Division of Labor – Davis Family Style

My friend Laura posted this on her blog and I found it totally fascinating, in part because even though Laura and I get along really well (in our exclusively interweb interactions) and I think we’re sort of kindred spirits – that’s going creep her out if she TOTALLY doesn’t feel the same way, but Imma risk it – our home/work lives are completely different. COMPLETELY. Reading her responses was sort of like watching a really short reality show where you think “Whoa, who actually lives like that????” Except instead of having drunk orgies in a hot tub or entering their jacked-on-Mountain-Dew toddler in beauty competitions it’s someone just doing their everyday stuff.

Maybe I am grossly overestimating how interesting other people find this sort of thing, in which case I apologize.

Davis Family Division of Labor

Child care: Since my job title is stay-at-home-mom I’m in charge of all of the child care. I’m not in charge of all of the PARENTING, but since I’m with the kids 90% of the time I do 90% of the care. I make sure we have diapers and pull ups and seasonally-appropriate clothing and snacks and arrange play dates and babysitting on the rare occasions we get a sitter. I did all the preschool research and I’m in charge of getting Evan to/from school. When E happens to be home for things – bedtime, bath time, playtime – I’d say he does between 40-50% of the work. It’s definitely much more evenly split then it was when the kids were babies, which brings us to…


Newborn care (bonus historical category): With both kids I did way more infant care than E did. He only gets 10 days paternity leave, which seems like a lot when you’re just sitting around staring at a baby all day but is not a lot of time when you consider the newborn/helpless/infant/waking-up-all-night stage is between 6 and 12 months long. Since I was nursing and neither kid ever really took a bottle I got up with them 98% of the time and fed them 100% of the time. E was pretty good at holding, swaddling, rocking and letting me take a nap if I needed one, but a breastfeeding infant is basically my responsibility. If/when we have another baby, I’m not looking forward to the up all night stuff, but I AM looking forward to only taking care of ONE baby as opposed to TWO children for a while.


Time off (bonus category): Right now, neither of us is getting any time off and it’s sort of terrible. In the past, we’ve taken turns getting a day to sleep in on weekends, with my day usually being Sunday. On weekends when we are both home we split our time about 50/50 between doing stuff as a family – museum, aquarium, seaport – and sitting around doing as little as possible. Although I use a lot of my “do nothing” time to get household stuff like laundry and errands done, since it’s much easier to do when someone else is watching the kids.


Work: E is the only one with an outside job. He’s a submariner in the Navy and works on the nuclear reactors that power the boats. Right now he’s stationed on a brand new sub that’s still being built (it’s called the North Dakota) so he’s working in a shipyard. He typically works 12+ hours a day (more if they’re on shift work). His “normal” schedule gives him weekends off but at least 75% of the time he works Saturdays. He doesn’t get paid anything extra for working more hours and although he gets a fair amount of paid time off he can’t actually TAKE it without approval and right now they aren’t giving it. We can’t plan vacations or trips because his leave can ALWAYS be taken away (see: last weekend’s trip to Sesame Place, our beach vacation over the summer) and there’s a pretty good chance we’ll have to move in the next 2 years. BUT. It’s a really stable job. It covers our bills. It provides excellent healthcare. When E eventually leaves the military he’ll have the training and experience to get a really good civilian job. Most of the time I’m really happy “will we get a paycheck?” isn’t a concern. My work is child care (see item 1) and this blog, which brings in a small amount of money I mostly use to buy fun things like clothes for the kids or my ticket for BlogHer.


Food: I do all the grocery shopping, unless we are running family errands to BJ’s on the weekend. I’ve been doing it the entire time we’ve been married and I care a lot more about what we eat so it makes the most sense. If I wanted/needed to send E to the store I’d have to send VERY specific instructions (not just “milk” but “whole, organic milk from BJ’s, get the generic store brand”, not just “cheese” but “these 3 specific brands and types of cheese which you might have to find in 3 different parts of the grocery store”). It’s not worth the frustration/time for either of us. I also do 90% of the cooking, which I used to resent but I actually like cooking so now I don’t mind. On the nights I am unable/unwilling to provide dinner he’s happy to order or pick up food. E is in charge of ALL pizza ordering.


Housecleaning: Since I’m the one home, I do most of the general house cleaning. E is happy to help with evening straightening, loading/unloading dishes on the weekends and doing the majority of the vacuuming but I’m not sure he even knows where I keep the sponges. I’m not a very fastidious housekeeper, so keeping things clean ENOUGH isn’t a huge burden. The only time I dislike the way this labor is divided is when there are a LOT of things that need to be done in a SHORT amount of time (say, before we have houseguests) and he can’t/won’t take it upon himself to deep clean a bathroom.


House decorating (bonus category): Almost all me. I just repainted the dining room entirely on my own, although he did help me take down/put back up the chandelier so I could spray paint it yellow (a color I picked with no input from him). The only group decisions we make is large furniture, which tends to take FOREVER since we have wildly different taste.


Yard work: Mostly E.  He takes care of snow removal, mowing and major landscaping (like the patio project) but I tend the garden and plants. In the past we’ve out sourced yard clean up but didn’t hire anyone this fall. I tend to do the spring clean-up type stuff when I get an urge to plant things so I’ll probably haul leaves to the dump in April or May.


Communications: We split family communications evenly between our respective families. E’s side does a weekly family conference call to stay updated (he’s one of 4 siblings who are all married now so everyone is spread out) and he talks to his brother via computer game chat once or twice a week. My mother reads my blog and sends me Facebook messages (we are so 2012) and every once in a while we have super long telephone chats. I am in charge of sending birthday/mother’s/father’s day/Christmas cards/invitations. We are not super great at communicating with each other but most of the time we get by.


Finances: We have one bank account and one savings account. We both have equal access. Right now I’m in charge of bill paying, but most of them are automated or paid online so it takes very little work. The only finances I don’t have access to are E’s retirement account which we haven’t touched in many years. Like I said, my blog money is just for fun, although sometimes when we have unexpected expenses it goes into the joint account. We are not very good at budgeting, it’s something I am REALLY hoping to get on top of in 2013, especially because I’d like to start a couple separate savings accounts for things like vacations and an eventual car replacement for E.


Activities: I am the social director of the family. E’s job comes with a certain amount of mandatory social stuff, but I avoid as much of it as possible – not because I dislike the people involved but because I already have a nice little social network set up. I should really make more of an effort. I sign the kids up for things, maintain our memberships to various places, plan family outings and grown-up outings. Every time we hang out with some of my mom friends and their husbands E remembers he really likes people! And hanging out! And doing stuff! But in between good fun times he’s extremely anti-social and prefers his computer and the couch, something I don’t fight against as hard as I should.


Who wears the pants (bonus category): Ehhhhhhh…I don’t know. I’d say I make a lot more decisions on a daily/weekly/monthly basis but I wouldn’t say I’m the boss. I’m like the XO and the CFO of the house but E is the CEO. The current pants are mostly being worn by the Navy, since they make all our decisions for us.


When I look at it like this, I feel like things are pretty evenly split. E’s job is so demanding at the moment he can’t do much more than he already does. He puts in super long hours at his workplace, I take care of almost all the aspects of our joint lives. Some day I hope we both get more time off, but for now this works for us.


So, do you think we’re total weirdos? How do you divide labor in your house? Have you written a post like this? Leave me a comment or a link, I would LOVE to read it.

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12 Responses to “Division of Labor – Davis Family Style”

  1. Tara says:

    I think little insights like this are fascinating! My husband is in the Army, and his schedule is a lot like your husbands – he works with a lot of civilians, and since they don’t have to pay the Army guys overtime, so they are the ones that get to stay for 18+ hour days. Of course, that means I do most of the household and child rearing work right now. He is still really good about splitting the work with me when he is home, and I always save the dishes for him to do :). Honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way, I’m so grateful he has a good enough job that I can stay home with our little ones right now.

  2. Yay, I am SO GLAD you did this! Love, love, love seeing how others run their families, especially when it’s so different from mine. I still think we are totally kindred spirits. Perhaps if we had both married differently, I’d be a stay at home mom running my house like yours, and you’d be a working mom running your house like mine? I think we should make a freaky friday wish at the next shooting star so we can find out for sure (because then I get to snuggle with ginger babies!)

  3. Audrey says:

    Hmm. I might have to do this to just to look at it. I have often wondered how my bets friend and her husband manage to work things out because they had (until recently) separate bank accounts and each paid specific bills and split grocery costs and she still has no idea how much money he actually makes even though she’s in charge of paying the bills now. That would freak me out, but they make it work. lol

  4. […] woke up early (earlier than my kids, anyway) this morning. Reading around on the internet, I found this. I thought it was really interesting, so I decided to copy the idea. It will be interesting to look […]

  5. Stacia says:

    I thought yours was interesting, so I did it too. Also, hi! I read your blog all the time and never comment, I’m sorry!


    • bebehblog says:

      Thanks Stacia! I think yours is really similar to mine since the military sort of forces us into certain stuff, you know?

  6. barbra says:

    Hmm. This was fascinating and eye opening. After thinking about your categories, I think Chris does more than I give him credit for doing. He works crazy long hours – like 18+ hours at times and always at least 10+hours a day. On days he works less, he works from home. But he still does about 75% of our cooking and probably 50% of cleaning. When he’s available, he does bedtime. I think I do about 90% of childcare but he is actively involved in parenting (I like that you make the distinction – I wasn’t sure how to articulate the difference previously). He usually takes turns getting up in the night – mostly because he is a master at getting Knox back to sleep in the middle of the night (and yes, our 2year old still wakes several times a night). When he’s home and not working, he is focused on family.

  7. Amy says:

    Super, super interesting! I’m going to come back and read it more carefully and maybe do one too!

  8. Maggie says:

    I don’t think you’re weirdos. If you have a division of labor that works for your household and doesn’t leave one spouse holding the bag on something or feeling resentful, it’s a win!

    The division in my house is very even and we adjust as necessary depending on work schedules. The only slight complaint I have is that I seem to end up directing things, you know? My husband will gladly do what I ask, but I sometimes wish he would just realize that the girls need their hair brushed before church instead of me having to ask him to do it. It would be nice not to have to be the one always scanning the horizon for what needs to be done. Is that the marriage equivalent of “#firstworldproblems?”

  9. I’m officially fascinated by this. It’s like getting a little peek into how your life works, and some things are super similar to us, while others are like night and day.

    My favorite part is when you said that the Navy wears the pants in your relationship. So interesting!

  10. Suzanne says:

    I haven’t commented on here in ages, but this made me have to comment! We have a very similar division in our house, down to the nursing baby needs. My husband also works long hours as an MD. Great job security and benefits and pay, but the hours are long and the night and weekend work puts the weight on me to do most of the household/childcare work.

    The funny thing is that even though we have such a traditional division of labor, the spirit of our marriage is very modern and egalitarian. My husband has no problem if I go a week without cooking, for example. This just makes the most sense for our family while the kids are little.

  11. Denae says:

    I love this. When I have energy, I will do this too.

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