours. He did that on Saturday. I spent it all on homeschool planning which is Kindof fun for me, but I really want to do some sewing. Then yesterday I took the kids out so he could work on his hobby which requires a quiet house. I like to see him having free time. I don’t know why it’s hard for me to just use that time for my fun stuff.
    I do want to develop friendships. Will be glad when this corona stuff is over.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yes, the corona stuff is a big problem for everyone!
      I think I’d just talk to your husband about it. It’s great that you had time to plan for homeschooling (I remember those days!), and that is kind of fun. But, yes, sometimes you need to do your sewing, too, even if it’s just an afternoon a month. I think just talking about it and making it a priority is the only answer.
      I’d also add that it’s very important for children to see that mom gets time off, too. It sets a great example for both boys and girls of what to expect and aim for when they’re adults. When women take no time for themselves, that similarly sets an example that we likely wouldn’t want them to follow.

      Reply
  2. Doug Hoyle

    I don’t even know what me-time would look like. I haven’t had a vacation in 20 years. The only time I could take off was when I wasn’t working and had no money. I see that my wife has the means to take a few 10 day vacations every year to visit friends and family in other states. Whenever it seems like I might have an opportunity to go climbing or something it is limited to a day or two. Never more than a weekend. If Inwas ever able to put something together, I would have to go alone.
    Down time is another matter. Most evenings I can put my feet up for a little while, and still get things done to help around the house. It doesn’t really regenerate, so much as it let’s me start all over the next day.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, Doug, that’s so tough! Is it an issue with your job, or with your relationship? I find that if I don’t take a week off every four months or so I really get very stressed. Even if I work a little bit in that week, I try to at least take afternoons off. And then I try to take two weeks a year when I’m actually offline. I just find that without that, my stress level gets too high.

      Reply
      • Doug Hoyle

        It’s a little bit complicated. Part of it is work, part of it is likely relationship, and I am sure a certain amount is boundaries on my part. Aside from all of that, I mentioned in an earlier remark that I do not have the luxury of worrying about if the bills will be paid. My worry is how they will be paid, and I take that seriously.
        In the employment aspect, I have a relatively unique, and also a relatively rare skill set. I routinely run jobs and supervise crews that absolutely require my presence. If I am not there, usually the job is shut down. That doesn’t mean I don’t get time off, but it is not what you would call scheduled down time. I sometimes get a day or two between jobs, but it is not an easy thing to schedule, and short of a family emergency, that is when I am expected to take my time off. It isn’t me saying that I am so important that I can’t take time off, but the reality is that the work is designed around my presence, and generally speaking, if I am not there, the job is shut down. That means that while the men who working under my supervision can and often do let me down and not show up for whatever reason, those absences can be managed. If I am not there, the entire crew stays home unless there is another qualified supervisor available to step in. There usually isn’t one.
        In the relationship aspect, we have come a long way, but there is probably some room for improvement. I don’t mind my wife taking vacation time for herself, but it occasionally catches me by surprise. It can be pretty hurtful to learn that she has made plans for her birthday, etc, that includes travel but does not include me. That has happened more than once. Another aspect that involves relationship is my wifes spending habits, but that is also an area where she has improved a great deal in the last few years. When she sees a 20 dollar bill, it is a small thing to her. Mad money, as it were. For me it is an hour that I have to spend in the Texas heat. In order for me to even consider different employment, and it is a subject that has come up on occasion, then money has to be treated differently, I don’t want to make it seem like she spends every dime carelessly, because she doesn’t. but sometimes home improvement projects or other things that are genuinely worth considering, seem to be taken as a given. We have the money so let’s spend it. In the boundaries department, I seem to have a difficult time telling her no to some of those things, when it should probably be discussed more fully.
        I don’t mean to imply that I am always overworked, but I would like to cut back, and till we figure some things out, I don’t see a way to do so. That leaves me with little hope for long term relief. As it stands now, I will be maintaining this pace for the nex15 years or so, and hopefully will manage to get the mortgage paid off in time to retire by then.

        Reply
  3. Angela Laverdi

    Ohhhhhhhhhh THIS!!!!! Thank you foe highlighting this topic. “If you’re resenting the time your partner spends on the Happiness Trio, you’re likely not claiming or carving out equal time for yourself, inevitably triggering feelings of jealousy and creating even more contention within your marriage.” You have to CLAIM unicorn time. It will not just be GIVEN to you. And if you are being run into the ground like a $20 dollar mule…. (yes Im Southern) then that needs to STOP. Period.

    Reply
  4. Nathan

    > > we often act like one person’s time is more important than
    > > another person’s time.
    Many years ago, I came across a post from a woman who was in a situation like this. Her husband had a “dream” that we wanted to pursue. She didn’t go into details, but that’s not really important. He told her “this is my dream, and as my wife, I expect you to support me in my pursuit of it”. She agreed, and that was fine. On the other hand, any time SHE wanted to do anything for herself (have lunch with friends, go to an art show, relax outside with a book), he’d get all weird and funny and ask her “Why do YOU need to do that stuff?”

    Reply
    • Lisa Johnson

      Nathan,
      Your comment about dreams made me think of the answer John Gottman (notes researcher of marriages) gave to how can you improve marriages. Ask your wife about her dreams.
      https://youtu.be/G_Vz_Cbsu3o

      Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, that’s really sad! I’ve seen that in many marriages as well. It’s just healthy, and it does lead to resentment.

      Reply
  5. Anon

    Even if that wasnt the point this really hit home when it comes to me and my wife lately. We have been together for soon a decade and to be honest, we dont have much to talk about. Everything circles around the same thing. I guess it is because none of us have a hobby. I try to give her as much time to relax as I can but she only likes to sit on her phone whether its social media or internet shopping(which isnt always good because she tends to shop too much). I rarely get any relaxing time. I am at home right now with the kids but even after she comes back from work I am usually the one doing things and playing with the kids etc. The time I get to relax is on my bathroom breaks or in the night when she and the kids are sleeping but I need to start going to bed earlier so I dont have that time anymore. But I have the same problem as her. I dont have any interesting hobbies. I like some fantasy books and videogames but tend not to play it much because I dont want it to take over.
    We help out at our church but dont have a lot of time to do it. . We both have after marriage and me nearly getting burned out become very boring people. And it is starting to show. We have started to sit quiet even more because there isnt much to talk about. I think we were to focused on the infatuation when we started to date that we missed that we are very different people. It doesnt necessarily have to be a bad thing but we dont have much to talk about unless its the kids or some family drama but we cant be waiting for our families to start fighting to have something to talk about.

    Reply
    • Kristin

      Google conversation starters! You can find all sorts of question to ask each other to spark conversations. Marriage365 has a whole book of questions you can ask on a daily basis. It sparked some good conversations between my husband and me!
      Hope that helps!

      Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, Anon, I feel you! I think that’s one of the problems of the internet age. We’re all tired and stressed, and when you get tired and stressed, you want some “down time” to relax you. And we tend to turn to the thing of least resistance, that’s easiest–the internet. But the problem is that “wasting time” doesn’t really make you feel better. It just makes you feel like a slob. So now you’re still tired and stressed, but you also feel like you’re a slob and you’re wasting your life.
      I think so many of us are in that boat!
      It’s one reason we like camping, and just getting away from the internet sometimes.
      It’s also why we both have “productive” hobbies in some way. I knit, and Keith paints. My sons-in-law both like woodworking. And then there’s hiking and birding that Keith and I do together. That gets us out in fresh air and also gets us some exercise.
      One thing that I”ve found helps is that we’ve figured out things that we want to do BEFORE we let ourselves turn on Netflix or something (I talked about that in this post about at-home date nights). And then I also have my list of hobbies for couples. I hope those may help!

      Reply
  6. Phil

    This has been a very interesting series. As I worked this stuff during the series I have witnessed some changes in my marriage as I change the way I participate. Having been married for 20 years now I would say as was mentioned previously in other posts – a lot of this stuff has been sorted out naturally along the way. Thankfully I would say that this was not a major sore spot in our marriage at this point but yet the changes I have made have improved things for my wife and our marriage. There was a time in my marriage early on where I didnt even know where the dishes went in the kitchen and I had to ask. While we thought it was funny and laughed about it – really my poor wife was carrying everything. I think knowing how to do everything is important – maybe its “not your Task” but when the other spouse needs a break or maybe you just want to be nice! – you can step up. So good stuff Sheila and all TLHV team. I really enjoyed the series. My closing thoughts are this. I truly have come to believe that women really do often carry the mental load in marriage. My wife and I had a conversation maybe a few weeks before this series started and It got a bit heated over tasks and mental load when I look back on it. Even though mental load is not a huge sore spot In our marriage we do have some issues. My theory in our argument was if you are going to do all the tasks then I will stay out of your way. Needless to say thats not what she wants. I think its some sort of man block thing or something. Here are 2 stories that make me really believe that women are more likely to to take on mental load naturally then men – meaning men have to work at it and women it just seems to be more natural. More recently I have become more involved in meal planning. I have been helping with that task in the past but now I actually do the inventory and help plan in more detail where I will participate in making the meal and also making sure we get the frozen stuff out in the morning. We write it down and then that day I will remember that I am responsible but darn if I can I recall what I am supposed to make. I can look it up but if I ask my wife she will remember LOL. It just seems to be in her nature. The final straw that makes me believe that women are just more naturally in tune with mental load happened last Tuesday. I was headed out the the driveway with my 12 year old daughter. As we got to the end of the driveway my daughter looks over at me and says Daddy – tomorrow is garbage day – we have to remember to take the garbage out tonight. My head about spun off my shoulders. Apparently it starts early for you women!

    Reply
    • Lisa Johnson

      Phil,
      Thanks for your comments and bringing up an important point to discuss.
      ****It’s not “natural” for women.*** That’s a big part of the problem that Eve Rodsky addresses in her book.
      Men can remember details when they “own” it. Men remember many, many details of how to perform tasks at work and their interests. Deadlines and timeframes are remembered when it’s considered necessary to do so and when there are consequences. The real issue is that at home men do not “own” the details in the same way for things historically deemed “women’s work.”
      As detailed in her book Rodsky interviewed neuroscientists: women are NOT inherently better at multitasking than men as is often stated as an explanation for the unbalance (that often goes along with the women are “natural”).
      Perhaps often women are more skilled because of years of practice at the skills expected of females of “remembering” or “noticing” in certain areas but that is not because of natural differences in skills.
      It’s corrected by men developing habits and skills and systems of noticing and remembering just as they are ABLE TO DO in other areas of their lives.

      Reply
      • Phil

        Well Lisa – heres the thing: first I will say thank you and I do have an open mind And will certainly consider your point about my “natural” comment. Here is what could maybe be a rephrase and or perhaps another way of looking at why women seem to carry the mental load and men struggle. I dont disagree that women and men can multitask the same. Here is what came up for me when I read your comment. When I was dating my wife for 4 years before we married we had a running joke that she was my memory. She would remind about my family events and aunts birthdays and stuff like that. She would remind me of about tons of stuff and take responsibility for stuff that was and for me. It is what she did for me. I guess looking back on that I saw it as a form of love. Here is the thing. Can you see how that made me lazy? I didnt have to do it and didnt even have to learn how to do it because she did it. So perhaps maybe a social norm has perpetuated over I dont know thousands of years? that causes this tendency of women to take on memory (mental load). It has to be a learned thing not? My story about my daughter is a perfect example. Today I got word that my bosses father died. In conversation with my wife about it she said oh we have to get him a card. I said yes and his sister too because she also works for the company. My wife pulls out a sticky and rights it down. I asked her why she was doing this as it is my responsibility not hers. She buffed back well I am just writing it down….she does it Lisa. I dont even have a chance to do it myself. Phil shrugs. I dont know. Just seems like “natural” to me. I will void the word natural and replace with learned? Your thoughts?

        Reply
        • Lisa Johnson

          Phil,
          Thanks for your thoughts. IL
          I agree it’s often a responsibility assumed by females to be the “memory” partly in my experience of expectations of making sure others are shown love and concern and partly because it is so ingrained as the what females are supposed to be and do (caring, empathetic, relationship focus).
          Messages we all receive over and over about how males and females are supposed to act.
          Its tricky I agree when you have someone who is good or better at a particular skill like your wife is and it’s easy then early on to both fall into a pattern where she “overfunctions” and you “underfunction”. It’s often not even intentional on many people’s parts. It’s just easy to flow with the tide rather than swim upstream. Over time you end up way down the river from where you might have charted consciously.
          I think then it’s important to be conscious of what is going on and discuss how to separate who does what as early in the relationship as you can. But even later it matters even if it’s harder to swim upstream.
          If your wife was good at “memory” and you both decided doing kinkeeping work (like buying greeting cards for friends and family) was one of the cards she would own it’s all good. As long as you can also agree on other areas where you also own some cards like trash or whatever.
          There are some women who have a hard time giving up some cards for whatever reason. Anxiety, control, worry of judgment for not being a good wife or mother, not wanting to ask for help because it seems “ungrateful for all his hard work” etc etc. (I’m not sure if that’s what’s going on with your wife of just hard to break long habit).
          In that case imho the husband needs to work with her to make sure some cards are his. He has to enforce boundaries to unburden her because it is healthier in the long run for ally. It’s hard stuff in that case. Hard for the husband to fight for more work ha ha but necessary. There is learning on both sides on this!
          We have to unlearn old things as much as we have to learn new things. Both sides need to learn how to manage this in healthier ways.

          Reply
        • Lisa Johnson

          Phil,
          Funny story about memory.
          My husband has very good memory abilities of his work details and his interests. But for reasons I mentioned in the other comment I became the family “memory”.
          The pharmacist asked for his birthday to pick up a prescription. My husband turned to me to ask me when HIS birthday was.
          That’s when I realized how ridiculously unbalanced this whole “family memory” thing was! I had to put in boundaries to create better functioning for both of us.

          Reply
          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            Oh, dear! That’s really sad. And funny at the same time.

          • Phil

            Thats a good one. Thankfully I know when my birthday is lol. That mad me laugh pretty good. Thanks for sharing with me today Lisa. As for your thoughts my best guess is that for reasons yet to be determine and or (maybe it doesnt matter) it appears like once again I get to fight. From what you shared it looks like I will have to fight for more work. Sigh. You know what Lisa? I am tired. I am tired of fighting. I have been fighting my whole life. For the past 8 months I have been in a battle. I was continuing my path of 16 years of fighting to be a better person and be a better father and husband and brother and son. And you know what I got? A bigger battle that messed me up. Sorry for my rant here but I am just tired of fighting Lisa – and now I have to fight for more work from my wife? – God help me is all I can say. Today my bible reading and study was 2 Corinthians 4:16. Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. Sigh.

          • Ina

            Then you have people like my husband and I where no one ever knows how old we are. Am I 24? 23? I’m too old to be 22, right? How old are you again right now? 26? 27? What years were our children born in? Nobody knows! We need to find an outside source to “own” this for us!

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            It gets worse as you get older! And I can never remember how many years we’ve been married. I’ve been saying 29 for years, but I think we’re only just about to hit 29 this year.

          • Lisa Johnson

            Phil you said:
            “For the past 8 months I have been in a battle. I was continuing my path of 16 years of fighting to be a better person and be a better father and husband and brother and son. And you know what I got? A bigger battle that messed me up. Sorry for my rant here but I am just tired of fighting Lisa – and now I have to fight for more work from my wife? “
            I am so sorry you feel like you are in a battle! I can understand why that is overwhelming and you are tired.
            I don’t know what your particular marriage issues are. The things I was writing are for many marriages but may not be what you need to do!
            It’s awesome you have been working so hard to become a better person, husband, father, brother, and son. That clearly shows you have strong character to work so hard to change.
            I hope you and your wife can find a way to work together so it doesn’t feel so much like you battle alone. I don’t know if you have other wise people in your life or maybe professional help like a counselor too to help figure out the best war forward. Sometimes it helps me a lot to to get clarity of what the goal looks like that to work towards.
            Hang in there Phil! You seem like a man with a hard worker with a big heart and an open mind to change and that is a powerful combination.

          • E

            Great thread of comments! This whole series has been so interesting and thought provoking!
            Phil’s comment about being tired of fighting struck a chord with me. I recently read a book called Try Softer, which is about being gentler with yourself (the opposite of trying harder), and maybe that is what you need to do? I can’t say whether the book was written specifically for a female audience (I wasn’t thinking about recommending it to a man at the time!) but you might find it interesting anyway.

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            I totally agree! Phil, I think you would really like Try Softer. It’s an excellent book!

        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Phil, I think the question is twofold: “Is this working in your relationship and everyone’s good with it?” If so, I really don’t see it as a problem. If one person takes on kinkeeping and the family calendar, and you both agree, and you’re both on board, then it’s really not a big deal, as long as you’re taking on other things in the family.
          The second part of the question, though, is, “could you function if for whatever reason she stopped?” For instance, many men (typically men, but not always) “own” the finances in the family, taking care of retirement savings, insurance, automatic payments, credit card payments, etc. Many women know absolutely nothing about their debt level, or how much insurance they have, or even where the insurance documents are. And then one day he’s in a car accident, and she suddenly has no access to money or no idea of even where the accounts are.
          So they could both be okay with the arrangement, but it’s actually quite a dangerous one.
          The other one with kinkeeping (although from your comments I honestly don’t think this is a problem for you, because you seem to have quite rich relationships with your kids/friends) is that when the (typically) woman does all the work of arranging family gettogethers, and calling the adult children, and looking after the parents in the home, and figuring out everyone’s doctor’s appointments, and then something happens to her, suddenly he loses his relationship with the kids/friends/parents/siblings. They think this is one reason men die so soon after their wives do, while women don’t as much. Women do the work of connecting, and the men often don’t. So when he loses her, he actually loses his whole social network.
          So there’s the consideration of, “are we both okay with this?” and also, “are we developing a pattern of behavior which could prove dangerous if that person were no longer able to do it?” As long as those questions are both considered, then I don’t think it matters much who does what.
          (Oh, and in the finances example, this is one reason why I think couples should have a monthly money check-in, even if it’s just a few minutes, so she knows if they are in debt and she should monitor her spending. She also needs to know where all the paperwork is for all of the accounts, and have signing authority on all of them).

          Reply
  7. Lisa Johnson

    “One of the most chronic stressors of women especially is seeing men have time to sit down while they are running around after everyone else
    How many family events have you been to where the guys sit around talking and the women run around getting the food ready and clearing the table and washing the dishes? How many church potlucks have you been to where the women are busy setting everything up and taking everything down, while the men sit around and talk? How many nights has she put the kids in bed and made dinner and managed homework while he sits on the couch and stares at his phone or plays video games?
    This is very disheartening to so many women. This is one of the biggest causes of stress and resentment in marriage. Many men have the luxury of sitting down and doing nothing, while many women don’t.”
    THANK YOU for stating this so clearly!
    Small example, I cannot tell you how many family events like Thanksgiving dinner I have attended where the men sit and watch football while the women prepare, serve and cleanup. Or Christmases where the men relax and have no idea of what presents are going to be unwrapped because the wife planned, bought, and wrapped the gifts (even for his family).
    And everyone acts like this is “normal.”
    Women have the same 24 hours a day as men. And it’s not less valuable even if she makes less currency for paid work. But it’s sadly often treated that way. It’s a big problem with marriages to be healthy over time as women burn out.

    Reply
    • Laura Grace

      Oh this reminds me of a great memory. Years ago I hosted a Thanksgiving dinner for a group of recent refugees from a middle eastern country — a small family (mum and three young teen children) and nine men! An Arabic-speaking girlfriend cohosted with me so she could act as translator. When dinner was over, the friend and I half-jokingly said, “In America, if the women cook dinner, the men clean up afterwards!” The men all jumped right up and boy, every dish and my entire kitchen were immaculate when they finished. I sort of hope it started a tradition for all of them as they built their lives here!

      Reply
  8. Jane Eyre

    I once worked for someone who told me that I could take my (generous) vacation any time I wanted to; I just had to work “twice as hard” when I returned to make up for it. I was already putting in 60 hours a week, so that never happened. (Note to employers: if you offer vacation time, it’s up to you to staff properly, not up to your employees to not take part of their compensation.)
    Likewise, it’s not time off at home if you’re just shifting around the work. That’s an awful thing to do to someone in corporate America and we shouldn’t do it to our families, either.
    I slightly disagree with “one spouse is working, both should be,” but that’s because my husband and I stagger our housework shifts. He gets off work before I do, so he has some down time, then gets dinner started. After work, I take some time to decompress, eat dinner, and then after dinner, when he’s relaxing, I do the dishes and clean the kitchen.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, the way you do it is totally groovy and fine! You’ve both scheduled downtime, and you both take it, and that’s fine.
      The problem is when someone just sits down as the default, and does nothing while someone else is constantly working. That’s when it becomes problematic.
      We all need to allow others to rest when they need to, no problem with that at all. It’s just that it shouldn’t be the default! 🙂

      Reply
  9. Ina

    This really brings to mind the concept of Sabbath. God knew we needed rest and provided for that. We aren’t legalstic about it, but we have made the decision to intentionally have a day each week where we don’t allow ourselves to do more than the absolute basics. We play with the kids,ride bikes, take naps, leave the dishes in the sink, and sit with drink coffe for hours. And it’s s really helped us with getting the rest we need ( almost. Until we’re consistently sleeping through the night it will probably feel like we’re in a constant state of playing catch up…)

    Reply
    • Jo

      Yes to this! We are commanded to rest, not as a legalistic burden, but as a gift. The language of the command shows that rest is for everyone: on it you shall do no work, nor your son nor your daughter, nor your manservant nor your maidservant, nor your animals. It is for both sexes and every socioeconomic status; no one rests at another’s expense on the Lord’s Sabbath.
      The only thing to add is: the Sabbath is a holy rest to the Lord. It is about putting Him first in our rest. If we fail to do this, is it really surprising that true rest is so elusive in our society?

      Reply
      • Angela Laverdi

        So why does everyone scramble so badly on Church days to get dressed properly, make it to church on time, have so many activities at church, etc…..

        Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Love that! I try to do that as well. That’s why I never update comments on the weekends, too!

      Reply
  10. Andrea

    One of my friends got married last year and her new husband unintentionally caused an awkward situation at her parents’ house when, after Thanksgiving dinner, he got up from the table together with his wife, her sisters, and their mom, to help with the clean-up. This made the dad uncomfortable, so he asked his new son-in-law to sit back down with him, but the new guy made the situation even worse when he responded with, “Oh, I’ll totally come sit back down with you, just as soon as I finish helping in the kitchen.” Eventually, my friend’s mom asked my friend (her daughter) to ask her new husband to stay seated after dinner and not get up to help because it just made her (mom’s) life harder if her husband (the dad) was being emasculated by his new son-in-law. So now my friend and her husband pretend to be a traditional couple when they visit her parents in order to spare her mom from dad’s post-Thanksgiving grumpiness. My friend says that her husband not helping in the kitchen actually, ironically, makes the holiday get-togethers at her parents’ house less tense and more pleasant for everyone.

    Reply
    • Lisa Johnson

      Certainly women doing “peacemaking” to avoid conflict with men are part of why this persists.
      We made the opposite decision to change the unfair status quo.
      My husband stood up and started helping clear the table (after we had discussed the importance of this) while the men sat.
      It was uncomfortable but he just did it despite the snarky comments by his dad and other men. Despite his mother telling him he didn’t have to help. I was proud of him for making a change and being strong enough to be uncomfortable and make others uncomfortable. Change is often uncomfortable.
      There was a change over time in other younger men and boys seeing it as normal and pitching in too.
      I think we have to balance the pros and cons of doing this stuff. Maybe it makes more sense sometimes to stay status quo as your friends did if its a limited time frame with family togetherness as the higher value with people who aren’t open to change. But you also need to consider the cons of perpetuating wrong values too.
      The main thing imho is it needs to be a decision made **together** based on your values not just floating along with unfair or sexist status quo because it’s easier.

      Reply
      • Lisa Johnson

        I always forget to use the correct terminology. I should have written “peacekeeping” instead of “peacemaking”. I meant there are women who work just want people to be silent to keep the peace rather than addressing something that needs to change.

        Reply
  11. Suzanna

    I have LOVED this series and I’m almost finished with Eve’s book. One thing that I’ve been thinking, this seems to be directed to those with small children. As children get older I think the cardholder may be responsible not to complete the task directly (dishes, garbage) as much as overseeing that is it completed by the child assigned to the task and disciplining the child if they fail to complete the job. One area that isn’t really addressed is those type of child-rearing aspects that come after diapering, potty training, and magical beings.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yes, very true. I talked earlier this month about having the kids do some of those chores, too, and then the cardholder takes on the supervision card. Kids can do way more than we often give them credit for. My girls were great at making dinner as teens!

      Reply
      • Angela Laverdi

        Hey, my 5 yr old clears her plate and wipes up after herself after eating or making a mess. I’ve told her ” I’m not the Maid – Maids get paid.” Lol

        Reply
        • Jacqueline Ramjee

          That’s a great start Angela. Long may it continue. Our 15 year old is in charge of emptying the dishwasher. Sometimes she would forget to do it and I would empty it and my husband would load. The new rule now is if she forgets to empty it then it is all left. When she comes back in she has to empty, put the clean stuff away and load the dirty stuff. So far this has happened 3 times in the last three weeks. She is learning but not without moans!!

          Reply
  12. Jacqueline Ramjee

    Thankyou for this latest blog. Each week I use a deep conditioning hair mask that needs to stay on for 30 minutes. During the 30 minutes I would rush round and clean the bathroom thinking I’m making good use of the time. After reading your blog, I thought, what am I doing? Just sit and relax. I now use the time to sit on the bed and read my bible or just close my eyes. I’m glad I carved out a bit of me time even if it is only 30 minutes. Yes the bathroom still needs to be cleaned but thankfully it’s a task that is shared in our house.

    Reply

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