You unloaded the dishwasher, threw in a third load of laundry, and potted a few plants for the front porch. While you were working, your partner fiddled around with his computer. It's not your imagination: If you think you're doing more of the household chores even though you and your partner both work, you probably are. This won't necessarily change just because you have a baby. In fact if you're planning to stay home during a maternity leave or work less after the baby arrives, you can bet that your partner will expect you to do more around the house, not less. This is especially true if your partner is your husband. Researchers in the United States have shown that even when husbands and wives both work full-time outside the home, women take on more of the household chores. When couples have a child together, women also assume a greater share of childcare duties.
Now is the time to start divvying up the household responsibilities more fairly. If you're currently handling most of the cleaning and laundry, make a list of responsibilities and divide them up the same way that you might tackle a team project at work. Once your partner gets going on those chores, don't criticize his way of doing them. He may give up if you can't be flexible about standards. You can take turns doing a certain chore (like cleaning the bathroom) and do it your way the next time. If your partner says, "I know you'd do a better job," or "I can't find the laundry soap," keep responding positively and offer encouragement. Don't step in and do the chore, or you'll be right back where you started.
If there is a certain chore that you both hate, like ironing or doing the bathrooms, have it done by someone else from time to time. It's worth the extra money to save your marriage, especially now that the two of you have a baby on the way and baby-related chores. If you successfully negotiate domestic tasks now, it will be a lot easier to renegotiate once the baby is born and your life is turned upside down.
Originally published in You & Your Baby: Pregnancy.
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