I Hate It When My Husband Helps Around the House

husband cleanning
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I know sharing the household load is super popular right now, and woke dads everywhere are looking for ways to take on more tasks and earn those sweet wifely brownie points. But if I'm being 100 percent honest, I hate it when my husband tries to jump in and help around the house. 

Don't get it twisted -- It's not like I want him kicking back in a recliner while I bring him a beer and an artisanal sandwich. Cinderella may be my favorite princess, but my desire for him to leave the mopping to me isn't the Clorox equivalent of that thing Ana and Christian did with the ice cream.

I'm not a cleaning control freak who only polishes the table counterclockwise or who must eliminate every micro speck of dust from the shelves before I'm satisfied that they're clean. And he isn't Doofus Husband™ as seen on commercials and every '90s sitcom that didn't star Danny Tanner. He's perfectly capable of cleaning just as well as I can. In fact, he argues that his dishwasher loading skills are far superior (And we will continue to let him think that, please and thank you, since he takes care of it every night). 

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The reason I hate it when my husband starts to clean without being asked is that for me, it doesn't feel supportive -- it feels like a judgment on me for not getting to the task sooner. 

Before I became a mom, I worked insane hours as a divorce attorney. My husband was (and still is) a college professor. We took care of the house as best we could with the limited time we had outside our jobs, each of us understanding that we were both doing the best we can. After I had our twins, I decided I liked raising babies more than helping people fight over theirs, so I transitioned into consulting and writing I could do from home. We had a talk and understood that since I'd have more free time, I'd pick up responsibility for more of the household tasks like cleaning the bathrooms, planning menus, making most meals, and doing the deep cleaning stuff like vacuuming and dusting. 

For me, those household tasks are part of my workload now, the same as any legal brief I research or essay I write. And I take pride not only in getting my work done but also in knowing that I'm good at prioritizing tasks, at doing what needs to be done in the right order. So when my husband comes home after work and grabs the toilet brush and cleaning gel without asking me what he can do to help out first, I don't make a gushing Facebook post about what a great man I married. I get pissed. 

Because when he assumes he knows what needs to be done without consulting me, it feels like he's both saying he knows how to do my job better than I can and that I'm doing it wrong. It's as if a co-worker walked into my office, grabbed a project off my desk and started working on it without saying anything to me about it. 

In a situation where a woman is perfectly capable of doing something, to step in and do it for her without asking if she wants it done isn't helpful, it's belittling. It's a man assuming his way of doing things, that his perception of what needs to happen next is automatically right. Even if the intent behind it is truly to help out around the house, it's a subversive way to show dominance over a spouse.

Obviously, not every couple will feel like this. I'm sure there are some women who'd love for their husbands to pitch more without having to be asked, who want their men to volunteer to clean, and then get down to scrubbing, without their wives need to feel like they have to supervise the whole time. But for those of us who take pride in being the one to juggle it all, there's nothing wrong with asking your dude to check in before he takes it upon himself to grab the mop. Maybe tackling the baseboards would be more helpful right now, actually.

It goes both ways. For some couples, one of them couldn’t care less about furniture or decor. But my husband loves holidays and cares about how the house looks, so he’d be really annoyed if I went ahead and made a Target run without discussing whether we should do a pumpkin or a goblin theme this year with him first. For him, that’s not me taking on the household task of Halloween decorating for the family, it’s ignoring his input and opinions.

I'm not saying that men shouldn't help with the household duties at all. My husband actually does a ton around the house. Besides his nightly dishwashing routine, he's the one who washes, dries, irons and folds all the laundry every Friday (he even remembers to keep my nice tops out of the dryer). When I found out pregnant women shouldn't scoop litter boxes, I gave that task over him and never looked back, even though that was almost six years ago. 

We're raising two boys, and it's important to me that they grow up in a household where it's normal and expected for men to do their part to keep the home clean and organized. Whenever they see their dad sweeping or wiping up crumbs, they ask to help instead of asking why he's cleaning, so I'm hopeful that I'm on the right track.

But along with raising boys who understand that part of becoming an adult is caring for their home, I want them to know that being in a loving relationship means respect for one another. I want them to see the example of mom and dad checking in with each other before doing something unexpectedly around the house, rather than thinking it's OK as a man or a woman to make those decisions unilaterally.  

So no, I don’t love it when my husband takes it upon himself to help out around the house. Don’t assume I want a knight with shining steam mop. Ask first.

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