The first time I moved out of my parents’ house wasn’t for college; it wasn’t with a group of girlfriends or on my own either. Without heeding my parents’ warning, I moved out with my boyfriend who I’d been dating since high school. My biggest fear about making the move, however, wasn’t that we’d fight more or that we’d get sick of each other, it was that I, someone who has similar characteristics to Monica from Friends, would take on the traditional, antiquated gender role of a woman in the home.
I went to every extent possible within the first six months to split up the chores.
First, I tried creating a chart that listed our chores for the week with designated check boxes to make sure we had an equal share of the work. This didn’t go over well at parties, so needless to say, we took it down.
Then, I thought if we switched off grocery shopping, cooking, doing laundry, and cleaning the apartment, it would be even. But we kept forgetting who had done what and things would just end up getting pushed to the following week. Not to mention, when I asked him questions like, “Hey, since I did the dishes, can you vacuum?” he would get irritated and I couldn’t understand why.
Now, two years into living with each other, we’ve settled into a groove by each choosing which responsibilities we’d take on around the home. My boyfriend is typically the one who walks our dog, takes out the trash and grocery shops, three things I really don’t enjoy, mainly because they involve having to put on pants and leave the apartment. I, on the other hand, have chosen to be in charge of cooking and cleaning — ironically enough, the traditional tasks I had been avoiding this whole time. However, I chose to take on these responsibilities, which, therefore negates the idea that this is a traditional gender role.
According to Relevant Magazine, millennial couples have taken on what is referred to as “choice feminism” — the idea being that there is still some sort of division of work-home labor, but it’s up to each couple to choose how that division works out on their own.
I was shocked to learn that we weren’t the only ones looking for a non-traditional way of doing things (excuse me, my millennial is showing). I asked my friends how they dealt with this issue, and although they took different routes, chore chart not included, they eventually found a similar system to what my boyfriend and I landed on.
We also learned how to speak to one another about participating in house work in a respectful way that didn’t make the other person upset. For example, I used to always preface asking him for help with what chores I had already done. I did this to make sure he understood I wasn’t asking him to do something out of laziness, but because I wanted to show him that I had already done my part and needed help with something else. He, however, took this as a way of me complaining that he hadn’t helped.
I noticed that I was using this type of language outside of the home as well. When I’d hear my boyfriend speak on the phone for work, he was very assertive, direct, and got right to the point. I, on the other hand, tended to use more qualifiers and was never as direct as him. After realizing this, I noticed we might not be speaking the same language after all. Originally, I felt that asking him to do something in a direct way came off as aggressive and as if I was ordering him around. When I would explain what I had already worked on, however, it eased my guilt of asking him to do a chore.
Once he told me that he would prefer I be more assertive, I ran with it. It took a bit of getting used to, but that simple change has allowed us to be more of a team, and as it turns out, has helped me be more assertive at work as well.
With increasingly more women going into the workforce and men being willing to help out at home, the choice is up to each couple to figure out how to divide up the workload. But if there’s any convincing that needs to be done, Verily Magazine stated that splitting up the chores can also assist in providing more intimacy and better sex in your relationship — so get cleaning!
Chelsea Raineri is a Southern California native with a passion for writing, editing, and everything in between. From the feminist movement and her innovative generation to what new dish she can’t put down, Chelsea gives a fresh take on everyday life.