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Modern Husbands March Madness: Chores Edition

The hardest chores to do

Household chores are a leading cause of stress in a marriage and increasingly a leading cited reason for divorce. Much of the frustration stems from one partner, typically a husband, failing to understand the invisible labor involved in the tasks tackled by his wife. 


Running a household involves hundreds of tasks. Eve Rodsky narrowed them down to 100 in the Fair Play System. Click here for the interactive cards associated with her defined tasks. 


For most of my marriage, my wife managed most of the household tasks. That’s changed over the past few years. Now, it’s my turn to do so while she focuses on her career. 


Speaking from first-hand experience, I can tell you that unless you’ve experienced the responsibility of managing the home, you’ll have a tough time understanding how burdensome it can be.


My goal for this post is to give you a glimpse of the challenges and ignite a discussion with your partner about how you two can work better together to manage your home.


Household Chores: How they are different for everyone


The difficulty of each task will be different depending on the task, whether someone enjoys the responsibility of managing the task, and the spouse's skillset. 


How tasks are different for couples


The challenge of the task can vary depending on several factors. Lawn care, for example, can be an enormous responsibility for rural homeowners with lots of land but minimal for couples who live in urban areas with small yards. 


I evaluated each task based on my experiences and current circumstances, but my situation could differ greatly from yours.


Enjoyment or skillset


I enjoy managing money. It's also a professional skill set, so I gladly own this task. However, managing your bank accounts might take a lot of work.


Money is often cited as a leading cause of divorce and marital stress. Managing money could be a terrible challenge for spouses who disagree about spending, lack the appropriate financial education, or for families who live check to check. 


The point is that what I see as easy and fun can be the opposite for others and vice versa.


Rating Scale


The hardest chores to do


Medical Paperwork


Medical paperwork can be simple for couples with no children who have no health problems, but that is not the case with us. Here are a handful of reasons why managing medical paperwork (e.g., health insurance, dental, and vision) is so difficult. 


Complexity of Coverage Options


One of the primary challenges families face is understanding the array of health insurance plans available to them. Take, for instance, the challenge our family recently faced when my wife, our primary insurance carrier, switched jobs. 


She was provided with four health insurance options:


  • A health reimbursement arrangement (HRA)

  • A health savings account (HSA)

  • A traditional plan (PPO)

  • A Flexible Spending Account (FSA)


And if that alphabet soup of health insurance acronyms wasn't enough, each plan had tiers of coverage. 


I spent hours building a spreadsheet, using last year's medical expenses to calculate our most suitable plan. Variables such as coinsurance, copayments, deductibles, premiums, employer contributions, and choices in each network are examples of variables that were calculated. On top of everything, our oldest son has health care through his employer, which requires coordinating benefits. 


My wife is in finance, and my background is in personal finance, yet for us, this was agonizing. 


Lack of Transparency


Health insurance policies are notorious for their dense language and complex terminology. It's nearly impossible to figure out what is covered and what is not in advance—fine print, exclusions, and limitations buried within policy documents. 


Administrative Burden


Managing medical paperwork can be a time-consuming and arduous task for families already juggling multiple responsibilities. The administrative burden can be overwhelming, from filling out endless forms at the doctor's office to keeping track of Explanation of Benefits (EOB) statements from insurers. Moreover, discrepancies between medical bills and insurance claims can lead to disputes and further complicate matters.


Moreover, some providers have been found to illegally deny claims. I grew up listening to my mother, who had chronic pain and multiple sclerosis, fight with insurance companies. It was as if their jobs were too make providing the promised coverage as difficult as possible. 


ProPublica's Claim File Helper lets you customize a letter requesting the notes and documents your insurer used when deciding to deny you coverage.


Financial Strain


For many families, healthcare costs represent a significant portion of their budget. Copays, deductibles, and out-of-pocket expenses can quickly add up, straining household finances. The fear of being unable to afford necessary medical care or facing unexpected medical bills looms large, adding stress and anxiety to an already challenging situation.


Here's a fun tidbit, I say with heavy sarcasm. When you switch jobs, the reset button is hit on your deductible. We hit our deductible by mid-February, and then we changed plans, which will ultimately cost us another $7,000 out of pocket, at a minimum. 


Fragmentation of Care


The fragmentation of the healthcare system further complicates matters for families managing medical paperwork and health insurance. Coordinating care between multiple providers, specialists, and insurers can be a logistical nightmare, particularly for families with members who have complex medical needs. 


Fragmented care can result in gaps in communication, duplicated tests, and disjointed treatment plans, leading to suboptimal outcomes and increased frustration for families. All of this must be managed.


The Human Reality


Managing medical paperwork is tough when life is toughest for us. When someone is sick or dying, the mental load of the responsibility is at its heaviest. 


The hardest chores to do


 


 

Managing Bank Accounts


There are countless ways in which bank accounts can be managed. We have written extensively about many of these strategies in the past. 



The hardest chores to do


Deep Clean Bathrooms


Deep cleaning a bathroom involves thoroughly removing dirt, grime, and bacteria from all surfaces, fixtures, and accessories within the space. As part of this process, you will usually scrub and disinfect the toilet, sink, bathtub, or shower. Mold, mildew, and soap scum can build up on floors, walls, and tiles if they are not cleaned and sanitized regularly. 


Keeping mirrors, countertops, and shelves clean feels like a constant hassle. Shrapnel from shaving and toothpaste overflow can be found everywhere, so deep cleaning also involves attention to detail, such as cleaning grout lines and polishing fixtures.


The hardest chores to do

P.S. The "challenge of the task" is not getting sick cleaning the toilets or pulling hair from the drains.


Lawn Care


I have a confession. We hire a company to take care of our lawn care needs. But I can still claim our “HOA Lawn of the Month” award from June ‘22. 


I grew up mowing lawns for money. At one time, I had five lawns, which added up to a good amount of money to spend on baseball cards for a 12-year-old kid. My brother and I also mowed our yard and helped with the rental properties. Until recently, we used a riding mower to mow our property. 


The commitment level of this task is all over the place. Some folks shoulder the mental load of managing yards with park-like beauty, which requires daily care and consideration for what is needed to keep the plants alive. 


Others limit their workload to sitting on a riding mower, drinking a beer, and listening to the game. 


The hardest chores to do


All Things Kitchen


I love to cook. Well, I really love to smoke food and grill. I love to mix drinks and sample beer, which comes in handy when I’m drinking bourbon or vodka-based mixed drinks and beer while grilling out or smoking meat.


Managing the kitchen is relatively new to me.


For most of our marriage, I only stepped into the kitchen to eat. I rarely shopped for groceries or took on any responsibility for keeping it clean. I wasn’t on the golf course pounding beers with buddies; I was working 80 hours a week. Nevertheless, until now, I failed to understand the arduous task of handling everything in the kitchen. 


In a past podcast episode with Philip Olson, he shared that he and his wife found that owning all of the tasks involving the kitchen was about half of the overall responsibility of managing the home, minus caregiving. He manages anything that involves the kitchen; she manages everything else.


 


 

Owning this task is so challenging because the work never stops. The mental load is significant: What grocery items are needed for the week’s meals? Are there any allergies or diet constraints? Do we have dishwasher detergent? Never mind that the dishwasher turns over at least twice daily in our house. And the amount of time it takes to manage the kitchen is a part-time job in itself. 


Take it from someone whose experience in the kitchen has ranged from doing nothing to everything: managing anything that involves the kitchen is a monumental task.


The hardest chores to do


Clean Living Area


A friend once told me that his grandmother would put on a white glove and walk around with his mother to show her “spots” she missed.


As a man, I’ll never fully understand the societal pressures some women face to “keep a clean home.” Practically speaking, the notion that it’s a woman’s job to keep the home clean is bullshit and unfair, but that doesn’t change reality. 


Such pressures might explain why women are notoriously vigilant about cleaning before the company arrives, which is a pet peeve of mine and was a routine argument for years. It drove me nuts. Ugh, if I could do it all over again I’d be the first to begin cleaning to reduce her anxiety. 


The amount of responsibility this entails is determined by endless variables: how big your home is, how many people live in it, how old your children are, and whether you have pets. My evaluation reflects our current circumstances. 


The hardest chores to do


Manage Investments


There are countless ways in which investments can be managed. Frankly, if you’re managing money the right way there should be little to no mental load. We have written extensively about many of these strategies in the past. 



The hardest chores to do


Laundry


Granted, ensuring the right clothes are clean for the right occasions does take consideration; much of what is entailed in doing the laundry is the time it takes to iron, fold, and put it away. Apart from the occasional laundry hack and learning the basics, owning the task is committing to a job that never stops. 


The hardest chores to do


Learn More


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