Household tasks and invisible tasks

Today’s post answers a number of questions from readers. You can read previous answers to readers’ questions here.


I wrote this article in my newsletter last year, but I am including it here on the blog as an answer to the many questions I receive from readers like these ones:

  • How much support do you get from your husband with tasks in the home?
  • Do you have a cleaner? Does your husband help with the cleaning?
  • How involved is your husband with the kids’ schooling?

I do consider myself pretty lucky with the level of work my husband does within the home and for the family. If you break it down, we do run on fairly stereotypical lines, but the difference between now and say the 1950’s is that there is choice involved. I like cooking and have chosen to work part time because I want to be home for the kids. My husband would much prefer to be in the garden than in the kitchen, so this works for us. We don’t have a cleaner, although I would very much like one!

In general I take care of the following bigger items:

  • Meals
  • Most cleaning
  • Laundry (shared)
  • School stuff
  • Presents
  • After school activities

In general my husband takes care of the following bigger items:

  • Gardening
  • Ironing his and the kids school shirts
  • Tax/bills/paperwork
  • Secondary school camps
  • Laundry (shared)
  • Vacuum once a week
  • House maintenance

It isn’t that we don’t do the other’s tasks, we work together to get everything done, but it is that we usually default to these tasks. You can hear my husband’s view on things in episode 11 of the this family life podcast.

But as many of you will know, there are many “invisible tasks” that need to be looked after. They are the tasks we juggle in our head constantly – school term is ending soon, I need to re-enrol the kids for swimming lessons, the form for the excursion is due tomorrow, Book Week is coming up so costumes will beed to be sorted, there are four birthday parties coming up in the next month so need to get presents………..

In most cases I know, it usually the primary carer, in our case me,  who does the thinking and planning around this. And while these tasks don’t take up a huge amount of space on your to do list, they do take up time in headspace and it drains your mental energy.

Our mental energy runs out and if we are using up our mental energy constantly on these types of things it can definitely impact how we perform in other aspects of our life.

Ep 32 of The Broad Experience Podcast explores the issue of invisible tasks and the impact these have on women’s careers in particular.

“As women we get so much career advice about what to do in the office, but one of our biggest career obstacles happens at home, before we even walk out the door in the morning.”- says Liz O’Donnell who is interviewed on the podcast.

Liz O’Donnell  is the author of the blog Hello Ladies and the book called Mogul, Mom & Maid. And she is the sole breadwinner for her family and shares honestly about how she doesn’t have mother guilt about working full time but –

“the times that you will find me in tears about being a working mother it is usually related to the schools. It is related to the lack of communication or yet another opportunity to have to tell my children no.”

I don’t work full time and have a great level of flexibility with my work, but I can still completely relate to how Liz feels. Next week I will be heading away for a week  for work and I have already spent considerable time this week organising the “invisible tasks” into a spreadsheet for my husband while I am away. I have also spent time feeling guilty about the aerobics competition I am going to miss and about having to have said no to the younger boys about going on their school excursion as the parent helper, as I will need the time at home to get ready before I go away.

For me I think there is just a level on internal programming that makes me think and feel this way. My husband in the same position would just say no and not allow it to eat away at his time and energy. Logically I know that I am present for my kids and missing some things here and there is not the end of the world, but it still does take up headspace and mental energy.

I would love to hear how things run at your place. How do you divide household tasks and who takes care of those “invisible tasks” at your place?