Getting your partner to help around the house

This post is in response to many reader questions I received in last year’s survey like these:

  • How could your husband encourage other husbands to support an organised wife?
  • How to get the husband onboard?
  • How did you get your husband to help so much?

My husband does contribute significantly to keeping things organised at home. If you would like to hear his take on things you can listen to episode 11 of the this family life podcast where I interview him and we chat about how we work things in our home.

To reach the point where we are now though, it has taken almost 20 years. With each child he began to do more and we had many discussion on household task involvement. We have both learnt a significant amount about working together in the home and here are my key lessons:

1. Your partner will see things differently to you

Everyone has a different level of tidiness and cleanliness that they are comfortable with. It is rare that you and your partner will at the start see eye to eye on this. Part of my key frustration in the beginning with my husband was that I couldn’t understand why he wouldn’t just do something that needed to be done without me asking – for example vacuuming the floor when it was filthy.

After many repeat conversations I worked out that he simply didn’t see the mess that I did. Unlike me who was home all day looking at it, he would come home in the evening and maybe not even spend anytime in the offending rooms to be able to see the mess or even if did see it, it wasn’t as big an issue for him as it was for me.

I learnt not to assume that my husband wasn’t simply choosing not to do stuff that I could see needed doing, he just wasn’t seeing it like I was.

2. You need to communicate what you need help with

It was from this learning that I realised instead of expecting my husband to mind read what I wanted done or wanted help with, I needed to communicate it to him. He has always been more than happy to do stuff I ask around the home, but if I didn’t ask he would preoccupy himself with something else.

Quite often on weekends he loves to spend as much time as he can in the garden. This is great as he keeps it looking well maintained, but there was and is times, when I would much prefer him to help me inside the house. I have tried two different approaches to make this happen:

  • Do all the things I wanted help with myself, feeling resentful, while glaring and giving him the silent treatment.
  • Explain to him I would like him to help with folding the washing and general tidying for example.

I think you can guess which approach worked the best!

3. You need to allocate tasks

It took us some time to work out the best way to get regular input on some of the bigger tasks around the home. Steps 1 and 2 only got us so far and I very often felt like I was repeating myself.

Over the years we have now allocated tasks that each of us tend to be responsible for. It is not that one of us can’t or won’t do the task, but unless otherwise stated we stick to completing these tasks and helping out each other as needed on them.

My husband for example does the following:

  • School camps for the older kids – the secondary school kids have great camps that require a decent amount of preparation, paperwork and meetings. For the last six years my husband has taken care of these.
  • Myki tickets (public transport) – the three older children need yearly concession passes. This requires new photos, forms and trips to the station.
  • Vacuuming once a week – I vacuum regurarly through out the week, but my husband will vacuum Sunday evening so we have a good base to start the school week on.
  • Ironing shirts and uniforms– he irons all his own shirts for work and the kids’ uniforms for school.
  • Unstack dishwasher – he unstacks the dishwasher before going to bed or first thing in the morning if it has been on twice in the evening.

He does many other things as well, but these are some of the key ones which make my life so much easier during the week.

4. You need to allow your partner to do it their way

When you allocate a task you need to be prepared for it to be done how they want to do it. I have learnt from experience that trying to control the way a task is done leads to disharmony.

My best advice for coping with this is walk away! If they do things very differently to you, take yourself to somewhere in the house where you can’t see it and remember to appreciate that they are contributing.

5. You need to continually adjust and adapt to growing family needs

As the kids grow up each year what needs to be done around the house and for the family changes. It can be easy for new tasks to simply fall to the primary carer. To ensure this doesn’t happen, you need to make sure that together you assess who is best positioned to take on the task and make a conscious decision about who does it, rather than just let it happen.

What tips would you have for those who are trying to get their partner to contribute more around the home?