Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Division of Labour

Today I came across an old notebook in which we had clearly outlined roles and responsibilities for each other. This is what it looks like:

Jai's ResponsibilitiesRohini's Responsibilities
  • Bill payments

  • Car maintenance

  • Managing finances (including insurance)

  • Emergency groceries

  • Travel (tickets, passorts, etc)

  • Putting suitcases back after travel

  • Repairs around the house

  • Getting rid of things we no longer need

  • Entertainment (movie tickets, lunch reservations)

  • Counting and giving clothes to the dhobi*

  • Administrative work for the new house

  • Paying the servants' salaries
  • Laundry

  • Buying groceries

  • Managing Ayaan - feeding, clothing, bedtime, doctor's visits, etc.

  • Supervision of daily cleaning and cooking

  • Weekly spring cleaning

  • Instructions to and training of servants

  • Packing (except for business travel)

  • All design aspects of the new house

* dhobi - person who irons our clothes

Some points to note:

  • Jai likes to boast about the fact that his list is longer - the implication being that he does more work in the house. But a closer look at the list reveals that the comparative lengths of the lists are not representative of the division of responsibility.
  • To start with, the magnitude of the tasks on both the lists is quite different. One task on my list (that of managing Ayaan) is bigger than all the tasks on Jai’s lists put together.
  • Most of the tasks on my list are urgent, immediate and essential while most of Jai’s tasks can be postponed or done at one’s convenience. Ayaan has to be fed, clothed and put to sleep today, tomorrow and everyday but car maintenance or house repairs can be done at one’s convenience.
  • Most of the tasks on Jai’s list are jobs that need to be done once a week (movie tickets, emergency groceries and bill payment) or less (car maintenance, getting rid of things). The only exception to this is the dhobi responsibility that is part of Jai’s list of to-do things – and this is his responsibility only because the dhobi usually times his daily visits at the same time that I am busy putting Ayaan to bed. On the other hand, most of the tasks on my list are of a daily nature – with the exception of groceries and packing.
  • While many things show on Jai’s lists of responsibilities, they still have to remain on my mental to-do list to ensure that I keep following up and reminding Jai to get these done. Did I hear someone say ‘control freak’? Just to silence that dissident voice, here is a glimpse into what happens if I don’t:
    • Our telephone line gets disconnected atleast 3-4 times a year because ‘someone’ forgot to pay the bill.
    • I have been driving around without a side view mirror (it got stolen) for close to three months.
    • When we come back from a trip, it takes atleast a week of nagging and tripping over empty suitcases before they are put back on top of the cupboard.
  • Delegation of tasks is a one-way street – coming towards me. It is usually not a good idea for me to delegate my tasks to Jai. Often this is because I have to nag him so much to do it that it is less effort to just do it myself. Even when he does actually do the work, I wish I hadn’t asked him to, like in these examples:
    • The other day, Jai decided to help me out by putting the laundry in the machine. Not only did he mix whites and coloured clothes, he also threw my sequined ‘dry-clean only’ top in for the ride as well.
    • When I had gone to Jaipur, I had asked him to wash, dry and put up the curtains in our bedroom. When I came back, it was all done and I was most impressed at such levels of efficiency and compliance. However, the hooks were fixed to the curtain so badly that they proceeded to disengage one by one till yesterday they were barely hanging there. So I had to take them down last evening, take all the hooks off and put them back and then hang up the curtain again.

    In the same notebook, I also came across this note I wrote to Jai. This was back in the days when Ayaan would only sleep on me. So I needed to tell Jai to get his meal ready without talking and waking Ayaan. To any other person, I would have simply written “Can you please heat Ayaan’s dinner”. Given that it was Jai, here is what I wrote:

    “Boil some water. Then put it into a big dish and stand his dinner (in the plastic box lying on top of the dining table – show me if you are not sure) in it. The water level should not be high enough to leak into the food but should be high enough to heat properly."



    1. Blowing off steam? LOL. I am reminded of a joke in this context:

      A husband and wife divided the decision taking between themselves. The wife decided that she would decide on the smaller issues and the husband would decide on the bigger issues. For example the wife would decide on things like the school for junior, where to go for the holiday, what to eat for each meal etc. And the husband would decide on whether US invasion of Iraq was right etc.
      The last time I met them they were having a happy life. LOL

    2. Great post, having a husband is definitely like having a child, you get to practice before having a real one :)

    3. This was so funny. I feel the same way when I'm dealing with my husband. Its exactly like having to deal with a child.

    4. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    5. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    6. [Visitor] Not so much blowing off steam or taking a bit of a dig at my husband, who also reads the blog.

      [Mosilager] You bet. So now I have two!

      [M] Only another wife would understand. Most other people just think I am a huge complainer and a nag. I probably am a bit of those though...

    7. Whenever my husband does something like that, meaning he washed that thing in the dishwasher AGAIN! that is HAND WASH ONLY (or same with clothes), if it is AT ALL POSSIBLE, I just say "thanks honey, I really appreciate the help," and then try to fix it when he won't know I did. I don't want him to stop trying, y'know? If it is likely he will do the job again, I usually just try to gently remind him about whatever it is the mistake was. He does okay, most of the time. And some things just aren't worth getting that upset about. (But then again, sometimes I get pretty upset, vent over the phone to my mother, and hopefully approach him for "the discussion" in a more reasonable mood. Hopefully being the keyword.)

    8. [scrapqueen] - Husbands are fragile, aren't they? lol

    9. LOL! now WHY didn't I think of making a similar list :)

      abt the laundry fiasco...P offered to put the clothes in the machine once...he threw in his blue fab india kurta with my "only whites" load. I still haven't recovered from that trauma :)

    10. I can SOOOOO identify with you!!!:)I went out of town for exactly 3 days. Before I left, I told the beloved that I had set the curd and that he should keep it in the fridge. When I returned there was this horrible, pungent stench in the kitchen--- you can imagine the rest! This is just one instance! I don't think the indian male will ever change! :)

    11. LOL!! Husbands!! Gawd!!
      p.s: I need to make a list too...

    12. hahash!
      I lovee this list!
      Gosh...anand and me had a similar list put up on the fridge door so he doesnt miss it!
      But with my parents coming over..its gone down the drains..hahah!
      I can just about imagine Jai boasting abt his list being longer!

    13. ur list had me laughing all through.. hahahahaa
      u must make a fun couple!

    14. :)) this sounds so very familiar now!!!

    15. Yes! Yes! we guys heard this one.

      Hey! Were working on it real hard.
      I mean it's a whole new skill set out here and the on-the-job training is actually turning out to be the real thing.
      I think I've got the baby handling part worked out. Cooking, washing machine, servants are on going.
      She's working on the car, bills, travel, dhobi.
      Sure there are mishaps but one day (before we retire) there will be just one list and job assignment will be by draw.
      Oops! Is this the ladies circle ?
      Pardon me ladies do carry on, I'll just slink out the back door.

    16. OOHH!
      Why do ALLL women have an obsession with making these "to do" lists!!!
      It just gives me no excuse to escape work:-(

    17. There is an inequality when we divide chores. Guys haven’t been taught to do half of this stuff. It is common sense to us but we have lived in female world. Females share and teach each other from birth. Males are too busy trying to show dominance so their education for the world around them is lacking. They are only children if we treat them like one.

      Anand—why is it so hard for guys notice that females can’t do it all? Why should we be expected to do it all? Without these lists, males have a tendency to claim “I didn’t know you wanted me to do ….”

      On your blog, you stated women should take a class to learn how to tell men what they want. The list tells you not only what we want but what we expect. We expect you to help out and to do it with some amount of proficiency.

    18. Ladies, there's a good primer here about husband training. (In addition you can also train animals if you read this :))

    19. ohhhhhhhhh me and A have been having this talk for a while now!! to estabilish ground rules of who does what... it really is strange how men think women can handle it all...and yet..we are also supposed to let the man be the head of the house!!!

    20. Nice list! And yes - I agree with you. The number of items in each list is not representative of the magnitude of the tasks in it. TOTALLY AGREE!!

      My husband went from "can't do anything" to "helps out with everything (except cooking)" in 4-5 years. It took a lot of patience on both our parts, a lot of understanding and willingness too. Now he takes care of our daughter's after-school activities, grocery, laundry & cleaning (sometimes), bill paymetns etc. and anything else that I might need help with. It just takes time, so hang in there!! We don't count chores anymore - we just do what needs to be done if the other person is too busy to do it.

    21. What I think you need to do is switch lists for a week or *gasp* even a month. And then see whether Jai can handle your list!

      And I hear you on giving the detailed instructions.

    22. First time commenting on your blog - though I have snooped around a bit!

      Wow! This is sich a funny one :-). I think in general men are more carefree and take time to think about more 'strategic' issues rather than 'operational' details ;).

      The last one on how you explained the water boiling part to Jai is too funny!

    23. [Talena] Wow! That is an excellent approach. In quiet moments, I too plan to behave along those lines but when things don’t go well, I am back to being impatient and crabby!

      [Aqua] Goodness! I am traumatised just hearing about your blue kurta incident so I can understand what you must have felt like…

      [Inquisitive Akka] Ugh! And I bet your husband didn’t even notice the stench till you came back and pointed it out!

      [Perspective Inc] On a serious note, I recommend the list. It cuts out a lot of the daily bickering on who should have done what.

      [Ekta] Making the list is only the first part, as I have discovered. It takes sustained effort to get it embedded into their brains sufficiently.

      [Anjaan] We think so ;)

      [Pearl] It’s interesting how many people have said that about this post. I think husbands are the same wherever you go…

      [Outsider] :)

      [Anand] Obviously you hate these lists – they must seriously cut into your hectic schedule of beer guzzling and sports-watching :)

      [Frida] I think that it’s not really their fault. I think the fault lies with the previous generation of parents. Their dads were the stereotypical bread earners and the home and kids were solely the woman’s responsibility, even if she worked herself. They need to be ‘retrained’ to think and behave otherwise. I hope we can bring up the next generation to be a little less tied down by such gender stereotypes.

      [Ranjit] That was funny :-D

      [Grafx] I think men in the West are more conditioned to help out than men in India so hopefully, your path will be easier – ‘hopefully’ being the key word.

      [Gettingthere] Lucky you! Though I am not saying that Jai refuses to help. It’s just that he is forgetful and careless about these things. And he’s so in control at work, so it just makes me wonder…

      [Sraikh] That being said, I think I too much of a control freak to let go even for a week.

      [Prashant] It wasn’t so funny then :)

    24. Yeah and when I pointed it out to him he looked at me sadly and said" But that's the only mistake I made!" You are right, they are so efficient in the work place, you wonder how they change so drastically once they step into the house!

    25. Couldn't help listening from behind the door.
      This is heading into a Men are from Mars talk. Since that is an established fact would it be interesting to see how we could co-operate ? to maintain harmony in the universe.
      How about contemplating for a moment on what skills it takes to change a flat tyre on a busy road? oil, grease, dust, vehicles zipping by belching smoke..
      Does that sound interesting? Most probably not
      To a guy (well most guys) this is not an issue.
      I guess how girls feel doing flat tyre thing is the same as how guys feel doing the cooking.
      I wonder if Left Handers ever feel the same about Right Handers

      If you want a quick fix try 'The Experience Capsule" (courtesy the Visitor)at http://rkvsraman.blogspot.com/2006/08/experience-capsule-technology.html

      Is that chocolate cake on the table?. I'm sure you won't mind if I help myself to a piece.
      Mmm! delicious just melts in my mouth. My compliments to the lady who baked I would give anything for the recipe.

      Ok! Ok! I am on my way out.

    26. I think the personal is universal!

    27. this is quite depressing. i've only been married seven months, and already i lead your life... think i'll nip off and shoot myself.