Get Your Man Off The Couch And Into The Household Routine

What I’m going to say is not going to be popular, but here it is:

If your husband doesn’t pull his weight around the house, well, it might be your fault.

*ducks* WHO THREW THAT SHOE AT ME? Let me explain.

Sometimes (and I mean sometimes) we expect our husbands to rise to our expectations when we’ve never fully explained what those expectations are. We add one, two, three kids to the mix and we’ve never had those conversations about how we expect our partner to act.

We never sat down at the beginning of the relationship and said that we’d prefer if they helped with dinner before sitting down to watch SportsCenter. We never told them that the version of marriage we have in our head requires them to bring us flowers a few times a year as a thank you for how hard we work. We never told them that coming home to a clean kitchen is a form of foreplay. (And if you HAVE told them this, that’s another post for another day.)

If you’re reading this and feeling discouraged, have no fear. It’s never too late to sit down with your partner and figure out how to regain a little equality in the household. Here’s some tips to getting things a bit more balanced:

1) Be positive. Start with what your spouse does RIGHT. Launching into a tirade about how much he doesn’t do will likely make the rest of your conversation fall on deaf ears. Did you ever hear about the sandwich technique? You begin with a compliment (or a positive), give some constructive feedback and end with something positive. How does this sound in action?

“Honey, I love that you cut the grass every week, but do you think you could wait until after dinner to do it? I could use your help in the kitchen and getting the kids fed during that time. Then you could mow the lawn while I get the kids in the bath. Does that work for you?”

2) Be specific. If there’s anything I learned in the past few years of marriage, it’s that men need specificity. What does this mean?

WRONG: “Hey, can you help me with the laundry?”

RIGHT: “Can you get the clothes from the hamper and put them in the washer?”

Specificity insures that there is no misunderstanding and that both parties know what it being asked.

You see where this is going? All about working together solutions versus getting stuck on the problem. Read the rest of my suggestions over at Mommy Noire



  1. I am VERY old-fashioned. I take care of everything in the house while he takes care of everything outside. He works, goes to college, is a big part of his Toastmaster’s group and is a very active father. There is no reason he should ever have to wash dishes or do laundry. If he did do any of that, I would be offended. That’s just how it works for our specific household.

    • @Shelly – Yup, I know that’s how the Ismails’ roll. LOL. But I hear from a LOT of mothers who both work inside and outside of the home and they always welcome “help” from the other members of the family. This post is geared toward those mothers. :)

  2. I posted this on Mommy Noir but I wanted to share my comment here too.

    This is a great idea, and a great suggestions. What I found that works, is give him a problem to solve. I don’t know but some men just love solving problems. So I give him a problem and state how much it bothers me, and sit back and let him take over. It works most of the time.

    Also, like you said, you have to be specific. You have to spell everything out and not leave any room for understanding. It’s so hard to change our mindsets to our husbands in order to get things done, but as moms we always do that for our kids to get them to help us. It’s only fair we give the hubby a fair shot.

  3. I want to say this in the most positive way, and I want to be clear that this is what works for my wife and myself. I can’t speak for everyone. That being said, I’m not sure how much of this will work because you’re starting with the wrong conversation. Household expectations have to be a joint thing. The first conversation has to be sincere one about what both people expect the house to look like and the time it will take to make it look that way. And the standards may be different. Its not fair for you to impose your standards only. You have to meet in the middle. You can’t dictate your expectations, no matter how nicely you say it. You have to first have joint, family expectations and build from there. And, you have to let him do things his way. My wife does dishes right after dinner. After a long day of work and then coming home to help with our daughter, I don’t do dishes until late at night, usually after she’s gone to bed because I want to relax with the family before jumping in to the household chores. We’ve agreed that all laundry can wait until the weekend. It has to be a mutual understanding. Then, if he’s not carrying his weight, you have a better position to stand on. It is a much easier conversation to say that he’s not upholding his part if he’s had some initial input, than to say, you’re not meeting my expectations.

    Not saying this to get men off the hook. We need to do our part, no excuses. But I just wanted to offer a different way of thinking. If a man doesn’t feel like he has a say at home, he will be less likely to help out.

    • @Bryan – Thanks for always injecting some male perspective here – it is much appreciated.

      I understand what you’re saying about making sure men have a “say” in the household expectations. But do you not think my suggestions are still legit — being specific, and thankful and positive in your conversations?

    • @Bryan – I will also add that from experience, women have a VERY hard time in being direct about their expectations. Sometimes they need that permission to say, “Listen – this is how I would like things to be done and when” and not worry that they are somehow being unfair or unrealistic? While marriage + parenting come with lots of compromises, in talking with my fellow wives, sometimes we seem to be on the “losing” side too often. And by “losing,” I mean we are walking away not feeling good about the agreement. Thoughts?

  4. I think you’re spot on with being positive and specific about what you need. Men aren’t mind readers and we don’t respond well to negativity (who does?), so we need to know directly what the problem is. But you can’t direct his actions. Know one comes home and wants to be bossed around. When it comes to household chores, if you have expectations they’re just that, you’re expectations and it is unfair to fault him for not being you. Just because you have a preference doesn’t make it right. It’s just your way of doing things and that’s not always fair to the husband.

    And that fault could manifest itself in many ways. Maybe you’ve (not you specifically, but in relationships in general) overtly or covertly sent signals that you don’t like the way he does something, dismissing his own preferences. That’s a signal to him not to do anything at all, because he knows it won’t be right regardless of what he does. If it is your household routine and not a family routine that the family develops, you’re going to keep running into this problem.

    I get not being happy with the agreement, but ask yourself, why do you hold on so tightly to your position. Why do things need to be done on your time frame, and will the world end if it doesn’t happen when you want it done? If it is an agreement that you’re not happy with, you need to go back and make one that you both can at least live with.

    • @Bryan – Okay, let me give you an example from my own household – packing lunches.

      I prefer that we have lunches packed the night before, that way it is one less thing we are doing in the morning during the mad rush to get out of the door on time. My husband, on the other hand, balks when I ask him specifically to pack the lunch during the evening. He has a mindset like you: “Why does it matter when it gets done as long as it gets done?” My reasoning is that it makes the morning go smoothly when we’re not simultaneously trying to pack lunch and serve breakfast. But yet I still have to “fight him” on that, even with explaining my reasoning. At times I end up just packing the lunches myself because at least that way I know that it’s done and I won’t have to think about it in the morning.

      So what would your advice be in this situation? To stop packing lunches at night and let him do it the way he wants to? What is it (and I’m generalizing here) about men not wanting to be “bossed around” – which is really just a negative way of saying, “Listen to your wife!” LOL

      • “Ding, Ding, Ding…We have a winner. Tell this good lady what she has won…”

        I haven’t even read Bryan’s response, but before I form my response based on someone else’s opinion, I’m just gonna jump in right here and say:

        If your husband doesn’t mind packing lunches in the morning, more importanly, THE LUNCHES GET PACKED, what’s the problem again?

        *Scratches head*

        Clearly, your husband has taken on the responsibility of packing lunches. I’m assuming that he follows through and makes sure the lunches are packed before it’s time to walk out door. So why is it so important for you that the lunches get packed when you think the lunches should get packed?

        To cosign with @Bryan in an earlier response, no matter how nicely or constructively your make your case, if you still want things done the way you think things should be done, it comes off [to men] as being “bossy”.

        I understand what you are saying @Tara – You feel better when the lunches are packed the night before, but if it’s your husband’s job to pack the lunches, then step off and let him do his job, uhhh, I mean…entrust that he will handle his responsibility.

        If he is NOT handling his resonsibility, and then you end up packing the lunches, then that’s a whole ‘nother post for another time.

        It makes no sense for you to stress yourself out when you can simply just “Let go…and let God” Had to throw that last part in there, (lol!) but adds to my point – why stress over something you don’t control?.

        Like I said, if the lunches are packed by your husband before you all walk out the door, what’s the problem again?

        *Scratches head…again*

        • #DOH!

          Didn’t want to hash up any old convos…Should’ve read the timestamp before responding!

        • @BrothaTech – Is this your first time commenting?? Whoo-hoo!!

          This is an old convo but I’ll give everyone an update on SCHOOL LUNCHES: THE SHOWDOWN. LOL

          I’m now the one who makes lunches AND breakfast for the kids. I pack the lunches at night and make the kids breakfast in the morning. It was important to me that when I sit down at night to finish my work (blogging, scheduling updates for clients, etc.) that we are all ready to go for the next morning – house is clean, clothes laid out for the next day, lunches packed, especially since none of us are morning people and we move slow in the mornings. Since I didn’t feel like having discussions about packing lunches (which is stupid), I just shifted it back onto my responsibilities. We’re not fighting for counter space (him with the lunches and me with the breakfast stuff) this way and our mornings go smoother, which is what we were aiming for. He unloads and loads the dishwasher (which is something I *hate* to do) while I’m helping the kids with breakfast. It’s all worked out! See, I know how to be a team player! LOL

  5. The central problem, I think, is getting men to buy into the fact that it is their home, too. That breeds laziness, because they don’t feel any ownership in running it or maintaining it. We all know most guys have that certain thing they take care of and baby, whether its a car, musical instrument, sports memorabilia, etc. So its not that we can’t clean. I’ve heard from a lot of my guy friends that they don’t really care much about their homes. They buy them or move to a bigger apartment or whatever, because it is what their spouses wanted, but they’re not emotionally invested in them.

    We get all kinds of mixed signals in society, and a lot of them are things I hear from women. Women think they have to do it all, and it has to be done their way. How many times have you heard or said these:
    1. If momma ain’t happy, nobody’s happy.
    2. The house is hers, I just keep my stuff in the garage or man cave (I hate that term)
    3. If the wife wants something, she’ll find a way to make it happen.
    4. Women keep the family together.
    5. Women have to be strong enough for everyone.

    If the world, house, family, etc. is about you, then don’t be surprised when we check out. In a family where there are two adults, all of that mindset has to go or you’ll never get a true partnership and that spills over into mundane housework, parenting, just about everything.

    Whew! Sorry, didn’t mean to write so much.

  6. @Tara Well, in that example, you’re still directing instead of thinking of a partner based solution. Have you tried splitting responsibilities? You make lunch a few nights a week and he does the other few. Then, when he knows its his responsibility, its up to him to decide when to do it. You’re coming from the mindset of having to control everything. If its his turn let him do it as long as it gets done. When I was a kid, I hated cold pb&j (can they even have that in schools anymore?), so I would have liked that made the day of. And in one or two years, maybe even now depending on how old your kids are, they will be old enough to make their own lunches.

    • @Bryan – First, let me say I am sorry for monopolizing your time. LOL. I know you must have other stuff to do than comment 1000 times on my blog.

      I understand what you’re saying when you assert that I have control issues. I do. But I also don’t understand what’s so hard about taking direction from your partner – at least some of the time. If I tell him that having packed lunches ready to go makes my morning easier, then pack the dang lunches at night, you know? LOL

      Anyway, this is not a rant about lunches but moreso how men and women (husband and wives, boyfriends and girlfriends, etc) can learn to communicate that allows each party to feel heard and valued. At times I’m willing to let go control, but when it comes to something that is important to me (like being on time to school each morning), I’m much more stubborn and I think that’s okay. We have our “things” and we have to recognize what those are and let the other small, less significant issues play out how they may.

      Thanks for your input, Bryan. Again, it is much appreciated!!

  7. This has been such a good talk and of course everything’s different for every family.
    Have a great one.