So, who has it tougher in your house? Who's working harder? Who's giving up the most? When we become parents, domestic responsibilities explode. Financial pressures increase. The pace is relentless. Not surprisingly, we start to argue about the division of labor in our homes. Scorekeeping is an endless tit-for-tat war between husband and wife — an eternal debate over that most fundamental of all philosophical questions: "Who's on bath duty tonight?"
How the Game is Played
On any given weekend in thousands of homes across America, wives stand in front of their husbands listing all of the selfless acts they have performed in the last week: "I paid all the bills, bought a birthday present for your mother, read Goodnight Moon 5 times, took 4 six-year-olds to Chuck-E-Cheese ... and that was just Tuesday..."
The husbands return fire: "Excuse me, but did I not make the kids breakfast every morning last week, including the morning it made me late for my presentation, when I really should have gone in early? And I picked up the dry-cleaning without being asked, and I did bath duty three times last week. What more do you want?"
A volley of personal accomplishments and sacrifices ensues. Not exactly what we thought life would be like when we eyed each other across a room all those years ago, is it? We both end up angry and defensive, each convinced that we have it tougher. Some people are habitual scorekeepers, some people just do it occasionally. But we all do it.
The game of scorekeeping involves the trading back and forth of Marriage Capital, or "points," between husband and wife. Pay attention here, because the rules are exceedingly complex. Here's a short overview:
1. In most instances, according to husbands, it is the wife who determines how many points a specific activity scores: "Why doesn't checking the air in her tires count, but cleaning the kitchen does?"
"I always thought that I would get points for yard work. I'm out there on a Saturday morning trimming the hedges, mowing the lawn, making it all look pretty and I walk in and she says, 'Where the heck have you been?'" - Jacob, married 7 years, 2 kids
2. Men often think that they have scored major points (Hey, I was up at the crack of dawn with the kids; I did all the grocery shopping on the weekend) but to their wives, activities that count as "doing his fair share" don't score any points.
3. In fact, a man may have points deducted because he expects major kudos for simply pulling his weight.
4. Positive points have a use-by date. If they are not used within recent memory of the point-scoring activity, they expire.
5. Negative points, however, last indefinitely. Women, we've been told, keep a detailed mental log of all infractions and omissions.
"You get credit for a good deed, but it only lasts for about 6 months. You have to use it fast. But demerits, they last forever." — Francisco, married 4 years, 2 kids
6. In effect, there is no statute of limitations.
"What do you mean you're going to the game? You only spent an hour with the kids last weekend! And when your parents were here last month, I was the one playing Scrabble with your mother until all hours..." - Tracy, married 5 years, 2 kids
7. Advanced-Level Play:
"You can get multiple points if you actually forgo a golf game or whatever and tell your wife you want to spend time with her." — Simon, married 3 years, 1 kid"No way. She'd smell a rat." - Vince, married 5 years, 2 kids