Does the 50/50 Marriage Really Work?
For the first 8 years of our marriage, I worked at a bank, worked my way through college, then taught in the public schools. I’ve been home for the last 22 years. My husband worked briefly in a factory (and other odd jobs), then worked in the wastewater field, where he’s been for the last 28 years.
When I worked, we practiced the 50/50 marriage model-or maybe I should call it the alleged 50/50 marriage model. How did we do it? Did it really work? What is the 50/50 model anyway?
The 50/50 marriage model is most often used by dual-income couples. The 50/50 model assumes that you and your spouse will share chores, childcare, and etc., equally. In some marriages, this model extends into the budget as well, assuming that each person will pay half, or an income-appropriate portion of the bills. In this post, I will be writing about my own experience, and the experience of a few good friends who exercised this model for marriage.
Let’s start with the chores. Before I came home, and even when I lived with Dad, we cleaned on Thursday nights, so our weekends could be free. My dad led the charge for “cleaning night” when he was a single parent. Before my husband and I married, we had a trailer house that we paid for and cleaned together, even while I still lived at home. As a side note, let me say this was not good. Because my husband had a huge car payment, the trailer house required co-signing with his father and my income to pay for it. We were not even married yet, and needed both of our incomes to pay the bills.
Let’s get back to cleaning night. I had to initiate cleaning night, and nag my fiancé to begin and finish on a weekly basis, in order to get the job done. At the time, my dad had recently remarried, and our blended family cleaned together on Saturdays. So, I cleaned not once, but two times per week. My husband had never participated in a “cleaning night” or “family chore day” while he lived at home. The problem (at that time) was not the amount of work he completed, but my shouldering all of the responsibility for initiating, delegating, and following cleaning night rigors through to completion.
The 50/50 Marriage After children
The pattern continued, and worsened after we had children. I found myself doing all the laundry, and half the cleaning while trying to breastfeed and teach school full time. In those days, I carefully hung up all of our shirts and let them air dry. I also ironed my clothes every night before work. I was extremely stressed and overburdened all the time, with precious few hours available to enjoy our new baby.
Researcher Rebecca Horne completed a study involving 900 couples and their partners. Data was gathered through a series of questionnaires when the participants were 25, 32, and 43 years of age (her findings were fascinating, but not surprising to me-read the whole article below).
Horne’s research supports the findings of a 2016 study conducted by the U.K.’s Office for National Statistics, which found that women did an average of 60 per cent more unpaid work than men, which includes cooking, childcare, and housework.
It also aligns with new data from Statistics Canada, which found that despite the fact that Canadian men are doing more chores at home than they did in the past, Canadian women are spending an average of 50 per cent more time doing unpaid work than men, showing that the gender imbalance at home is ever present.
My working friends had similar testimonies. Husbands wanted their wives to work outside the home 40 hours a week-that was the 50/50 part they liked. But when it came to housework, laundry, grocery shopping, cooking, and shuttling children, the women always did a lot more. One of my best teacher friends and her husband cleaned on Saturdays. His only job was to clean the bathrooms, while she cleaned everything else. She would complain that it took him all day to clean the bathrooms, and he would say, “Why do you care?”
First of all, taking all day in the bathrooms prevented him from helping with anything else. Secondly, it cancelled any options for doing something fun while it was still daylight.
Long before I came home, I knew that our marriage model was not truly 50/50. I became a Christian when my daughter was 6 months old, and began to learn about God’s design for women and men. I learned that men were called to protect and provide while women were called to bear children and keep the house. What? Eww. At first I was really angry. Being the keeper of a house full of children and living on what my husband could provide seemed like a punishment. Yet, I missed my baby terribly, and knew that our current model was not working.
So what happened after I came home? I’ll start with childcare. The old patterns slowly faded. Although I was eager to take care of my 2 year-old daughter full time, it was still hard. Caring for a baby or toddler at night and on the weekends with a partner is different from caring for that same child alone. Two weeks after I came home, I found out I was pregnant (surprise!) My son was born 7 months after I came home.
The days were long, but the nights with the babies were longer. About 18 months after I stopped working, my husband switched from shift work to a day job. Our third child was the first newborn baby I cared for alone. I remember feeling so victorious, once she began sleeping through the night. Before that, my husband worked shift work, and was available to help. If one of the babies wouldn’t go back to sleep after breastfeeding, he would play with them because he was awake anyway. It’s funny when I look back now. The Lord incrementally changed my circumstances, allowing me to slowly become the mom I wanted to be.
What about the chores? As a young, full time homemaker, I did away with cleaning night. I cleaned by myself once a week, when I had time. When my oldest daughter turned 4, we began homeschooling. After that, the kids had to help with the chores every day in order to get everything done. Nowadays, the girls and I clean the bathrooms once a week, and dust and clean the heart pine floors every two weeks.I still homeschool, do the household budget/pay the bills, and 95% of the cooking. The girls fold and deliver the laundry. The two youngest girls and I also earn extra money cleaning our neighbor’s Airbnb about 8 times per month-as I’ve mentioned in previous posts. I’m also free to run errands sometimes with the older children. Yesterday, my 17 year-old daughter and I went to the dollar stores to buy graduation decorations, then ate lunch at Zaxbys. Now that my children are older, I get to spend lots of time just hanging out with them, and hearing about their lives.
My husband is basically the sole provider for our household. He also does the yard work and helps me put the dishes away at night after dinner (when he’s not coaching one of the girls in softball).
What are the benefits of doing things God’s way?
There is a lot more peace in our relationship, now that we are free to focus on our own duties. I don’t have to nag him to do what he feels is unimportant (housework, lol), or feel resentful because I’m missing my children. We didn’t have peace overnight though. There were lots of tears, arguments, and tough times before we reached the stage we are in now. Following the culture for the first 8 years of our marriage couldn’t be undone overnight.
Now, I’m free to focus on what God has called me to do. I don’t have to carry the burden for providing for our family, or nag my husband to help me sweep and vacuum in order to survive. As a mother, I don’t have to stress about the people watching my children, because I’m taking care of them myself. My days are free to homeschool, cook meals, and keep our home. If I want to make extra money, I can. Our budget is not based on the money I earn, thank goodness. Our weekends aren’t bound up in laundry and housework, because the kids and I do those chores on the weekdays while my husband is at work.
Honestly it was such a relief (and still is) to be able to focus all my energy on my home, and the people that live in it.
When the children were small, my life as a woman was harder than my husband’s. Although I was happy and grateful, sometimes I did wish that I could get in my car and drive away every morning, like a man-especially when the 5th child had colic.
Nowadays, my husband’s life is harder than mine. In addition to coaching the girls at times, he has an extra job on the weekends to better provide for our family. Hopefully, we are nearing the point where the extra job money can be saved, or spent on fun vacations. Are you are a young woman, struggling through long days of child rearing? Do you wish you could be a stowaway in your husband’s car, and sneak off to work with him for a day? Take heart, your life will get easier. Being the man of the family is not always easier, although it seems that way when the children are young. It is a heavy burden for my husband to provide for himself, and 6 other people. However, it is important to remember that God has equipped men to bear the burden of providing, just like women are equipped to bear children, breast feed, and nurture the family. Also, men who single-handedly carry the task of providing make different financial decisions than those who can depend on someone else to pick up the slack.
Have you ever tried the 50/50 marriage model? I’d love to hear from you!
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