A Window into Life in the Suburbs


"Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these." Luke 12:27 (NIV)

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Division of Labour

I'm lying in bed with the sniffles and the husband comes in to tell me that the 4 year old reminded him that "Mummy needs some dinner."
The husband rolls his eyes in mock indignance and waves his arms around in the appropriate manner. "She only thinks about mummy but not daddy."
I am deeply touched. Well, at least somebody is thinking about me.
"Well..." I cross my arms and harrumph for the husband's benefit. "Of course as I'm the one who spends the most time with them."
But minutes later I have second thoughts about the source of 4 year old's blossoming thoughtfulness... I've been blessed with a couple of bossy girls, you see. Sometimes they think the whole world will collapse around them if they're not there to prop it up with their timely reminders. According to them mummy and daddy need reminders almost as much as they do.

Marriage is apparently a 50/50 enterprise. At least it's what I've heard over the years from relationship experts. So that principle has been extended to housework especially if both partners have a paid job outside the home. The idea is that husbands and wives divide household chores equally between them. "One job for you, one job for me... one job for you, one job for me..." until there's an equal distribution of labour. You get the picture. Frankly speaking, it sounds to me like a divorce in training.

I'm not pedantic so I'm kinda baffled: How, in the name of all that's great and good, does one divide the housework into neat halves?

Apparently most can't without getting all tetchy, according to a couple of economists. But there's an answer which will come as a relief to some.
 Splitting the dishes, laundry, vacuuming, and other household chores may seem fair, but an unbending line right down the middle can lead to more friction, not less, because no one is good and fast at all things. But when couples adopt the economic principle of “comparative advantage,” which says it’s not efficient to take on every task you’re good at, only the ones you are relatively better at, couples can gain time for the things they really want to do, the authors write.
“In economics, having the comparative advantage in something means you produce it at a lower cost and really quickly,” Paula Szuchman said in an interview with Yahoo! Shine. So if one of you is better at laundry, then do it. And if the other can do the dishes and clean up the kitchen faster every night while the better cook cooks, go for it.

 

Really? I thought it was called "common sense". I scratch my head and concede. Okay, maybe it ain't that common if yet another book needs to be written on this.
Seriously, are things so bleak in the marriage game that we need to look to economics to for advice about "the division of housework" in the home?

Housework I know is not much fun for a lot of people but I don't expect that the application of economic theory is going to make it more palatable.

There's only one rule at our place: You gotta do what you gotta do.

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