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The Great Divide Over Housework: Should SAHMs Do It All?

The Great Divide Over Housework: Should SAHMs Do It All?

Your husband is bringing home the bacon, but does that mean that you're supposed to play ‘50s housewife,' fry it up, dole it out, clean the dishes, tackle the piles of filthy laundry and then take on the dozens of errands and appointments? June Cleaver may have approved, but suggest this to one of the The Real Housewives of New Jersey and expect a major meltdown.

In the real lives of moms everywhere, the question of who takes responsibility for the housework is a sore subject for many Circle of Moms members, especially those who are stay at home moms (SAHMs). These moms say they find themselves in a constant battle with their working partners over the dishes stacking up in the sink, mud-streaked floors and never-ending piles of laundry.

Just ask Krystal M., who says that almost immediately after she left her full-time job to stay at home with her son, she and her husband had "a huge fight." As she explains, "he expected me to have dinner ready when he got home, the house to be spotless, and the clothes cleaned and put away. I did not quit my job so that I could be a maid. I did it so that I can take care of our son. The housework should still be shared."


"It's like being back in the 60's," says Kareen I., a mom of three. "I do absolutely everything."

Circle of Moms members agree they are tired of doing it all — "absolutely everything," says Gina R.  "Taking care of the baby, cleaning, paying bills, yard work, does anyone else do all of this? The excuse is that my husband works all day."

There is no question that chores create a lot of tension in many households. "It's the simple things that add up and get so annoying over time," says Jenny S. "I feel like I'm constantly annoyed with my husband for one reason or another. It's always something. Yesterday one of the annoying things was when I asked him to feed our nine month-old some baby food while I did the laundry, all I could hear is him complaining about how messy she's getting and then giving up after only a quarter of the food was eaten because...he couldn't handle it, so I had to finish the job."

Many moms wish they could change their partners' unexamined expectations. As Joanne A. explains, "Husbands need to realize that juggling a baby, the cooking, cleaning and generally maintaining the dynamics of the house hold has been proven to be the same as working two jobs. Just because men go out to work, they forget and are ignorant to the fact that what we do is ginormous."

So what's a woman to do? "How do you cope?," says Jenny S., echoing a collective cry.

Claudia L. recommends creating a schedule "It does take teamwork to make a household work," she says. She recommends that moms remind their husbands: "this is a partnership and you staying home doesn't mean you are NOT working."

Given how tired they are of debating over who does the chores, several moms have resorted to the ultimate solution: "I just stopped cleaning up his stuff," says Allie B. "If he doesn't put his dirty clothes in the basket, they stay on the floor (or in his closet) and he has no clean clothes to wear to work."

Other Circle of Moms community members say it's just not worth the fight, and so they just bite their tongues and do the household chores. I personally don't think it's worth the fight, or getting upset says Alicia Y. "I just pick my battles and this is not one of them."

But, in the end, an even bigger issue for Circle of Moms members is what kids internalize from seeing that when mom stays home to care for her children it is also her duty to be the full-time housekeeper. "The thing that I truly worry about is the message that is being sent to the kids," says Cathy G.  "that dads are not expected to cook, clean, or do any chores in the home. I hate that my sons are seeing first hand that the household responsibilities are all put on the Mommy. This old-fashioned."

Is it fair for stay at home moms to do it all?

Image Source: Wenjomatic via Flickr/CreativeCommons

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.

Join The Conversation
AshleyBurt AshleyBurt 2 years

I don't get this. My husband works 50+ hours a week but when he's home for a day he does house work. He doesn't complain about having to work outside the home. That being said, you stay home. You should be doing about 85% of the chores if not more. He can cut the grass and do the manly man stuff. But unless you have a 3,000 sq ft house or larger, there's really no reason that you can't keep the house in order. Unless you are sleeping in till noon every day. Doesn't make any sense to me. The only thing challenging might be cooking, but hey that's where he could chip in and pick up food on the way home: but honestly, he shouldn't have to worry about working 9 hours then coming home to push a mop or do laundry. That's just nuts.

jimbeamwhiskey jimbeamwhiskey 3 years
I work and my wife is a SAHM. We have a 6 year old and a 2 year old. Both girls. The 6 year old is in Kindergarten. I still do 80% of the housework. I can't stand it. Yet when I try to calmly discuss it with her, she says I am being rude and controlling. Schedules don't work. Dividing up chores doesn't work. She's lazy and it sucks.
Susan14563284 Susan14563284 4 years
Wow, Whitney. Bitter much? You hear what I am saying? I don't think you do. I think you only hear the frustrated voice in your head. Did you read my post? I am a SAHM. I got tired of being a corporate slave. Reading comprehension is not your strength, I see. But then again, frustrated whiners never comprehend anything that doesn't provide them with an excuse for whining. I know what work an SAHM does and I am proud to do it. Try being a single mom where you have to work to bring in an income, shuffle kids around to daycare and then cook and clean for them on top of helping them with their homework. I am so glad I have the choice of being a SAHM. Many women and men don't. Whining about being a hard-working SAHM is like whining about being a hard-working doctor or lawyer - you took on those responsibilities so deal with it. Anything worth having requires hard work. Maybe the attitude of your husband is a reaction to your own attitude. Don't forget, the financial burden of raising the family is on his shoulders. Maybe he feels that you are self-entitled and irresponsible. He has given you the choice of being a SAHM and you are whining and complaining all of the time - characteristics of an immature person. Your attitudes and subsequent behaviors are passed down to your children, which means they will probably rebel in some way as your husband seems to be doing. You are creating a hostile household with your bitterness. I can see that from your post. Being a SAHM is a slave? No, to me being a SAHM is an honor and one of the best jobs in the world. You sound like a control freak. You don't feel it's your job to wait on your husband? Well, maybe he doesn't feel like supporting a bitter, complaining person such as yourself. Maybe, he shouldn't pay for your clothes and food, either. He should just pay for the kids' food, clothing and shelter. If you want your own clothes and food, then get a part-time job and pay for those things yourself. See how that feels? You don't want to do things for him, well, he may not want to do things for you, either. I have been a working professional for years, and now I have been a SAHM for years and believe me, being a SAHM is much more rewarding and satisfying. You don't agree? Then stop being bitter and taking it out on your husband and kids. Find a job outside the home and place the kids in daycare. They may be happier there then in a household where you whine and fight with your husband all of the time and your house will be a lot cleaner since that seems to be what really matters to you. If your doctor keeps whining about how s/he works so hard and patients are annoying, would you think s/he was a good doctor? No! You would say that's her/his job so why is s/he complaining about her/his patients? So why are you complaining about being a SAHM? You don't like my "rebuke" even though it was presented in a tempered manner? Well, dear, how do you think your husband feels when you rebuke him in what I suspect may be an ill-tempered manner? You like to dish it out but you can't take it, huh? You think you are entitled to treat him like crap just because you are a SAHM and have a vagina? Grow up and be a good role model for your children already.
WhitneyCombs WhitneyCombs 4 years
Wow, Susan. Bitter much? Seriously, I hear what you're saying. It sounds like you are frustrated with SAHMs who have posted for not appreciating what they have when, I would suspect, you must work for an income - it's not a choice for you. While I respect that reminder, I think you may underestimate the amount of work a SAHM actually does. For instance, when I was working, the house stayed ALOT cleaner and there wasn't nearly the amount of work to be done because our family of 5 wasn't home to mess it up, need potty time, need three meals a day prepared and cleaned up, etc etc. Additionally, I think perhaps you misjudge the thread itself as whining over work (given your inappropriate use of the word "spoiled") when in actuality, at least at our house, it's about attitude. The attitude demonstrated by my husband that CREATES the extra work I don't have time for indicates entitlement and irresponsibility, both characteristics of an immature person. These attitudes and their subsequent behaviors are passed on through modeling to the children, so that despite all my efforts, if Daddy takes his clothes off wherever he feels like it and leaves them there be it the den, library, dining room, etc, and lets them lay there never to be touched again unless I pick them up because I stay home thus it is my "job", then the children become the same way. The same goes for food dragged all over the house, dirty cups, bowls, etc. And on and on it goes. And if he refuses to do anything about his own responsibilities, what have the children learned? That being a SAHM is the hardest job in the world and being a working parent means you have a slave at home to pick up after you and zero personal responsibility. I think the frustration is about attitudes and maturity levels that the extra work is a symptom of, not the work itself. No one goes into being a SAH parent believing it's going to be easy (that I'm aware of). And yes, I would rather be a SAHM raising my own children WITH the frustration of an immature, entitled husband than having to work full time to keep my kids fed and clothed while scared to death that someone gave their kid a peanut butter sandwich for breakfast and that kid didn't wash their hands with soap and might touch something my kid with touch and so this is my kids' last day on earth or another hospital run or... I SAHM, though, because I love my children and want to give them everything I can, NOT because I believe it's inherently my job to wait on my husband as his only responsibility is to make money and nothing else simply because he has a penis. Unless one has been a SAH parent for at least a year, it's impossible to understand the situation clearly, much less be an educated voice of rebuke, even if done in a tempered manner.
Susan14563284 Susan14563284 4 years
It's amazing how spoiled women have become. Do you know how many women would love to be stay-at-home moms but can't because they can't afford it? And what about the single moms and dads who have to work and take care of the kids and the house all by themselves? If you are home all day, you should be the one doing the chores. You say you don't want to pick up after him? Well, maybe he doesn't want to pick up the costs of supporting you since you are not bringing in any income. By the way, do you help him with his job? If you expect him to do the chores when he comes home, then maybe he should bring home a briefcase of his projects for you to work on. And I love taking care of my kids, my husband and the house that we bought. I am glad that I am no longer a corporate slave. I am so lucky to have the opportunity to raise my kids without worrying about bringing in a paycheck - a lot of woman don't have that opportunity. In fact, I know a number of men who would love to be stay-at-home dads if given the opportunity. I wonder, would a stay-at-home dad be allowed to complain about how hard his life is? Would he be able to drink beer and watch TV when his wife comes home after working a 12-hour day and then tends to the children and the chores? People would call this stay-at-home dad a lazy slacker. Look, if you don't like being a stay-at-home mom, then go back to work outside the home and hire a nanny or use daycare to raise your kids. But if you have a spouse who works full time and brings in enough money to provide you with the choice of being a stay-at-home parent or pursuing a career, shut up and enjoy it.
helleimnice helleimnice 4 years
Wow, after reading these comments, I don't know if all these husbands have it made or my wife has it made. It's crazy how some people won't help at all. I guess I'm a catch!
helleimnice helleimnice 4 years
This article is true. In the aspect of the husband can NEVER DO ENOUGH! In my case we had a meeting made an outline, and made a list of his and hers chores. Day by day, who feeds the baby, who vacuums, who does dishes, who takes ALL the trash out, who cooks, who takes care of the three dogs. The only thing I don't do is the actual laundry and clean the babies room. I do put my own clothes away though. Note: I also cut our grass, egde, weed eat, take care of all the plants in the yard, take care of all the tractors, mowers, cars and other misc power items (note we have 4 acres). Fix anything in the house and do all home improvements. Have a full time job (40-50hrs) and pick up side work when I have time. Plus I'm studying to for job advancement. But, there's some issue with how much I take care of the baby. Oh, I also work out everyday (ya know got to stay healthy, keep those 18" arms and six pack into my 40's). One of my goals is to take care of my families needs and wife's. And, if I'm feeding the baby and she's being stubborn and I complain, I get the baby taken away because I'm not doing it right. That shouldn't count against me. Not to rant too much here or say I'm the best dad or person in the world but the bottom line is no matter how hard you try when there is a mother and baby involved the man can never do enough!!!!! I lose!!! There wasn't a problem before the baby, and I hate when she makes me out to be some chump who doesn't do anything. Personally I think I deserve some kind of credit, or at least some good sex. ;)
KristenBucs KristenBucs 4 years
On the flip side, there are moms who stay home all day and besides opening pre-packaged foods, do nothing. I believe that while my husband is at work, I am at work. When he gets home it should be 50/50. BUT that is with my knowing that I put the effort in, not just to take care of the house, but to be a great mom to my kids too (ok, a good one on a tougher day). Keeping in mind that I AM at home, where the chores are (its a little difficult for him to do the dishes from the other side of the city, no?) This is a great tool for moms who work part time or odd hours too.
Stacey15421 Stacey15421 5 years
I think it depends on how much the breadwinner works. My husband went from working 70 hours a week to about 45-50 because I finally got to the point that I needed him home more to help out. He works on comission. We made a few financial sacrifices, and while DH doesn't do much housework(he does all the handy man repairs which seem like daily occurances around here) and does all the yard work, cleans up after himself and makes sure the trash makes it to the curb, but most importantly, he spends time with the kids when he's home. Yes, SAHM is a 24/hr job, with a few breaks spread out through the day, 5 minutes here and there to check facebook, taking a bathroom break alone. It seems pretty menial, but think about what you are giving your kids!! Kids don't want a spotless house, they want YOU. I've found that it's not necessarily making sure housework is split fairly between both parents, it's more about making sure you are giving your kids quality time and fitting in all the responsibilities around that. No one said it was easy. The breadwinner parent works hard too, it's a different kind of hard though, and deserves respect as well. Lowering household expectations helps a lot. Try it!
RhondaKimsey RhondaKimsey 5 years
I have been a SAHM for 3 years. I have a 3 year old and a 1 year old. I do absolutely everything around here. He wont so much as take the trash out and dares me to ask him too! I do the house work, yard work and everything in between. That doesnt really bother me, what bothers me is him flat out saying that I dont do anything just because I dont have a job. He thinks that just because I dont have a "real" job that I must not do anything. It actually makes me cry when he says such things because I know that without me, our family would not run as smoothly as it does.
LesleyMortimer LesleyMortimer 5 years
For the first of my 3 children, I worked full time and my husband stayed at home with the children. I worked 50-70 hours a week, did all of the coupon cutting, grocery shopping, laundry, vacuuming, paid the bills, dealt with all of the other business needs and breastfeed or pumped all for all three children until they were at least 12 months old. I never expected the house to be spotless or for dinner to be on the table every day, since it is my belief that raising smart, independent happy children was much more important. He did occasionally do the dishes and help with homework, but I did most of it. He was raised in a traditional home and his mother did all of the work. It just wasn't worth the battle and I had the ability to make more money, so I just killed myself week after week. Since I worked in the Mortgage industry, I lost my job and could not find another one being that I was 6 months pregnant when I was laid off with our 4th child. We decided that we would put our savings into starting a full-time landscaping company with what was left of our dwindling 401K. I started the business and run most of the business side now. I am expected to do all of this with 4 children who are open enrolled in schools 10 miles from our home with a 13 year old who is on 2 baseball teams (which I tried to protest) who my husband helps coach both of. I never get a break and I am expected to do everything and if the laundry gets behind, my husband who thinks he is progressive and never really says much, will make a passive aggressive comment about there not being any clean socks. If I do get upset, then he is mad at me for fair is this and most of you ignorant undeducated women say it should be my job and I should just suck it up. Well I think not! I don't want my kids learning to be this way when they have a what is my leave and make it harder on myself and my kids??? What is a real solution?
WhitneyCombs WhitneyCombs 5 years
I'm a SAHM of three, on several boards and committees, and I also write preschool curriculum and about once a year a bible study. I bring in no income as all of these things are on a voluntary basis and for the benefit of others. However, all of these things are incredibly inportant to myself, my husband and my family. Thus, when I found myself pregnant AGAIN two years ago and restricted to either a recliner or the bed, I mandated a housekeeper - and once we figured out #3 was more like ADDING THREE children to the mix, AND my husband refused to do anything but the dishes twice a week, I offered a solution. Given that housekeeping was the only thing we could outsource, either my husband sucked it up and did his share - he's finally assented to discontinue use of the word "help" - or we hired a housekeeper at $100/wk. His desire to not spend money won out over his desire to make lazy choices. Now the only issue is MY inability to get dinner to the table on time - usually its like 8 instead of 6 now. LOL UGH
VanessaDavies VanessaDavies 5 years
I am a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom of two, who also freelances, and I bring in about 75% of our family's income. Even so, if I don't cook and clean, it doesn't get done. The housework and home school are both 100% my responsibility simply because DH refuses to acknowledge that it needs to be done. He will literally not eat for days if I don't make sure food is made and served. And the kids and pets wouldn't be fed either if I did't do it. When I have to go out of town for business, I have to get a family member or friend to help out. And after 16 years I can tell you: talking doesn't help!
RosemaryMullally RosemaryMullally 5 years
I know how all the ladies feel. I have a very active 2 year old and a fussy 9 month old. Getting anything done around the house while my other half is at work is nearly impossible. He's home about 5-5.30pm every working day and after he's eating usually falls asleep a couple of hours later and if I complain he just says he's been up since 5am. I usually don't get to sleep untill 3-4am after spending the night going from one child to another and am up with the girls at 8am whil he's being sleeping from about 8-9pm. He thinks it's ok since he's at work and I'm at home. He doesn't see that getting up at 5am is his choice because he couldn't be bothered doing what he needs to do the night before or that while he's doing the same job he's been doing for 16 years I'm new to my mine and am still learning and will be for many years to come and he should be learning his new role as a perent too instead of sleeping through it like a deadbeat dad.
ColleenMcGrath ColleenMcGrath 6 years
If he is working hard so you can stay at home, the bills are getting paid, and he treats you well, yes, the mom should do it all. I know this will be an unpopular response but he is working hard to support the family. Maybe some of you should read The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands by Dr. Laura Schlessinger. Do you go help him at his job? No, he does it himself. If I was a stay at home mom again, I would happily do all the chores for my husband and family. Running a home is a dignified job. We seem to have forgotten that.
LizMuirhead LizMuirhead 6 years
Hmm...a bit of bias in this article, I think. What about SAHDs? Our kids are older, so he has a bit more time and can do things like mow the lawn while they are home, but they expectation and agreement is that he will clean, do laundry, and take care of the house, as well as make dinner. I will clean up after dinner, put my own things away, help with the kids when I get home, and pay the bills. So let's not forget about the SAHDs who are carrying the weight on the homefront.
niccim niccim 6 years
My husband works all the time, it seems. He leaves around 6:30 am and most days (including weekends) he gets home well after the kids are in bed. On the rare occasion he is home while the kids are up, I would rather he spends time with them than working around the house. We have four kids age 5 and under, so he doesn't really get upset about a messy house. When he has a full day off, he will usually do a few chores, mostly mowing or picking a room to tidy up, or tackle a "honey do". I do wish I had more help, but not at the cost of taking daddy time away.
CoMMember13630952656557 CoMMember13630952656557 6 years
No it's not fair and it gets worse when your in a joint family your expected to do it all even the extended family's work! I rather be at work then this but on the other hand I want to be with me children too :(. I dont think this is the price I should pay to be with the kids. Not to mention the comments you get if you do or do not do the chores by the in-laws. Is this abuse?
CoMMember13631165239529 CoMMember13631165239529 6 years
Guess Im old fashioned.I always loved doing all the mommy/housewife things.Makes me feel needed.It feels wonderfulto me ...
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