Husbands and Housework: How to get him to help out more

A common complaint of both stay-at-home and working moms is that their husbands don’t do enough around the house. Even the women who were happy with the division of labor before they had kids often find that a disproportionate amount of the household jobs now fall to them. Plus there’s more work to do overall (laundry, meals, cleaning) and seemingly less time to do it because of the added demands of children. If you are shouldering more work than you can handle, it can be overwhelming and demoralizing. So how do you get your husband to help out more?

First, remember that it’s important not to pigeonhole all husbands as unwilling to help. Some wives are very satisfied with the amount their husbands do, and some dads who spend most of the time at home do more than their share. Among the rest, there are all types of husbands, including:

  • The ones who are willing to help but just need more direction or instruction
  • The ones who want to help but have very specific tasks that they will or won’t do
  • The ones who are visual learners and need written lists to remind them
  • The ones who need an extra “kick in the pants” to get off the couch
  • The ones who think they shouldn’t have to help at all.

Once you’ve identified where your husband falls on the spectrum, here are a few ideas to help get him more involved in household tasks:

Sit down and make some lists: It’s possible he has no idea about what needs to get done in the house, and how much you do. Go over the list together and see if you can agree on a fair division of labor.

Break it up into manageable tasks: If the house is a disaster, neither one of you should have to tackle the job all at once. Break it up into segments that you can split; for example, vacuuming on Monday, dusting on Tuesday, mopping on Wednesday, etc. If it still seems overwhelming, consider an online organizational helper like

Figure out his specialty: Does he love to cook but hates doing dishes? Ask him to take charge of grocery shopping and three or four meals for the week. The other nights you can cook or rely on leftovers, but you’ll have the bulk of the meal-preparation covered.

Let him know that it means a lot to you: Even if your husband doesn’t understand why you need help, he can surely understand how much happier you seem when he pitches in. So tell him how much you appreciate him. Plus, there may be something else in it for him too: Marital researcher John Gottman has found that men who help out more with household chores tend to have better sex lives.

Hire some help: If you can manage it in your budget, hire someone to do your least-favorite tasks. It could mean having a housecleaner come in every other week to give the house a good once-over, or sending your laundry out to the fluff-n-fold. Either way, the cost could be justified if it means never having to argue about that chore again.

Get the whole family involved: Even the smallest toddlers should have some responsibility, starting with putting away toys. As your kids get older, add them to the household cleanup routine and make it fun by adding music or a timer so everyone “races” to get things picked up fast. And don’t forget to remind your husband that when he helps out it sets a good example for the kids.

Last but not least, when your husband does what he’s supposed to do, try not to criticize. If the laundry isn’t folded perfectly – who cares? If there are still dust bunnies after he vacuums, he’ll get them the next time. And if he dresses the kids in crazy mismatched outfits, leave them as they are. You can tell everyone – with a knowing smile – that your husband was in charge of dressing them this morning. You’ll make your husband look good for helping out, and you’ll be the envy of all your friends for having a husband who does his share.

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1 comment

By ward.partyofseven on 07/30/11 at 3:02 pm

Just make sure he understands that pitching in helps make a nicer wifey!

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