What are proper spousal roles around the household?

My wife and I grew up as hippies, in very progressive families (pro-choice, pro-LGBT, very feminist), and for a long time I did a lot of the work around the house. Then we started learning about Catholicism, and started doing many things better such as not using contraception, etc. But we still don’t know what the Church says about household roles if anything. For a while she was doing our finances, but she put us into tremendous debt and was paying bills late and sometimes not at all, so now I do our finances. I work full time from home, and she homeschools our kids, but homeschool only takes about 5 hours out of the day. She spends a lot of that time cleaning, but a lot of that time sitting around on the couch watching cooking shows and eating whatever she can find in the cabinets and fridge. But then she expects me at the end of my workday to help out with cleaning, even though she sat around doing nothing for a lot of that time. We recently had an argument about this, because I don’t think it’s quite fair that she ask me to do my job and hers. But the argument is over because I apologized and said I was wrong, and that I would help out cleaning, even though I lied about this, because I just wanted her to stop being mean spirited and malicious towards me out of her anger at me. Am I being unreasonable to think that I shouldn’t have to clean at the end of the day just because she didn’t? Sometimes I have said “I’ll go do the dishes” and she says “no, no, you shouldn’t have to just because I didn’t” but that’s only when she would rather me spend the evening watching TV with her or something instead of cleaning. On other days, she almost demands that I help out (but instead of demanding, she just starts cleaning and gets angry at me for not cleaning instead, and I only find out about it afterwards when she starts yelling at me).

My role in my home is to provide the best life possible for myself and my husband. His role is the same. Some days, weeks, and even months this means that one of us has to take on more cooking, cleaning, or errands because the other one has a busy time at work, or a sick parent to care for, or is sick themselves.

When people start arguing about chores or become overly concerned with “fair”, it’s a sign that one or both partners has stopped doing the best they can.

In my household I do cleaning and cooking and my husband any maintenance.
The balance varies in different households and in whatever way best suits individual couples with their relative responsibilities.
However imbalance can occur and does occur in many households.

To you the imbalance is clear as you work from home.
You don’t have any breaks or slack time? You don’t sometimes look for snacks?

Work is tiring but so is five hours of home-teaching, so I guess you meed to be kind and thoughtful to each other, and allow each other some time for relaxation…
There is some resentment on your part and some resentment on hers.

I hope you can work things out in a way that is both kind and fair.
A schedule might help.
If you agreed that you’d help with cleaning two/three days a week, perhaps you both will know where you stand, and can cut each other more slack.

God bless you both.

You’re right. We’re both selfish. I have ADHD or something which makes me insanely productive with computer programming for weeks at a time, and I’ve used it to my advantage building software for myself that increases my productive at work. When the inspiration strikes, I go for it selfishly, putting my wife and kids out of my mind. That’s selfish, but I really really don’t want to give it up, because it gives me an amazingly wonderful feeling to be so incredibly productive and to create things that I actually use. But I know I should give it up. I just really don’t want to and wish I could find some other way out. Kind of like Jesus in the Garden, when he said “Abba, Father, all things are possible to thee; remove this cup from me”, but unlike Jesus, I have not been saying “yet not what I will, but what thou wilt”. Because I know what happened to Jesus: he didn’t get what he was asking for; the same thing will happen to me. The moment I give in to God’s will, I’ll never have the opportunity again to be insanely productive creating software that makes me even more productive at work. And that really good feeling will go away permanently.

I don’t see why you can’t be creatively productive.
If you worked outside home there’d be hours every day when you’d not think of your wife or children.
There’s nothing wrong with focus on work. So long of course that you do also give time to your family afterwards.
Do you ever do something special for your wife that makes her feel cherished?
It doesn’t have to be big. Little things can mean a lot to a person.
Even a small chocolate bar occasionally can be a small gesture.

You both need a life, but creativity has special rewards, teaching every day isn’t as exciting as being creative. Dealing with children, however loved, can be challenging. Maybe that, and feeling like an unappreciated housewife, is why your wife carves out some TV and snack time?
Anyway, I don’t know your wife and you. Just some thoughts into the mix…

Hey, I thought you were all done with us, and you’d gotten everything under control?

I’m a little concerned that you guys’ focus is on you or her cleaning or not cleaning, when you’ve got a bunch of big kids at home. Why don’t you and your wife together put the kids to work? If they’re home during the day, that can be part of the curriculum: 50 minutes math, pick up 20 items each, 50 minutes free reading, unload the dishwasher/sweep the patio/Swiffer the kitchen/whatever?

You have big kids–you are in management now. You and your wife are not the staff at home–put your kids to work.

There’s also the weekend. Maybe just do routine tidying and chores (dishes, cooking,e etc.) during the week. Then on Saturday AM, you take ALL of the the kids out to the park and mom stays home to do heavy cleaning that involves chemicals and wet floors (or vice versa–you stay home to do heavy cleaning and she takes the kids to the park). I’d give your wife her pick.

Here’s the general division of labor at our house (which is a SAHM/professional household with two school age kids and a toddler):

–yard work (lawn guy twice a month)
–heavy cleaning (cleaning service twice a month)
–minor car and household repairs (husband)
–routine daily cleaning (me–for instance wiping up after the toddler’s meals and wiping the stove after cooking)
–laundry (me)
–grocery shopping (me, mostly, but with occasional whole family trips to ensure we get a box of sugar crunchies for the kids)
–dishes (husband)
–kid room cleaning (big kids)
–putting away big kid clothes (big kids)
–amusing baby in car (big kids)
–major cooking (husband, me and 11-year-old–hopefully the 9-year-old will be joining us in a couple of years)
–lunch and snack prep and clean-up (everybody but baby)
–tidy up living room (everybody including baby–ideally this would happen before sitting down to watch a movie together)

As you can see, there’s something for everybody, but it’s not an all-consuming, thing that eats up our whole lives.

Definitely look at the Fly Lady book and website–it sounds like your wife is one of those messy perfectionists who don’t understand that the important thing is to do SOMETHING regularly. As Fly Lady says, you are not behind! Jump in where you are! Also, as I’ve learned from my husband–you can get 80% of the effect with 20% of the effort.

Best wishes!

Yeah I do little things all the time. But I guess it’s not good enough because she quickly forgets them. This is the nature of being sinners… it’s easy to not be grateful.

To be honest, neither of us are practicing Catholics. We go to Mass every Sunday, we pray with our kids at night, but that’s as far as it goes. You know all the things where Jesus says “if you don’t do such and such, how are you different than the pagans”? Well that’s us. We’re no better than the pagans.

But yeah, people say “be patient, take it one day at a time”. Fine and well. Although I would love a quicker change, because this pagan lifestyle is so tiresome. It’s almost enough to make me want to forgive her without waiting for her to forgive me first. It’s just so tiresome and old and tiring.

Your wife educates and cares for five kids and you begrudge her a TV program?

You say you build software in your spare time. Well, your wife watches cooking shows in hers. Unless you are willing to give up all your “non essential” activities, you don’t have a lot of room to complain.

I think it is dangerous when we start judging how other people relax. My husband likes to run as his “spare time” hobby, and I like to read. For a long time, he felt like I should also exercise in my spare time because it was a “healthier” and “more productive” way to use the small amount of free time I had. He thought reading was kind of lazy and useless. But, our personalities are different and to me, exercise is a bore. Reading quietly is what leaves me feeling rejuvenated. Maybe your wife needs to “veg” in front of the TV to feel rejuvenated?

Now, I agree that if the home is going to pot during the day and you are coming home to a huge mess, no dinner, kids wild - there is a problem. No one wants to come home after working all day to that. But have you had a conversation with your wife about what her day is like? Does she resent you working from home? I know I would HATE it if my husband did not “go” to work every day.

If you’re a totally awesome breadwinner (which you ought to be if you work that much), how about paying for monthly housecleaning? Or twice monthly if you can swing it? That’s pretty normal in families with either two workers or one professional earner.

Five hours of homeschooling a day plus normal survival chores (food, emergency messes, diapers, dishes, etc.) is more than enough work for your wife. And if you get cleaners and she’s stressing out about the bathrooms or kitchen or whatever, you can just tell her, the cleaners are coming in a week or two, don’t sweat it.

Oh, and make sure your wife gets out of the house a couple times a week by herself to do stuff like exercise or take a walk ALL BY HERSELF.

Not a bad idea! At least, if you genuinely forgive and don’t retain the resentment, you might feel better.
Life isn’t easy as you find, as most of us find. You, we, have to keep trying. The kids aren’t prefect, the spouses aren’t. The kids fight sometimes, the adults argue sometimes, but eventually things improve if we keep trying and keep making to effort to observe and learn.
My own husband is a much easier person to be around than he was for years. Am I? He seldom finds fault with me now, just occasional minor things! And sometimes with humor instead of the old anger!

I wish you and your wife and children well.

There aren’t strict gender roles, but both spouses/parents ought to pitch in. Perhaps homeschooling is particularly tiring for her. You might want to share with the teaching, and give her more time at doing other things. Maybe she also has a bad TV habit. Catholics can need to be accountable to each other to reduce their screen time, just like anyone else. Maybe she still physically getting up to speed on working for more of the day.

My grandfather, a very traditional Catholic from a family that was Catholic for hundreds of years, used to hate milking their cow. Grandma didn’t mind it. Grandma would milk the cow in the evening, and Grandpa would stay in the house and make the kids do the dishes. Grandma was entirely content with this arrangement, and none of their fellow parishioners thought a thing of it. (I could not tell you who milked the cow in the morning. Perhaps they took turns.) IOW, it is traditional in marriage for couples to work out what is to be done, how it is to be done, and who does what, including what the children are expected to do around the home. (One constant is that children are expected to work, too.)

There is a book titled, “Switch: How to Change When Change is Hard,” that describes what it takes to get human beings to change their habits. It takes intellectual will, emotionally getting on board to want to do it, and environmental prompts that make new habits easier and old habits harder. For instance, you might figure out how to record her favorite cooking shows for her to watch during her “TV time” or on Sundays, and then turn the TV off when it isn’t time to watch TV.

You don’t sound very grateful about the stuff she does, either.

It sounds like there’s a general shortage of gratitude at your house.

By the way, I wonder if it would help your family to establish a “quitting time” at home for non-essential chores. So, for instance, you might mutually agree that no non-essential housework will happen after 9:30 PM. Hence, if your wife starts cleaning a bathroom at 9:30 for no particular reason, you might say something like, “Hey, honey, come here! You can leave that until your big Saturday AM cleaning frenzy/until the cleaners come next week. Let’s watch our movie now that the kids are down.” And then have some peace and quiet.

I also wonder if your irregular schedule isn’t driving some of the chaos you see at home with your wife and kids. If you’ve got no schedule, it’s no mystery why the family as a whole doesn’t have much of a schedule, either, or why your wife asks you for help at odd hours.

Also, if you’re suddenly struck by inspiration during normal family time and have to go get it out of your system, maybe you need to have a policy of making it up to your wife in some predictable way.

It seems you already understand the underlying problem: selfishness.

When we are selfish, it is very easy for resentment to fester and grow. We keep looking for what is “fair” and resent the other whenever we think they aren’t contributing their fair share.

This attitude is very damaging to a marriage. The antidote is communication, gratitude, and selflessness.

Yes, it is easier said than done. There is no quick fix. What is needed is a paradigm shift to remove yourselves from the cycle of resentment. That will take work.

But think of it like your software programs. You have to put a lot of time and energy into creating a program, but then when you are done, it makes your daily work easier. The same is true for relationships. You will have to put in a lot of time and energy to getting things in a good place. But once you do, things will go a lot easier for you. And you won’t have these feelings of being tired and wanting to just give up and take the path of least resistance to get through the day. Instead, you will have that same feeling of immense satisfaction for a job well done.

You’re right, we’re not very grateful. It’s a big problem that me and my wife and our kids all have. No idea how to fix it.

Start verbally thanking each other. Think of all the small things you do that you feel your wife does not notice or appreciate. Now try recognizing and appreciating the small things that she does. And every time you notice her doing one, thank her for it. And be genuine about it.

We like to be appreciated. And when we don’t feel appreciated, it is easy for us to rationalize being lazy and/or not doing things because we feel it won’t be noticed anyway. Break that cycle.

I couldn’t have said it better myself. :thumbsup:

My husband and I have a very unique division of labor.

He does everything. I fill in when I can. :eek:

Sad, but true. My husband works full time. I work 10 hours a week. My husband, at various times has: grocery shopped, washed clothes, cleaned the house, mowed the law and cooked the meals. Sometimes he has spent his Saturday and Sunday doing all of it.

Just a few minutes ago, he reminded me that he could wash the clothes I need for the next couple of days, when he gets home from work. And he reminded me to take it easy because I have a busy few days coming up. (Jury duty.)

You see, OP, I have a illness that can make me tired. I have good days and bad days. When I have bad days, I don’t do anything. When I have good days, my husband wants me to save some of them just to have fun. Why use up a good day cleaning, when I can save some of it for an after dinner walk?

The Church does not say anything about household roles, that is for you two to decide based on what works best in your situation.

What the Church does have a lot to say about is growing in holiness and sanctification, neither of which includes keeping tally of wrongs or acting selfishly.

I noticed that in one of your posts you mention that while you go to church every Sunday and pray with your kids, you are not practicing Catholics.

Why is that? Do you want to change? If not, why not?

These are rhetorical questions to be answered by you and your wife privately. You really need to think about them, however. The best thing you can do in your situation is to make God and your relationship with Him the most important thing in your life. After that, it’s your spouse, then children and after that everything else. Sometimes we can get blinded by the sheer amount of day-to-day stuff in our lives. Don’t let that happen.

I know that these other things are hounding you and making life more difficult. However, once you get your priorities in the right order that other stuff will start to fall in place. It doesn’t mean it will be easy or that there is some magic quick fix, but it will get easier.

Our real job in this life is to grow in holiness. For you and many of the rest of us, the way God has given us to do that is in our families and all that entails. Ask Him and Blessed Mother to help you grow in holiness. You’ll be surprised what will happen.

God richly bless you!

This is a lie, don’t let satan tempt you in believing that giving in to God’s will means misery and loss of your productive good feelings. You are doing a good job, you are attending Mass on Sundays that is wonderful. You are in a rut with your wife and having a hard time letting go of bad habits. The God that created the Universe and put the planets and the stars in motion, The God that created every molecule of every plant and animal, and the God that conquered death can certainly find a way for you to work on your software. God loves you, God has joy that awaits you!

"For I know well the plans I have in mind for you, says the LORD, plans for your welfare not for woe! plans to give you a future full of hope. When you call me, when you go to pray to me, I will listen to you." Jeremiah 29: 11-12


I am sorry for your turmoil. You and your wife are both hurt right now and that doesn’t make a marriage stong or comforting for either of you.

I don’t know you, so I can’t say what would be fair. The Church doesn’t lay that out either- it just insists on mutual respect and support. The best people to know this is you two!

Here are my suggestions. Take them or leave them! :slight_smile:

*]Call a truce. No more fighting about it!
*]When your wife wants something from you, she asks you to do it and vice versa. (No complaints about it not being done already!)
*]Sit down with your wife and brainstorm about all of the chores that need doing and how often.
*]Once you have the list, each of you should prayerfully consider what chores you will volunteer to take on. (No forcing the other!)
*]Include chores for the kids. My kids started doing chores at about three years old. They can start learning to set the table, pick up their toys, stack magazines, dust furniture and many other things. This is good for them! They need to learn to work together for a common goal.
*]You will be left, probably, with a list of chores that nobody wants. Decide how those will work.
Some possibilities:
*]Split them in half (not by number, but by time) and switch every month or every two weeks.
*]Put them on slips of paper and take turns drawing them.
*]Do them together.
*]Try a thirty minute cleanup. We did this with our kids on Saturday mornings. (Even the little ones can do something!) I would set a timer for 30 minutes and assign each person a room. Then, with kid music blaring, we would work like crazy cleaning up and straightening everything we could. You’ll be amazed at how much better things look! (This can even become a daily 10 minute mad dash!) My kids loved it because we made it a game.

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