Date Nights and Chore Wheels

Two questions have been asked of me at least a few times and I’ve sort of put off answering them because I thought the answers were boring. Except I love peering into all of the nooks and crannies of other people’s lives, so maybe I should just get over myself, hm?

The first question that’s been racketing around is about couple time and date nights.Β 

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(Last summer, afternoon canoeing sans baby.)

How do we find time to do this? Do we have a schedule? Budget? Timeline?

We kind of don’t. I think it would be easier in life if we did. But! Having too many things set in stone stresses me out. Even if it was a standing date night with a babysitter every other week, I feel all claustrophobic about it. I can barely get Gabe through a 10 week swim class that meets every Saturday for an hour. The routine of it makes me feel SHACKLED. I’m very complicated and demanding.

When it comes to date-dates we have them in fits and starts. There may be several months of very busy weekends, filled with have-tos and obligations that are not necessarily bad, but don’t allow for us to run off alone. Maybe there will be a few family events, some solo time for each of us – Kamel has a work event or runs off to watch a late movie he has been jonesing over. Maybe I have a few lady’s nights planned, a friend’s birthday or we’ve been invited to a barbecue. Who knows. We aren’t immensely social but living back home has its social demands. Or maybe we just need to go to Target 200 times and the shower needs a scrubbing and we want to go to the zoo or the park with the rocky beach or or or. Family time is just as precious to me as date time. In the world of two working parents and tiny weekends, getting to be together the 3 (soon 4) of us is special too.

But then there will be a string of weeks, maybe even a weeknight dinner thrown in there, where we do manage to schedule a movie, or a dinner, or an adult only evening out. We’re actually having Gabe spend his FIRST overnight at grandma and grandpa’s without us on Tuesday to prep for #2’s arrival tomorrow. Kamel and I are running off to Snoqualmie Falls and spending a night in a hotel. This will be our first overnight in a hotel without the baby since our anniversary last July.

That is extravagant (though, mid-week 1 night hotel stays are way cheaper than weekend! And a fun recharge to take 2 days off midweek esp when vacationing is not happening as much as you’d like), but in general our outings involve a meal or an activity – Boeing tour, renting canoes from the university, ultrasound appointments with a side of Top Pot Donut (just kidding, sometimes Gabe comes to those). When I was working we also managed to meet for lunch 1-2 times a week because we worked close together. If this is something even remotely possible for you, I highly highly suggest making it happen. It makes the day so much more fun, gave me something to look forward to, and gave me regular snippets of alone time with my husband without having to come up with an activity or schedule a babysitter.

I still have issues asking people to watch my kid while we gallivant around town. Planning a movie takes a lot of forward thinking. Spontaneity has definitely taken a header. Sometimes I just don’t have the extra energy to muster the prep time it takes to 1) think of something to do 2) figure out what time would be best for everyone involved and then 3) run through my list of possible sitters trying to make it work with at least 1 person’s busy schedule. It’s really not fun for me to be like, “Hi… I know it’s your weekend too, but could you please watch my kid in 3 weeks so that Kamel and I can go watch a MOVIE?” It feels… strange. Kind of like asking permission, which rubs me all sorts of wrong.

But there you have it. We do date nights/activities properly at least once a season? Which sounds so little! But on average it is more like once every other month. Add into that any events that require a babysitter and I feel like we’re doing really well. How do you all navigate adult time?

The second question was brought up a-fresh a few weeks ago while I railed about hating men. (ha! MEN!) How do Kamel and I split chores? How do we balance it so that I am not the default chore wench?

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This took years to suss out. I mean YEARSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!! I have a certain standard of clean that Kamel doesn’t necessarily have. I mean, it also could be that his eyes are broken and his glasses create glare so he doesn’t see the dirt? or the grime? or the socks? on the floor? over there? right fucking over there can you just pick them up omg I’m going to kill you?

Who am I kidding, those are my socks.

We don’t actually use a chore wheel either, though I’m sure it is a totally useful tool. So that was a bit of false advertising.

The first thing we did when we moved in together was try to live in each other’s presence and still clean the house and do it in a polite way where we didn’t ask the other person to do anything but hoped things would get done anyway.

That didn’t work and ended in rage fights over swiffering.

The next thing we did was split the chores based on our general gross-out/delight factor. I love cooking, but cleaning up after makes me gag. Kamel doesn’t mind doing dishes and enjoys that the kitchen is his domain. He has probably never cleaned a bathroom in his life and my mama raised me right, so I took the bathroom. I hate garbages so that became his job. It eventually evolved into this system:

Lauren:

  • Laundry (something that never ends)
  • Bathroom(s)
  • The fish tank
  • The baby’s room

Kamel:

  • Dishes/kitchen (something that never ends)
  • Garbages
  • All floors (vacuuming, swiffering)

Shared:

  • General pickup

The other thing we had to work out was when these chores would take place. I hate having a to-do list hanging over my head. It ruins weekends. I am a huge advocate for getting chores out of the way. Spend a few hours on Saturday all going at it as a team, wham bam, everything is done (With the exception of some laundry stragglers) by the end of nap time and we can move on. Our second biggest struggle came with our disagreement on this tactic. Saturday mornings, after a long work week, Kamel didn’t FEEL like doing chores. He wanted to leisurely attack them as the mood would strike. So, I would finish my stuff while the rest of the house puttered around doing whatever. Then! The chores that we did together or Kamel’s would sort of get half-done, or not done at all because we would need to go do stuff and not just sit around the house for 2 days. OR I would be stuck killing time while Kamel tried to hurry up and finish something, it will just take him a minute, 1 hour later…

This made me hate him. It also made him hate me a little. Marriage: UGH.

Eventually, after a lot of fights and crying (yes real tears and real door slams and real stomping), we had a few successful Saturday morning everyone all in chore paloozas, which made the rest of the weekends fucking MAGICAL, and Kamel was swayed into the right direction (my direction, hellooooo).

Kamel often asks me to assist with stuff in the kitchen. 99% of the time I say no. If I gave in, I could easily slip into doing at least 80% of all the chores. Kamel has no problem asking for help, or asking if I will just handle something because he doesn’t feel like doing it. I have absolutely no problem saying no. If I said yes, then I would be doing a ton of stuff and I wouldn’t have time to write or read or sit there staring into space. I would be running about and I would hate my husband. I don’t want to resent him, I have no interest in being a martyr, so I say no. He never has to worry about running out of underwear or shirts, I don’t have to worry about cleaning up after baking a cake.*

I stand on the soapbox of: grassroots change in gender dynamics. If I want more equality in the big picture, I need to make it happen in my own house. No one pulls the short straw, we are all in it to win it.

Kamel is not “Helping me” by cleaning. He is taking responsibility for his part in the care of where we live. He is not “doing me a favor” by washing dishes. He eats off the same forks and plates that I do.

Kamel is not “babysitting” our child. He is parenting.

This is not to say I don’t appreciate when he solo parents so I can go off running amok with my friends. We take each other’s alone time seriously. Kamel can schedule a time to go watch a movie in theaters solo. He has evenings once the baby goes to sleep to play video games or work on whatever he wants to do. I try and schedule time where I take Gabe out of the house to visit friends or family and give Kamel alone time. He never tells me no if I have plans to not be home in the evenings. If I need to go hide in the bedroom after dinner to finish working on something, he 100% supports that. He was more than enthusiastic in his support for my week long Minnesota trip to attend a writing conference.

But back to chores: I probably would clean the dishes more thoroughly than Kamel would. Not that they aren’t clean, but I would do it differently. In order to remain married and not crazy, I do not oversee his chores. I am not in the kitchen when he is doing his thing. If the plates smell and we need a new sponge, I let him know. If I am noticing the garbages in the bathroom are full, I let him know. But I do not stand in the kitchen telling him he missed a spot. And I would. If I were in there, I would absolutely be asking him to do things differently or stepping in and doing it myself. So out of sight, out of mind. He doesn’t need a parent, and I have other things I would rather be doing.

We finally have a really excellent chores groove going. 4 years married in 9 weeks, and I think we really got this down maybe a year ago? How do other people navigate this? Did it come easy to you?

*To be 100% fair and honest, while pregnant I am the one who needs more help and I ask freely. I am not functioning on all cylinders while pregnant and my abilities become less and less depending on how sick I am, how physically capable I am, etc. So Kamel may help me fold in the evenings or he may help me hang up clothes in regards to laundry. But mentally, he does not ever have to be in charge of this task, and once I’m no longer pregnant, things will go back to even-stevens in the chore department.

21 thoughts on “Date Nights and Chore Wheels”

  1. Thanks for sharing this! I love hearing how other couples manage these things.

    Re: chores, I so so so relate to the paragraph about saying no to requests for help in the kitchen. That is the dynamic between me and Robert to the TEE. I used to feel really guilty saying no, and sometimes I still do, but in the past, every time I gave an inch, he took a mile. Not intentionally, not at all, he has zero awareness of the fact that that’s what he’s doing, but that’s what happens. I ease up a little on the hardass no giving in to requests for help rule by voluntarily helping out on days when I can tell he needs it. Like, when the dishes still aren’t done at 10:00 and he’s downstairs building furniture in our guest room to get ready for visitors, and I’ve got nothing else to do. Or when he sprains his ankle. If I pitch in like that once every 4-6 weeks or so, he is way less likely to ask for help and I feel less guilty about saying no the rest of the time.

    Re: babysitting, we swap date nights with another couple who have one kid the same age as ours. No cost, and no awkwardness about ruining their night, because they are getting a guaranteed future date out of it too. We just found out they are moving this summer, though, so we are back to square one for finding babysitters.

  2. I really like that you pointed out that maybe Kamel doesn’t see things because of a glint on his glasses. πŸ™‚ I live that reality every morning! Our tub has to be SO grimy for me to even kind of notice it, because I don’t wear my glasses in the shower and everything is just a big off-white blur. I think I’d actually be pretty horrified if I saw all the grossness that is our bathroom, but I just live in beautiful blurry bliss. Thanks, nearsightedness!

  3. Kat and I have a running joke that we will never live in a better cohabitation situation than two feminists with strong communication skills. πŸ™‚ Living with a partner is just another beast. ALLLLLLL your space is shared. I’m a big proponent of communal cleaning time. I think it cuts down on the common perception that you’re doing more than the other person. Currently Kat and I build a master to do list, divide the chores (there are definite themes), blast some music, and hammer them out in an hour or two usually Saturday or Sunday afternoon. It’s a cycle we’ve settled into after a year and a half of living together and I think we’ve mostly got it down. There are totally chore thread emails to discuss strategy, Parks and Rec gifs included.

  4. It didn’t come *easily* but we did generally figure it out in our first 2 years living together. PiC has very decided ideas about housekeeping that are more stringent than mine and so in the interest of peacekeeping, he gets to be in charge of the things that give him hives if I do it “wrong”.

    I’m simply not interested in debating how the dishes get done or how the [whatever] is cleaned, I just want them to be clean. And I’m willing to do it or he’s going to have to do it, depending on which methods nets less whinging about the chore as a whole. πŸ™‚

    There have been a few rage-sessions but those had more to do with one person feeling overwhelmed and not saying something til the pot boiled over than an institutional unfairness. For the most part, the difficulties navigating had to do with the fact that I have had increasingly more bad than good days which severely limits my ability to do stuff around the house like I’d want to. When it’s a limitation rather than a choice, it creates a whole other kind of frustration. :/

  5. Oh but on the babysitting front – we’ve had a couple offers from family/friends, but it is so freaking awkward to contemplate saying, hey, we’d like to be gone for X hours on such and such a day, want the baby? Cause … I dunno, do they really?

    Someone suggested that we do sitting swaps or something like that but that would require my looking for and making acquaintance-friends (because PiC is totally good at making friends but I am not and I have to really trust these people to leave my child with them…!) and I am not good at this friends-thing.

    1. YES! The babysitting. Uggghhhh it plagues me. I’m such a muscle through and do-it-myself person, asking for assistance gives me the creeeeeeps. But is also a necessary evil in order to still be a grownup. GAH.

      1. To Lauren and Rev I ask, how can friends make it more evident to you that they like hanging with your kid? I feel that whenever I offer for friends they always think I’m saying it just as a nicety or to be polite and I can never think of a non-creepy way to express “hey, lemme hang with your kid!! I promise to say no if it’s a bad time but it’s not!!!!”

        I love babysitting especially for friends because they make cool baby’s and I know they need a break sometimes.

        1. I don’t know! It’s not about me thinking they are rolling their eyes or something behind my back, it’s that I feel like it’s such big ASK. And until they have babies I don’t feel like I can make it equal. And I like making things even. I don’t (personally) want to feel like I’m indebted or like they are doing more for me than I can possibly do for them. So I try to leave them money for dinners, ask wellllll in advance, and use a variety of people in order to spread it around and try to NOT make it a burden for any 1 person, grandparents included. It’s totally MY issue and not there issue, but it’s hard to shake.

        2. Huh. Good question. I used to babysit or help friends and I think … I think I convinced one friend that I was serious about being happy to help because I was always taking the kid off their hands when I visited and it was clear that I genuinely liked their kid?

          So it was a combo of being non-creepy proactive and showing them I did know how to take care of their kid specifically (feeding, cleaning them up, diaper changes). For example, instead of saying “hey, dirty diaper?” I’d say hey, she’s got a diaper that needs changing, we’ll take care of that since your hands are full!

          And then I’d be specific about my work schedule and therefore when I would be free and happy to lend a hand so it wouldn’t be this awkward subject they’d have to broach, they’d know I had a clear calendar on X days.

          Conversely I would feel weird about asking a friend to go to that much trouble to convince me, it’s just what seemed to work in the natural course of doing things.

  6. I love this!! It’s so interesting to me to see how differently people do things to make their life work better. I work night (6p-6a) for four days and then I have four days off. On my working days I simply cannot come home and do stuff around the house or run errands. I go straight to bed. On the other hand Bob almost never gets a whole day off let alone two in a row. He works shorter shifts so he has more before work/after work time.

    Basically he keeps the house clean on the four days I work and I keep the house clean on the four days I’m off. It doesn’t always work, he likes things “out of sight out of mind” and I am a scrubber. I will admit sometimes my cleaning is redoing or moving things he did. We cannot clean the house at the same time. Like you Lauren I follow him and nitpick and it ends up with both of us being miserable. But the fact the for those four days he is doing laundry and dishes and garbage and floors is awesome and I am working on letting go of the fact that he folds the clothes terribly and he never puts the dishes away in the right spot.

    My sanity comes from choosing my battles.

      1. It defies the imagination. They have been in the same spot for 2 years!! HOW DO YOU STILL NOT KNOW WHERE THEY GO!? But in his mind, as long as you can’t see them they are away and the kitchen is clean.

  7. I love hearing about things like this. Next up can you please explain your magical low grocery bill? πŸ™‚

    Chores and cleanliness hasn’t been much of an issue with Jeff and I. It’s probably due to a combo of things, like having both having a pretty high tolerance for dust and dirt, living in a small space, working similar schedules and maybe from having co-ed roommates in college where everyone had their part. Like Liz and Kat, we’re on Team Do It All Together. When someone (finally) says, “It’s not looking great in here,” we agree on an hour or two to set aside and clean. We tend to do the same stuff, like I’ll deep clean the kitchen and Jeff does the bathroom, but sweeping/mopping/vacuuming gets done by whoever wants it.

    The day to day stuff works the same. We cook together and trade off on whose turn it is for dishes (cue endless teasing of, “Geeze, YOUR kitchen is a big mess!”). We are each responsible for our own laundry. The trash goes out when it gets full and someone remembers as we’re walking out the door. Things will have to change once we have kids, I realize. Babies generate a lot of laundry, but don’t operate washing machines, for example. But I think it’ll work out.

    The other thing we have a habit of doing is saying thank you, all the time, when someone does something. Or “good work!” or something like that. It was never really intentional, but it makes a big difference because it acknowledges that we both see how much the other person is doing. On the rare occasion that Jeff forgets to say “Nice work on the dishes!” I will inevitably say, “DIDN’T YOU NOTICE HOW CLEAN THE KITCHEN IS?” It’s kind of a joke, but it kind of isn’t. It would be awkward and obvious if one person was always on one side of that equation.

    1. Oh if we’ve done something while the other is out especially, when they come back it’s total show off time. “Seeeeeeeeeee! eh eh eh??” and it’s great. “WOW this place looks AMAZING! you MOVED THE COUCH AND VACUUMED!” Those are some great moments.

      The not so great are the moments when I Am huffing and puffing with laundry and Kamel is fiddling with his computer and I want to kill him slowly and painfully with my dagger eyes. hahaha

      1. YES! It’s like, I’ll take my gold star now, thanks!

        Also, laundry is the legit worst and I hate it. I whine about doing it when it’s just mine, so it will be a mine field if (when!?) we combine it, someday. Your dagger eyes are 100% warranted.

  8. Figuring out communal living is so hard! I don’t get why it is hard but it is.

    I have very little to add to the “how we figured it out” conversation other than I differentiate between regular tasks (dishes, laundry, cleaning) and occasional tasks (mending clothes, fixing cars). And the fact that my ex DIDN’T is a huge reason we’re divorced because of COURSE I was angry that he could change the oil every two months and spent a LOT of time every few fixing something while dishes, cooking, laundry, cleaning, organizing, (even cleaning cars but that was his thing?) consumed my EVERYDAY.

    /rant

  9. We’ve done pretty so-so on the split. I do all the laundry, but I can get him to change from washer to dryer (it’s outside and around our building) and to bring dried clothes up for folding. He does the floors MOST of the time. He always takes out the garbage. The rest I feel like I tend to do or I can leave for a LONG time and he’ll get around to it (or not).

    Now that I’m pregnant with our first kid, I want to make sure he feels confident doing everything including laundry so we plan on working on that soon. Since he’s a teacher I get a 2 1/2 months when the apartment is super clean, dinner is ready, breakfast is made and I do almost none of it, so that’s pretty sweet. I used to like doing super clean on the weekend but now I’m starting to enjoy a little cleaning at a time throughout the week. Unfortunately my standard of clean and order is WAY higher than his, so I always feel like I live in a slightly too lived in place for my taste.

  10. I feel like this is something we’re continuing to define. I think we were in a good spot early on, but Brad spent 19 months traveling for work every week and we fell apart after that. Right now, Brad vacuums and mops while I spray/wash diapers. He does his own laundry while I do all the other laundry (mine, Elliott’s, communal [sheets, towels]). I feel like it’s some of the day-to-day stuff that we struggle with and I would love to have a set time to do chores. My big peeve is when it’s 10:00 at night, I’m halfway finished washing dishes, and Brad comes up to say, “I was going to do that.” or “I can do that.” Argh! This chore is being completed. Find a different chore! I like the idea of making a master list of chores, divvying them up, and tackling them at the same time. My eye daggers usually come out when Brad is in bed at 8:30 PM and I’m switching laundry, washing dishes, and picking up toys in the living room.

    We’re better about babysitters, even though it’s more often for meetings and conferences rather than dates. Both of our parents are very willing to hang out with Elliott. My mom gets mad when we call it babysitting because she is Grandma and she needs time to hang out one-on-one with her grandchildren. We also have friends who are great with us having a kid. We’ve set Elliott up in a pack-n-play in their guest room while we all played board games and got drunk. Then we stayed over, too. So great! We also have a kid from church who babysits–are you comfortable yet leaving Gabe with a stranger?

  11. Hi. I just need to unnecessarily point out that you and I are the same person. And we married the same person. I could have written the exact post, with the exact same time-line but two years behind with no kiddo and no fish tank. Love to all 4 of you!! xoxoxo Diana

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