Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Ending the Chore Wars: Here's How!

“Don’t go home so early!” Time magazine’s cover story this week tells women – that’s the way to end the chore wars. “As long as women pull back on paid work, they enable men not to.”

After talking to thousands of men and women across the country, we know it’s a lot easier said than done.

Love may conquer all but it doesn’t take out the garbage. And then enter kids: 90% of couples report more fighting when their first kid is born -- that’s when battles over who does what rise to a whole new level.

If you’re skeptical that men will do their part at home so women are free to follow Time’s advice, take a look at some of the social science we used to write Getting to 50/50. It’s an easier sell than you think.

Men who do more chores:

1. have more sex with their wives

2. are 50% more likely to stay married

3. have kids who do best in school (when dads go to school 3x per year or more)

4. earn as much as guys who don’t do their share according to economic data – and get promoted at almost the same pace

What more proof for #4? Check out Harvard Business Review on how men produce quantifiably better results when they don’t spend all their time at the office – even in the most 24/7 of jobs.

We know this isn’t an easy conversation. Here are some tips that have helped many couples end the chore wars.

Josh Coleman, psychologist and co-chair of the Council on Contemporary Families, says: “The lyrics are rarely as important as the melody—getting your tone right is key.” From his counseling practice, Coleman finds wives are most effective when they speak in a matter-of-fact way “rather than a victimized or burdened way. Her tone should be affectionate though unmovable.

In our book, Getting to 50/50, our favorite advice came from a guy we interviewed. “No one wants a boss when they get home,” he told us. So we women can fire ourselves as household CEOs, treat our partners as equals at home, and negotiate in 4 simple steps. (They work great for us – when we remember to use them : -))

Pause to short-circuit the emotion and reflect. (You just want him to put the wet clothes into the dryer—this is about laundry, not love.)

Connect in ways that affirm the importance of relationships.(This is your partner you’re talking to, not the no-show house painter, so treat him accordingly.)

Get genuine support that doesn’t necessarily validate your point of view but, rather, helps you gain a broader perspective.(Talk to other working couples. Do they, with similarly overpacked schedules, think it’s worth insisting your partner make the bed with hospital corners?)

Shift your mind-set from “You need to change” to “What can I change?” (Hold your tongue when he makes dinner by ordering in Chinese. Try to see it as creative.)

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[Excerpted from Getting to 50/50, drawn from HBR advice on defusing conflict at work]