Husbands and Housework: Getting Him to Help

It's seven o'clock and the kids need to be fed, the clothes washed and the toys cleared from the living room floor before the PTA craft fair committee arrives. As you frantically hurl frozen fish sticks into the microwave while vacuuming the rug and making three-point shots with the towels into the washer (all the while praying you don't blow a fuse -- literally or figuratively), one thought races through your mind:

"Why the heck can't he help me out here?"

One of the most common complaints about marriage, from both stay-at-home and working moms, is that our husbands are AWOL on household chores. Whether it's because they just don't notice the mess, don't think it's their responsibility, or just ... disappear when dish duty is called for, one thing is sure: We need their help and we're not getting it. But we all agree that the only thing nagging will get our men to do is schedule another night out with the boys each week. So, what to do?

Well, we put that question to the membership of iVillage. And you all came up with great solutions. Here are the 10 most effective, non-nagging approaches to creating household-chore heaven with your partner -- ones real women have made work.

1. Make a list and check it twice
"Put his name in one column and yours in another. Itemize everything that has to be done, and break it out evenly. If one partner does not complete an item on his or her own list, he or she has to take one item from the partner's list and complete it as well. After a while, you'll find a list isn't necessary and each partner helps the other. But refresher courses wouldn't hurt." -- kurback

2. Be passive-aggressive
"I say, 'Sorry, honey, I couldn't wash your clothes because I was too busy cleaning the bathroom,' and 'Sorry, honey, I couldn't cook your favorite food because I was too busy vacuuming the house,' and 'Sorry, honey, I couldn't take your suits to the dry cleaner because I was too busy taking your children to their activities.' I make sure that the chores I do for him come after all the other chores are done." -- Harriet

3. Talk it out
"I had to constantly make him realize that this generation is a generation of parents who both have to work and I am equally as tired as he is after a day's work. Then it finally happened. He does all the laundry now, and when I have to give the two kids a bath right after dinner, he takes care of loading the dishwasher. Remember, though -- it won't take you anywhere if you nag. It was a constant 'talk' in the most civilized way ... he understood eventually." -- Lizzie

4. Think sexy
"Do the house chores in your bra and panties, let him watch for a little while, and when he can't watch anymore tell him he has to help a little before you can help him. I bet you he'll always want to do housework on his days off, and it'll probably spice up your sex life, too." -- Hectate426

5. Make it a game
"It all started as I would ask him to race me in cleaning the house. I would clean the kitchen and bathroom, while he did the living room and both the bedrooms. It worked out that after a while there was no need for me to tell him what I wanted or needed to be done." -- Wendy

6. Get mischievous
"I had a boyfriend once who kept throwing his dirty underwear on the floor. After asking him over and over again to put his things in the hamper, I would throw out anything he threw on the floor. Pretty soon he had no underwear! I think he learned." -- Harriet

7. Make ultimatums
"The biggest problem in my 20-year marriage is that my husband is a couch potato. However, out of desperation, I have told him that he is going to do his own laundry and ironing. He does it, but not very often. But it is something that I don't have to worry about -- if he doesn't have clean underwear it doesn't affect me in any way. These are things I just don't do at all. If I want him to pitch in I just say, 'This is your job, I'm not doing it anymore!'" -- R.Giefer

8. Butter him up
"I never moan. I just say, very sweetly and politely, 'Honey, I know you are busy' or 'Honey, I know it's your day off, but can you help me here? I really need a strong pair of arms like yours.' My grandmother said to all of us, 'You get more bees with honey than vinegar.' Boy, ain't that the truth!" -- Carmen

9. Accept and be merry
"If you married a slob or someone with low energy thinking that you can change him, it doesn't work that way. You are stuck. So enjoy those super-clean nesting days, and don't sweat the small stuff. Have you heard of the saying, 'Boring women live in spotless homes?'" -- twayes5

10. Find good help
"As a last resort, if you are both working and busy with careers and kids, hire someone to come in and do at least some of the work. I am now a working mother, and I would rather have someone come and clean my house twice a month than go out to every lunch. I need a clean house, and this is the best way I know how to do it on a limited budget and still keep my sanity." -- Fern

Granted, a few fortunate wives are able to come home to find dinner made, the laundry dried and the floors swept on a daily basis. As member Lorraine brags, "I have a truly wonderful and caring husband. He is the one who is the cleanest around the house. Scott is one of the 3 percent who will actually launder his own clothes. He does dishes, vacuums and can actually clean the house much quicker than I do, every day." Such are the husbands dreams are made of!

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