Doing the lion share at home when you both work full time

Doing the lion share at home when you both work full time

If we went back 50 – 60 years, many marriages were one where the husband worked while the wife was a stay at home mum or worked part time, whose job it was to raise the family along with the running of the household.  This meant sole care for the household responsibilities, while raising their children and caring for elderly relatives.  Fast forward a few decades this has evolved with more and more women now forging a full-time career path and personal development outside of the home.  With that, we would think that the balance of home domestic duties would also be shifting to a more even share, but in most relationships this is actually not a reality.  

The split of domestic duties is often a hot topic of conversation among women friends, and one that many couples have numerous conversations about behind closed doors.


Tiffani Sherman a freelance journalist from Florida, wrote that, there are two kinds of labour in a household: physical and mental.  “Physical labour involves things like taking out the trash, folding laundry, washing dishes. Mental labour involves cognitive energy for things like keeping an eye on the kids to make sure they’re safe, putting laundry detergent on the shopping list to make sure you don’t run out, and making packing lists to prepare for a vacation.”

Previous studies have suggested that education can help to make things more equal, because when women are better educated with a higher income, they can communicate in a stronger way about sharing of the household duties.  However, we know in most instances this actually isn’t the case.  It’s clear that even when women are more educated than their partners, they will still usually have the lion share of household duties and responsibilities.

A U.S. based study five years ago between Oxfam and the Institute for Women's Policy Research (IWPR) looked at how U.S. women and men spend their time, this included work status and education.  Researchers found that women spent on average an extra hour per day more than their male partner, even when they both worked full time.

This gap between both genders did not reduce across income and education.  It was noted that in households with an annual income of at least USD$100,000, women spent 5.7 hours per day on unpaid work, compared with only 3.8 hours for men.  Furthermore women with a bachelor's degree spent on average 5.8 hours daily on household duties, compared with 4.1 hours for male college grads.   


Believe it or not, the feeling of not being supported, along with the physical absenteeism when it comes to household duties, are experienced by many women in a heterosexual relationship.  The result is that an uneven balance of emotional and physical labour output in the home can lead to nagging and a steady descent into quiet misery and resentment.  On the other side he starts to feel like he is ‘nagged’ and ‘tied down’ by a stream of what probably feels like constant requests. 

All this can lead to a breakdown of communication and the relationship, with both becoming disinterested while confident their side is right.  The unfortunate outcome is one of emotional and physical disconnect, which when not addressed will bring feelings of animosity and resentment. Unfortunately this is something that we see a lot in our business.

Always at the start of any relationship it is important to identify the expectations in your relationship and behaviours you will show each other, to establish if you are really suited and can align to each other.  All relationships need time spent on them and open communication – maybe not the type that sees you yelling at each other in the hallway, but vested time with both parties making the effort. 

Unfortunately when the relationship is not nurtured and one partner doesn’t feel supported feelings of animosity and resentment creep in, which will ultimately lead to an emotional and physical division. 


There are a number of reasons why a relationship or marriage will break down and in many cases this would be avoided with communication and connection along with continuous investment. 

It you feel that household duties and tasks are evenly shared in your relationship, that is great.  For those who think they would like to see changes in their home, I recommend finding time to sit down and discuss together rationally what is not working and where the household duties split has become unfair.  Have a plan in your mind that you could both implement and have it ready. 

These are some tips for having that conversation that will also be helpful to stay in front of what you don’t want to see:

  • Make compromising and resolution the goal – the focus of communication with your partner is coming to an understanding. Both of you should leave the conversation with some kind of resolution. It also can bring on feelings of strength and connection between you both.
  • Use ‘I’ statements, avoiding the word ‘you’
  • Do not assign blame onto your partner, as this will often make anyone defensive
  • Focus on the issue at hand which is the sharing of household tasks and duties
  • Don’t talk about the past, instead look at how you can both make changes, which will benefit everyone
  • Have a list of all the tasks and jobs. Often when tasks are ‘just done’ they can actually go unnoticed by a partner
  • Do you have age-appropriate children who you can also bring into the conversation? If so, what can they become responsible for?

Sometimes a good way to bring understanding of the household duties is to have them as a list.  If you want make it more visual, include post-it notes into the discussion.  You can each write the jobs onto its own post-it and divide accordingly. 

Looking at the number of post-it notes and who has what, becomes a more visual representation of the number of household jobs and also who actually has the lion share.  Next look at how many hours you both work and other household jobs that may not be on post-it notes such as the cooking of meals. Is it a fair division?

You may also each look at the number of jobs, what they are and decide that some can be swapped. Maybe you would like to take a job your partner does and vice versa. 

Examples are:

  • Taking out the rubbish
  • Putting out the weekly rubbish
  • Mowing of the lawns
  • Gardening and outdoor ground maintenance
  • Cooking of nightly meals
  • Meal planning
  • Grocery shopping
  • Weekly fruit and vegetable shopping
  • Paying bills and budgeting of expenses
  • Homework checking
  • Take child to music lessons /sports game /sports practice
  • Bath time for children and putting to bed
  • Dusting
  • Vacuuming
  • Washing of clothes, bedding etc
  • Cleaning of toilets and bathrooms
  • Helping our elderly parents
  • Collect the family pet’s pills/ take the family pet to vaccinations


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