The “daily grind” tasks are the ones that often build the most resentment in a marriage.
We’re in the middle of our series about mental load in marriage and sharing the emotional labor. We talked first about what those terms mean, and then showed how the book Fair Play by Eve Rodsky (full disclosure: it’s not Christian and has questionable language) shows us a way through the haze so that we can find solutions. We looked at how to set standards for what needs to be done.
Then last week we talked about how we can eliminate nagging in marriage by “owning” different tasks so that people don’t need reminders.
Before we jump in today, I want to give a shoutout to my “Sheila’s Spotlight” affiliate product–Good Pictures, Bad Pictures, an awesome book you can use to explain to your kids the dangers of pornography, so that they’ll know what to do if they ever see it or are shown it. There’s a Good Pictures, Bad Pictures Jr. for young kids, and Good Pictures, Bad Pictures for kids 9-12. I’m so impressed with these books!
Today I want to talk about the types of tasks that often sap the most energy. When only one person does these tasks, even if the other does a ton of other work for the family, it can feel very unbalanced. Here’s Eve explaining the problem:
Research into the gendered division of labor shows that men more willingly take the domestic work that they can perform on their own time, while women pick up responsibilities that are difficult to put off or reschedule and inherently forfeit their right to choose when the tasks get done.
I call these immovable tasks the Daily Grinds and—big surprise—they disproportionately fall on women. On any given day, there are 30 of these time-sucking jobs that must be done regularly, repetitively, and many at a very specific time.
What are the daily grind tasks?
Rodsky found about 30 of them, and they’re all things that need to be done at specific times–or at least daily or very regularly. Here are just a few:
- Taking the garbage out
- Doing the laundry
- Making breakfast for the kids
- Supervising homework
- Organizing the bathtime/nighttime routine
- Monitoring kids’ screen time
- Providing middle-of-the-night comfort
- Driving kids to play-dates
- Opening the mail
- Tidying up
Now, looking through her card system (which you can read all about in our post on the Fair Play system), you can likely eliminate half of them if you don’t have kids at home, but even so–daily grinds are numerous.
And they add up.
Daily grind tasks can’t be done at your own schedule; so they’re the most inconvenient
You can balance the budget whenever it works out for you. You can choose to cut the lawn on Friday night or on Sunday afternoon or, if it doesn’t get done, you can leave it until the following Wednesday and just endure the looks from the retired neighbors.
But homework needs to get done every night. Dishes need to be washed. Meals need to be cooked. Lunches need to be packed. Kids need to be bathed and dressed.
The person doing the daily grind tasks can’t take time off or time away in the same manner as the person who isn’t doing the daily grind tasks.
When one spouse is making dinner while watching the toddlers, and another spouse is watching TV or playing a video game, even if that spouse does a lot around the house, it can lead to a lot of resentment. If one spouse gets to sit down when they want and work when they want (with the exception of paid work, which obviously must be done on schedule), then one spouse can feel as if they don’t have free time in the same way, even if their schedules are balanced.
The freedom to do things on your own time is an incredible freedom that many take for granted, while the other spouse just dreams about the luxury.
Taking just a few daily grind tasks does free up your spouse to feel as if they can sit down on their own time, at least some of the time.
Rebecca’s husband Connor and Joanna’s husband Josiah (both my daughter Rebecca and Joanna co-authored our upcoming The Great Sex Rescue with me) are responsible for bath time for the babies. They couldn’t breast feed, obviously, but they started bathtime early, which is actually super fun as a dad, because it’s often in the bath when the babies start doing interesting things–splashing deliberately for the first time; smiling; showing personality. And it frees up mom every evening to have a bit of time to herself.
Stay-at-home parents still need help with daily grind tasks
Just because one person takes on most of the paid work duties and one spouse takes on most of the home duties does not mean that only one spouse should do all of the daily grind activities. Certainly working outside the home can be exhausting, and you definitely do need some down time. But being home 24×7 with children is also exhausting, and what both people need is time that they feel is truly their own.
If only one person does the daily grind tasks, then that person truly gets so little actual down time. Daily grinds must be done constantly, all the time. They can’t be left undone. If only one person does them, that person will feel exhausted all the time–not because their work is necessarily harder than the others or even in greater quantity than the other person’s work. It’s simply because when you can’t choose the time to do your work, then you never “own” your time. You’re never truly “off”. And that’s emotionally exhausting.
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And, as I’ve said in this whole series, it’s the #1 cause for women’s low libido.
When women feel exhausted and that there is too much on their plate, they can’t get rid of all of the things going on in their heads long enough to get in the mood for anything. I talked about this in module 4 of my Boost Your Libido course–you need to find ways to have some time to yourself. Guys, if you want your wife to be more in the mood, it isn’t so much about doing more housework. It’s about taking the mental load of some specific tasks completely off of her plate.
Are you TIRED of always being too tired for sex?
Both parents need to feel as if they can step in and care for the kids
Many of those daily grind tasks are all about childcare, and BOTH parents need to be involved in childcare. Childcare is not housework; childcare is relationship building. Kids need both parents, and they need both parents on a regular basis.
And stay-at-home parents need to feel as if they could leave their kids with the other parent for a day, for a weekend, or for a week if they ever had to.
They need to know that the other parent is capable of feeding the kids well, of doing the laundry, of supervising homework, of dressing them. When you feel as if you can’t count on your spouse to parent the kids, it’s actually quite demoralizing. It feels as if you’re not really a team. And if you feel as if your spouse isn’t capable of stepping in, then it’s easy to see your spouse as “less than”. It’s really hard to feel sexy towards someone who isn’t capable of looking after their own kids.
The person doing the daily grind tasks tends to be seen as the “not fun parent”
What do kids dislike the most? Being told they have to do something RIGHT NOW–especially when that thing is something they don’t want to do.
So whichever parent is in charge of making sure kids clean up, or dressing the kids, or supervising homework–that’s the parent who is going to do the most “directing” of kids’ behavior, vs. just interacting and playing with the kids. That’s the parent that will feel as if they’re always put in the role of “bad guy”.
Let’s revisit Sandra and Mike from our first post.
The Saturday Homework Fight
(continued from the first Mental Load post)
When Sandra comes home from being out in the morning, and starts ordering Brian to begin his Science Fair project, and getting Janie to practice piano, the kids start complaining and whining. Mark comes in from mowing the grass, and sees that his kids, who were so happy after their morning outing, are now in despair. He spent all of this time having fun with the kids, and now the fun is being ruined.
“Honey, they’re just having a fun day. Let’s just leave them. They can do it all later.”
“When, Mark?” Sandra snaps. “When exactly can they do it?”
And she starts laying out the family’s schedule over the weekend, so that Mark will realize that “later” isn’t an answer. Brian is at a birthday party until bedtime tonight. On Sunday, they have church and then the annual church picnic afterwards. They won’t be home until 3:00. And the science project is due on Monday. Sandra and Mark are scheduled to go a fundraising dinner tomorrow night, so the baby-sitter is coming at 5. When, exactly, is Brian supposed to get this done if he doesn’t start now? And is the baby-sitter going to properly supervise Janie to practice piano tomorrow night?
But because Mark doesn’t have the family’s calendar in his head the way that Sandra does, he doesn’t understand how urgent the homework was. He feels as if she’s overreacting and wrecking their fun weekend, while Sandra feels as if Mark doesn’t take this stuff seriously, and always makes her into the bad guy.
How do you get around this?
Let Mark own the homework card or the piano card so that remembering these things and scheduling these things isn’t Sandra’s responsibility. And that’s what Rodsky recommends in Fair Play: it’s not that you have to split the 30 daily grind cards 50/50. You just have to each own some:
One person cannot hold all the cards, even in a marriage where one partner does not work outside the home. Both players hold the adult friendships, self-care, and Unicorn Space cards plus, at a minimum, each partner must hold a fair share of Daily Grind cards, preferably one from each suit.
If each of you holds at least 6 daily grind cards, then marriage will go a lot better. We just each need to feel as if the other is capable of doing the things that make a home run smoothly, and that each is handling some of these so the other can sit down once in a while.
When I asked women what makes the biggest difference in their marital satisfaction, they said that it depends far less on whether tasks are split 50/ 50 in the household, and far more on whether their partners perform full Conception, Planning, and Execution of those cards in their hands with competence and care.
Just share the daily grind load, and you’ll both feel more like a team!
What do you think? Which daily grind tasks does your spouse do? Or do you do them all? Let’s talk in the comments!
Posts Coming in the Mental Load Series:
- How Emotional Labor Series: How Mental Load Affects Marriage
- The Fair Play Solution: Conception, Planning, Execution
- The Emotional Labor Series: How Do We Decide Our Standards?
- The Emotional Labor Series: How to Eliminate Nagging for Good
- The Emotional Labor Series: Why The Daily Grind Needs to Be Shared
- The Emotional Labor Series: Why Everyone Needs Time to Themselves (June 29)
- PODCAST: What is Emotional Labor?
Sheila Wray Gregoire
Founder of To Love, Honor and Vacuum
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