What is a chore audit?
Why you need one ASAP
A chore audit refers to a systematic review and assessment of household chores and who is responsible for them. A Pew Research Center survey in 2007, suggested that sharing household chores is more important in a relationship than fidelity and good sex. I know …really! This was also confirmed in 2013 in research from Canada. Joint responsibility for a well-functioning household also overtook other relationship needs such as sharing views on raising kids, politics, and even money.
The ability to run a household smoothly together is an indirect demonstration of the effectiveness of your communication skills. It is well known by all (except perhaps men) that women do more housework than their partners
According to the European Institute for Gender Equality, housework is the most unequally shared of the three most common forms of unpaid care, the other two being childcare and long-term care for older people plus people with disabilities and other chronic conditions.
Research from Giménez-Nadal et al., in 2019. also shows that parental role modelling is the primary way we pass on patterns of behaviour to other generations especially from fathers to sons.
- About 91% of women with children spend at least an hour per day on housework, compared with 30 % of men with children.
- The latest available data shows that employed women spend about 2.3 hours daily on housework; for employed men, this figure is 1.6 hours.
- Gender gaps in housework participation are the largest among couples with children, at 62 p.p. (Figure 15), demonstrating an enduring imbalance in unpaid care responsibilities within families.
This is why couples should get on it and carry out a chore audit for their households as soon as possible.
Benefits of a chore audit
Just as you would in the workplace make a list of all the chores in your household, the frequency of the activity, the time they take and the skills required to carry them out. Clearly if one partner doesn’t drive they can’t be tasked with taking the kids places in the car.
How to approach a chore split
I’ve worked with many people, both as individuals and couples on how to manage a dual-career couple and a family. There seem to be some consistent themes:
1. Project Manage your household
Approach the domestic project in the same way as as professional project:
- Identify main tasks and their frequency
- Prioritise tasks in order of importance
- AGREE the allocation of tasks according to strengths and availability to avoid conflict later.
- Make contingency plans there will always be a need for a backup or alternative solutions.
- Outsource low-value work. This can be difficult in a household if finances are tight, but for those who do have economic flexibility look at which tasks can be given to a third party. This can be from cleaning and ironing to having food delivered (Hello Fresh is very popular and ppparenlty cost effective.) Senior executives make use of increasingly sought-after executive concierge services which plan their personal diaries and take on routine domestic chores.
- Use technology to facilitate organisation
2. Beware stereotyping tropes
It’s very common for both men and women to get trapped into old tropes that are embedded into our cultures typified in phrases such as “Mother knows best” and the “bumbling dad” trope. I have even known men who deliberately mess up their tasks so they won’t be asked to do them again.
Gender can play a big factor in uneven domestic inequity since society often sets up women as inherently more “skilled” at proactive domestic work and men as “helpless” reactive partners who experience their partners as scolders who nag them about chores.
3. Overcome maternal gatekeeping
This is specifically for the women. As women accept the role as the de facto manager of a household it sets up a flawed dynamic from the outset. Very often women block their partners from being involved because it’s easier and quicker to do it themselves. Sometimes it can be around hidden motivations of a “need to feel needed.” Whatever happens, women have to let that go. If you struggle, it’s probably a coaching or even therapy issue around your own needs.
4. Avoid perfectionism
This brings me to the next point; People have different definitions of a job being done correctly. If your partner is carrying out their assigned task, unless the way they do it is dangerous or life-threatening – let them carry on in their way. As Ian Dinwiddy, Founder of Inspiring Dads said
“you only forget the nappy (diaper) bag once.
5. Have a way to deal with conflict
In any set up make sure you have agreed on a conflict resolution process just as you would in a professional capacity. You might have a “safe” word or phrase. It should be something that indicates a boundary has been crossed and you both need a “time-out.”
If the issue is around failure to deliver on their responsibilities without any apparent good reason then that requires a deeper and broader conversation when coaching could help.