This is a story all about how my life got twisted upside down. It’s the story of the week my husband and I swapped roles in the home. And although it started out with both of us being petty, we learned a lot from it.
Unequal Division of Labor
I went back to work full-time in May. After about a month, I noticed that I was more tired than usual. I was stressed and irritable. After some reflection, I figured out what might be causing my exhaustion and crankiness. I had been back to work full-time but our family dynamic was as if I was still a stay-at-home-mom or working part-time.
I brought this up to my husband and he got defensive. He reminded me of all the ways he participates in the family responsibilities. He has always done the laundry for the family, and he takes the kids to school. He even makes breakfasts on Saturdays so that I can have those mornings to myself. During the summer when the kids were at camp, he handled most of the communication with the babysitters and nanny. The list goes on. I never once doubted that he was an active father and partner. Nor did I bring my concern up to diminish his participation in running the household.
My point was that I was carrying the majority of the mental load of the family and the other responsibilities I had when I was a stay-at-home mom. We made some small adjustments, but I still felt overwhelmed by everything I was doing to help our family run smoothly. I don’t believe in 50-50 marriage. It’s unrealistic, at least for my household. I do however think each person in the relationship should play to their strengths. A few weeks later, I noticed that we started arguing again over household responsibilities. With the shift we made, my husband was starting to feel frustrated. He felt I didn’t appreciate his efforts and I was feeling overworked.
One Saturday, another argument was brewing. I was tired of arguing about the same thing and not doing anything about it. After going back and forth, I made a suggestion. What if we swapped roles for a week? In frustration, he agreed.
That day, we worked on creating to-do lists for each other. On my list: pick up school uniforms I ordered, grocery shop for our upcoming road trip, organize school supplies, and cook/prepare 3 meals and 2 snacks per day for the kids.
His list for me wasn’t as long but it was substantial. Check the bank accounts daily (we’ve been hit with fraudulent activities one too many times and his diligence has caught each one and saved us thousands of dollars). Get the car ready for vacation. Lock the doors and turn lights off before bed. Wake our daughter up to use the bathroom before going to bed to avoid accidents. Do laundry, unpack from vacation.
Saturday was hard for me; I spent all day doing laundry. I hate doing laundry. Hence why he normally does laundry. This tedious chore took everything out of me but on Sunday, I took a 2 hour nap while my husband figured out lunch and dinner. I met up with some girlfriends Sunday afternoon and the first thing they noticed was a glow. The glow I’d like to call “daddy glow”. When my mom stopped by Sunday evening, she asked if he was sick because he looked so tired.
While on vacation, he took the kids to the pool while I rested before joining them at the pool. He took them in the morning to get breakfast while I slept in. I was able to read a physical book, not just on Audible for the first time in years. A week after the trade, we sat down to do an analysis, and this was what we learned from the experience.
What I Learned When We Swapped Roles
When we swapped roles, I learned that although my husband’s tasks and responsibilities don’t often require a lot of time, they have major impact. Checking our accounts daily doesn’t take a lot of time but it has saved us thousands of dollars and our credit score. Checking doors at night if not done, can lead to our family being in danger. Washing the cars, buying gas, taking the kids out so I can rest on weekends makes a huge difference for me. I have always appreciated that I don’t have to do laundry and this experiment made me appreciate it even more.
After we swapped roles, I apologized for not recognizing the impact his tasks have on our life. I learned a valuable lesson from him. During that week, he gave the kids more responsibilities and asked for help. Sometimes, as mothers, we fail to ask for help and suffer in silence. Lastly, I learned that our family works well together. It was during this week that our big kids voluntarily helped with loading and emptying the washing machine as well as the dryer. They continue to help dad with laundry and seem to enjoy it.
My husband learned that making meals for five people is practically a part-time job and requires a lot of effort from the person cooking the meals. He told me that if he would have had to cook and prepare meals for all five of us throughout the week, he would have called off the swap. He apologized for not recognizing how much I was taking on for our family.
While my marriage is certainly not 50-50 and I don’t want it to be, my husband and I have now come to a place where we appreciate what each other does to make our family run smoothly, and there’s no longer a need to compare. We both acknowledge the impact and effort we put in our home, and we are grateful to have a spouse who will lend a hand when asked for and do whatever is necessary to ensure our family is cared for. We are both grateful to have a partner who isn’t entitled and expects one person to carry the load of family.