Pickle Planet is thrilled to welcome Ryan Davison as a regular contributor to the site. His story of undergoing a chore audit with his wife had us nodding our heads and cheering out loud. Read on to find out more about what exactly a chore audit is and why it might help your marriage.
“Helping others is the way we help ourselves.” – Oprah Winfrey
Unusual family fact: I spent 3.5 years working out of the province, commuting back and forth from Toronto, spending one precious week every month with my family in NB. Those weeks together were pretty spectacular. After all, this was all-in family time with minimal distractions. We had some great visits during those years, but the sacrifice on the other side of this scenario was that I was away so often and for so long – missing out on the small things like basketball practice, Christmas concerts and the day-to-day running of the household.
During those years, the operation of our family and household fell entirely on my wife. The feeding, raising, and general “keeping alive” of our boys and pets fell solely on her shoulders. To be honest, I feel uncomfortable as I type this and picture her shopping, cooking, cleaning, laundering, sports and activity taxiing and coaching, all while building a business. Needless to say, when I moved home for good, I felt the need to take on as much of that load as I could to try my best to make up for everything she has done for me and the kids.
Personally, I enjoy simple day-to-day cooking, the related shopping, school-Iunch prep and other small household tasks. After about a month of living together again, my wife shared that she couldn’t remember how she got everything done alone while I was gone. I was happy to be contributing in the home instead of worrying from away.
As we worked to settle back into living together, my wife noticed that my mood had begun to dip as I engaged in the work that I had so willingly decided to take on. She began asking questions and opened us up to an honest chat about how we were adjusting to life under the same roof. Inevitably, we began looking at our division of chores and responsibilities. We casually started running through the daily chores required to run our family. We naturally followed that with a look at who was handling each chore and a conversation around whether that person should indeed be the one responsible. In effect, we created our own impromptu chore audit.
By taking the time to look at our list objectively, we were able to recognize that we each approach tasks and chores very differently. I like to check routine chores off of a to-do list and I focus on completing each task before I can move on. My wife is more likely to delay a chore to prioritize and rank chores and tasks before proceeding. Interestingly enough, this difference of approach was leading me to feel like certain chores had become my sole responsibility, as I would end up completing them before they would become a priority on my wife’s list.
This was an incredible moment of insight for me. As a result of our chore audit, I was able to appreciate the value we each associated to the items on our collective family to-do list. This inspired us to go further and audit more tasks. We uncovered the fact that my strongest contributions tend to be immediate contributions, whereas my wife’s contributions often focus more specifically on the big picture, handling homework help, sports and activity registration, schedule coordination and detailed family planning items, like as vacation and babysitter coordination. These are areas in which I am not nearly as strong as she is and where I don’t have nearly the same skill or patience that she does.
This experience was so rewarding that I started looking into the idea of a chore audit further and came across a great article by Michelle Woo titled: “Have a ‘Chore Audit’ With Your Partner”. Immediately highlighted was the fact that it is often not the big things in a relationship that break it down, but the smaller everyday things. She explains that brushing small things aside leads to a gradual build up of anger and resentment until one or both partners can take it no longer … now that sounded familiar. She suggests intentionally managing the smaller things by practices like a chore audit.
I encourage you to consider a chore audit with your partner. Work together to itemize all the chores and tasks that have to be on your collective list and who currently handles each one. Then have an open conversation on why that specific task is handled by the current person. Do they enjoy the task or chore? Are they best suited? Do they excel or fail at a particular task on the list? This approach may not only help you uncover how each of you feels about specific tasks and chores, but it will offer an opportunity to hear each other out.
You may even find that certain items could move off the list entirely. This exercise truly helped me appreciate the work that each of us puts into the smooth running of our family and our strengths in different areas. It also helped me set goals like working on my patience with homework help.
If you and your partner try a chore audit, I’d love to hear what you uncovered!
Ryan Davison is a dad, husband, football coach and a Realtor® with Re/Max Avante in Moncton. He enjoys short walks on the beach, nachos and vacations at the lake. You can find him on Facebook at facebook.com/ryandavisonremax and read more of his thoughts in his columns here on Pickle Planet.