Who does the laundry and why?

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4662673669_c79488853f_z.jpgThis weekend I was talking to some old married broads and we got on the subject of laundry, each detailing the delicate balancing and negotiating act of her household and where laundry falls into the mix (we also talked about other interesting and relevant things like children, cooking, which brand of mop is best, the ideal permanent wave, etc.)

It became clear to me that, married-laundry-wise, I'm not the norm, in that I just don't do my husband's. This was surprising to me, because my friends work and/or are parts of equal relationships, but I think the idea that women do the wash is one of those secret standards that still hangs around, although from what I've gathered there are detailed reasons for this in each relationship.

When we got married, Steve and I had been together for five years, and only just started cohabitating about four months before we made it official, so the status quo was that we each took care of our own business. Our bedroom has two separate closets and so we just moved in our separate laundry hampers. And that's how things went for a long time.

Neither of us love doing laundry but I think Steve has a laundry block. He hates it so much that he'll let about 50 pounds of laundry pile up, do them slowly, but then let the clean clothes acquire a wrinkled box shape as they sit in the hamper and he retrieves things to wear from it piecemeal. It drives me nuts. But I'm not going to let him benefit from the fact that I'm capable of washing clothes, drying them, and returning them to their rightful place all within 24 hours. (It may also be worth noting that our laundry is two floors down from our bedrooms so doing laundry is slightly more of a schlep than just taking it across the house.)

There was a period where I did Steve's laundry and that was while I was on maternity leave. My rationale was a combination of "Well I'm home all the time and he's not so I might as well" and a touch of "Well I'm a mom now and this is what we do." I was back at work for about six months when I said aloud, "Why am I still doing your laundry?"

"I don't know!" said Steve.

"Well I'm going to stop," I said.

"OK," he said, disappointed that his free ride was ending but not complaining.

I've been surprised to learn that laundry doesn't get split up in more relationships, but we don't happen to have any particular strict "you do this, I do that" situations in our marriage either, which seems to be one big reason more wives do the laundry than do their partners. We each walk the dog, take out the trash, empty the dishwasher in pretty equal measure, I cook a little bit more but only because I want to (we eat separate dinners frequently too, at least until the baby is old enough to take part in "family dinner.") Steve does car and screen stuff more than I do but I grocery shop and make sure we are all Costco'ed up more than he does and I think we both like our own tasks more than the other in those situations so that's fine. I also do wash the baby's clothes but that's mostly because if I let Steve do it the baby would be running around naked half the time due to all his clothes being dirty or at the bottom of the clean hamper. This would be cute but impractical.

"Do you divide up the laundry for convenience or on principle?" one of my friends asked me and it's both. First, doing laundry sucks. Why would I double my load? And second, why should I? I don't work less than Steve does, and he's fortunately not one of those men who never figured out how to do it on his own. So I'm not going to do it. The end.

But I know each household has its own precarious ecosystem of who does what and there are often more politics involved than just "wives do laundry." So I'm curious to hear: who does the laundry in your house, and why? And is it perhaps time for a revolution?