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roundtable

Dirty work: What men really think about chores Add to ...

In this series, The Globe and Mail takes a look into bathrooms, kitchens, basements and legislatures to see how families and nations tackle the chore challenge.

To get an honest take from the guy’s perspective, The Globe and Mail’s Dave McGinn sat down with four men:

Chris, who has four-year-old twins and works 40 hours a week, has been married six years. “Before I started teaching full-time in February, I was the househusband. Laundry is divided fairly well. I just do it because I get tired of the piles.”

DIRTY WORK: A SIX-PART SERIES

Jeff, who has a three-year-old daughter and an eight-month-old son, works 50 hours a week and has been married for nearly five years. “I do a lot of the cooking, so I have to clean up. But I’m not cleaning the toilet.”

Greg, who has a two-year-old son and works 50 hours a week, has been married five years. “There’s just been a natural evolution to things. Like, she always does our son’s laundry, but she doesn’t do mine.”

Matt, who got married this spring, doesn’t have children and works 40 hours a week. “I don’t mind going down and switching loads, I just don’t like the folding. So I’ll usually bring it up and she’ll fold it and put it away.”

How are the chores divided at your house?

Chris: I don’t really like going around tidying things. My wife is very good at tidying things.

Matt: I do all the cooking and usually I’ll clean as I go. I’m the better cook.

Dave: I am a total yard guy. She has cut the lawn a few times and I find it weirdly emasculating. Shovelling and the lawn are the only stereotypical chores where I think, ‘Hold on, that’s guys’ work.’

Jeff: I was banned from folding laundry. I didn’t mind doing it, I just did such a bad job.

Greg: I’m happy to get steamrolled.

Matt: It’s not strategic procrastination, it just happens. It’s never, ‘Who’s going to break first?’ It’s just she breaks and then yells at me. But it’s not like I’m in a competition to see if she breaks.

Greg: The loser probably interprets it as strategic but it never is.

What do you fight about?

Dave: The thing we fight over the most is laundry. With two kids there’s just a constant stream. It’s always going. We won’t put it away right away and then it stays in the hamper and then two days later we’re arguing over whether it’s clean or dirty and why didn’t I put it away?

Jeff: My wife is on maternity leave at the moment, and occasionally I will make a comment as I’m leaving for work that it would be nice if …

Chris: Don’t even finish.

Matt: I already feel the fight brewing.

Jeff: I still haven’t learned that lesson. It’s not a good way to start your day.

What’s your strategy?

Jeff: Before kids we tried the chart. Having a chart and having someone ignore it takes you to fight zone pretty quick. It was a horrible idea. It was my idea.

Chris: I just get a list. My wife gives me a list. I prefer it. It’s helpful to me if I can have it on a list and cross it off. I’ll sort of resent it a little bit. But then I’m thinking, ‘I’m glad you actually wrote that down because if you reminded me of those things every day that would drive me crazy.’

Matt: I do a binge clean. I’ll know that I haven’t done anything in a while so I go to town. I’ll clean everything. I mean pulling out the fridge and mopping behind it – everything. I definitely do a lot of guilt cleaning.

Dave: If I was going golfing tomorrow, there would be no dishes in the sink when I left the house, I guarantee you that.

Chris: Because you know if you didn’t do them, they’d still be there.

Dave: It’s not even that. It’s that depending on moods, stresses and a few other factors outside my control, the whole house would be done spic and span as guilt cleaning. There’s definitely spite cleaning that happens. I’ve done it myself.

What was it like growing up?

Jeff: My dad could not cook. He never did the laundry. My dad did everything outside and my mom did everything inside. He did vacuum. I think that must have been the line in the sand that she drew. I don’t think it’s a good model.

Matt: I feel like that built up a lot of resentment, a lot of anger. I don’t think it’s worth it.

Dave: My whole attitude toward chores is, as long as there isn’t one person taking advantage of the other, so long as we’re both in the same boat and trying to do what we can, when we can, then all is good. I don’t care about schedules or a strict division of chores.

Do you think it’ll be different for your kids?

Jeff: Cooking is a big thing, because my daughter is big into what I’m cooking and what’s involved. It’s clear that she’s seeing that anyone can cook. She probably thinks only women fold laundry.

Chris: If I can get my kids to pick up a couple of toys in the playroom, that’s great. Daycare is actually great for that because they teach them to tidy up.

Dave: We’re always asking our daughter, ‘Would your teacher let you do that?’

Chris: We often invoke the daycare teachers’ names.

This interview has been condensed and edited.

Follow on Twitter: @Dave_McGinn

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