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My Husband and I Switched Chores for Two Weeks

Photograph by Twenty20

I lifted the hood of the grill and a whoosh of heat hit my face. I turned away in time to keep my eyebrows from singeing off.

It was my first time manning the grill. My husband was hovering like a helicopter mom. "I've got this," I told him. There was terror in his eyes when he saw me pick up the metal tongs and poke the burgers. "It's fine. I promise. Go relax."

He disappeared up the stairs, and I stood before 30 ounces of ground turkey and 10 slices of eggplant, their skins slick with olive oil. Grilling had historically been my husband's job—it was his grill and his propane tank. Why had I never done this before?

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"This is not hard at all," I said to the burgers as I flipped them. There's nothing inherently masculine about grilling meat. This should be a chore that we share.

That's when I got a brilliant idea. I made a list of all the chores that my husband does exclusively: grilling, trimming the kids' fingernails, paying the bills and driving the kids to school. Then, I made a list of my chores: ordering birthday/baptism/anniversary presents, managing after-school activities, coordinating with the nanny, and going over homework with our daughter. So far, there had been very little overlap in these tasks; they belonged to one or the other of us. But not for long.

My husband got to taste the special stress of realizing you need a present for a birthday party that starts in one hour.

"We should switch chores for two weeks," I said to my husband. I was already ahead because I'd done the grilling for dinner. "This will be a perfect way for us to gain better appreciation for the things that the other one always does."

My husband agreed and handed me the nail clippers.

The next 14 days were long.

It turns out it's an art to figure out the exact right time to leave for school in the morning to avoid sitting in a carpool line that didn't move. The fingernails weren't that bad, but the kids were squirmy and critical of my technique. Paying the bills was also annoying because it put me face to face with the reality of how expensive EVERYTHING is. No wonder my husband spends more time fretting about money than I do!

I didn't take over my husband's duties perfectly. Some blood was shed, burgers were over-charred, and some late fees were applied. On the upside, I definitely have more appreciation for the load he carries for our family.

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As for my husband, he got to taste the special stress of realizing you need a present for a birthday party that starts in one hour. And the delight of spending half the morning coordinating soccer practice and playdates with the nanny, who doesn't always respond to texts in a timely manner. And now, at last, he knows what it's like to have to pay attention to our first grader's reading homework when all he wants to do is crawl into bed with Netflix.

We are better partners for having done this little switcheroo. I'm not volunteering to take over his duties anytime soon, but I'm much more grateful for all the he does.

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