Dividing housework and parenting responsibilities

Psychologist Joshua Coleman, PhD offers advice on how to share parenting and housework with your spouse
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Dividing housework and parenting responsibilities

So a lot of parents have this questions about does everything have to be 50/50? So if we're going to share up housework, does it have to be exactly 50/50? Do we have to have the same tasks if we're sharing parenting? Does that have to be the same? And really, economists have found that some kind of division of labor is useful. It is a very individual, household to household kind of an issue. The biggest issue is whether or not you think it's fair. And if you don't think it's fair then you have to have that conversation with your partner and make your case, but you don't do it by talking about how lazy they are or how awful they are or any of those things. You start by talking about what they are bringing to the table, how much you value that, how much you appreciate that and then you can talk about the way that you feel, like you're like them to be involved more but you end up feeling whatever it is - a little taken advantage of, a little taken for granted. So if you're really trying to get your partner's attention, it's sometimes useful to put it in more smaller language. Like instead of saying, "I'm incredibly resentful of you or I hate who you are in the marriage," sometimes it's better to put in a small term. You could say something like, "I feel a little taken advantage of by you. I feel a little bit taken for granted." You're going to much more likely get their attention and interest that way. The only time I might not do it that way is if you feel like you're on the verge of divorce. If that's the case, and you're feeling like you're starting to hit your partner, you may have to say to them, "I feel like I'm starting to hate you. I'm fantasizing about divorce. I'm thinking of leaving you." A lot of marriages end because people don't have these conversations early enough. If you're thinking about divorce, that's a good time to tell your partner. Don't protect them from that and don't figure it's all going to get better because, if anything, it might actually get quite a bit worse.

Psychologist Joshua Coleman, PhD offers advice on how to share parenting and housework with your spouse


Expert Bio

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Joshua Coleman, PhD

Author & Psychologist

Dr. Coleman is a psychologist in private practice in the San Francisco Bay Area and Co-Chair of the Council on Contemporary Families, a non-partisan organization composed of leading sociologists, historians, psychologists and demographers dedicated to providing the press and public with the latest research and best-practice findings about American families. He has lectured at Harvard University and The University of California at Berkeley and blogs on parent-adult child relationships for the U.C. Berkeley publication, Greater Good Magazine, the Huffington Post and Psychology Today.

Dr. Coleman is frequently contacted by the media for opinions and commentary about changes in the American family. He has been a frequent guest on the Today Show, NPR, and The BBC, and has also been featured on Sesame Street, 20/20, Good Morning America, PBS, AARP,  America Online Coaches,  and numerous news programs for FOX, ABC, CNN, and NBC television. His advice appears often in The New York Times, The Times of London, Fortune, Newsweek, The Chicago Tribune, Slate, Psychology Today, U.S. World and News Report, Parenting Magazine, The Baltimore Sun and many others.

He has served on the clinical faculties of The University of California at San Francisco, The Wright Institute Graduate School of Psychology, and the San Francisco Psychotherapy Research Group. He is the author of numerous articles and chapters and has written four books:  When Parents Hurt: Compassionate Strategies When You and Your Grown Child Don't Get Along (HarperCollins) The Marriage Makeover: Finding Happiness in Imperfect Harmony (St. Martin's Press); The Lazy Husband: How to Get Men to Do More Parenting and Housework (St. Martin's Press); and Married with Twins: Life, Love and the Pursuit of Marital Harmony. His books have been translated into Chinese, Croatian, and Korean, and are also available in the U.K., Canada, and Australia. He is formerly a contributing editor to Twins Magazine.

 Dr. Coleman is a sought-after public speaker on topics related to the family. He is also co-editor, along with historian Stephanie Coontz of the yearly online volume, Unconventional Wisdom: News You Can Use, a compendium of noteworthy research on the contemporary family, gender, sexuality, poverty, and work-family issues.  He runs a popular webinar series for estranged parents and a free newsletter for parents, The Coleman Report.

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