Friday, November 9, 2012

Keeping the List

I went to a conference recently, and a female judge was talking about her egalitarian marriage and her feminist husband, and then she said, "but somehow, I always kept the list."

And there it was.  There was a three word term for the issues I've been having lately.  I've been feeling really frustrated - I'm finally working, my husband is finally not working so much, things are good, and yet, something feels unbalanced.  Not like I'm doing more than my fare share, but like I'm the cruise director around here.  So there it is, with a name. I keep the list.

Around the room, other women nodded.  So I'm not the only partner out there who is somehow responsible for meal planning and grocery planning and perhaps grocery shopping and knowing what we are eating for dinner on what night.  I'm not the only one who is getting tired of being asked, "so do we have plans this weekend?"  I'm not the only one who keeps track of the plans, who is making a list of what needs to be done and who needs to do it.  I'm not the only one who is driving the relationship bus and is experiencing some serious road fatigue.

Once you name it, you can talk about it.  Because as soon as I said to my husband, "I keep the list", he nodded.  "You do, and I'm sorry," he said.  Once we named it, we started working to fix it. That weekend, we sat down and wrote the meal plan together, and then he went grocery shopping.  He chopped peppers and I chopped onions for the week.  The next weekend, he made chili and I made banana bread and roasted beets.  Last weekend he grocery shopped and chopped onions so that it would be easier to put meals together.

Sometimes changing who keeps the list is as simple as admitting that you can't do it all.  In the spring when he was working all the time and I was working full time for the first time, I came home and admitted that we couldn't lead the organic, totally healthy, not from a box, meal planned and prepared lifestyle we wanted to - that I didn't have the energy, and I couldn't do it alone.  So we started to loosen our grip on the lifestyle we wanted - we bought more convenience foods, and I forgave myself for throwing together a quick dinner.  Every once in awhile, I have a crappy day, and he's still at work, and I call him and tell him I'm not cooking, and we go out or we get takeout.  Those days are still pretty far apart, but the possibility of neither of us having to cook is there.

One of the other big things that has been helpful for us is to use technology - we use an app called "our groceries" so that whoever is able to go grocery shopping has the list, and we use gmail and google docs to recipe plan - each week, we (try to) email back and forth a list with the menu plan and all of the recipes that we are using.  That way, we are on the same page with dinner and a meal plan.  I'm still making the meal plan and I'm still doing most of the cooking.  He's doing the laundry and more of the housework.  It's getting better though, and I'm getting better about asking for help or admitting when I'm feeling cranky and too "list-keepy".

Do you keep the list? Does your partner?  If you actually split responsibilities, how do you do it and how do you make it work?


  1. I could write you a novel about this. It is probably my most frustrating and ongoing resentment in our relationship. The ironic part is that I am a bit of control freak so I should love being the one with the list, the one with the answers. And I do.... until one day I just don't. And then I just explode with frustration about having to juggle it all.

    We are making progress. I still make the meal plan but John has been doing more and more of the grocery shopping. Gradually John became responsible for the dog's flea pills each month, one less thing for me to think about. And he has been taking more ownership of making weekend plans etc.

    That being said, I worry about how this will all pan out if we have kids. I will likely be home more and I fear all the headway we've made into sharing the list will all be wiped out. I find it interesting that in so many relationships I know, no matter how equalitarian things seem the women so often maintain the list. It's an invisible but consuming task.

  2. I love this post.

    In my marriage, I usually keep most lists, and my husband keeps others. He is the social director, and I am the house manager, but I'm only in charge of keeping track of 3 of our many bills, and he sometimes decides to take over directorship of cleaning/food planning/baby caring for short periods of time (like, when I am clearly abdicating this role), and he tends to plan trips more. We both contribute to decision-making, and we both contribute to implementation (though he definitely does more going out to get stuff, and I think I do more day-to-day repetitive tasks). But, although that sounds fairly balanced, I still feel like I keep the list most often and I feel the weight of that responsibility. I am more likely to think long-term, to research options and present them for consideration, to have in mind how all the things effect all the other things.

  3. Holy crap, the keeping of the list.

    Grad school is what saved us about this. I'm so damn competent (hell, I was actually TRAINED to run a home) that it just fell to me. "It makes sense!"

    And then I got ridiculously busy and just stopped caring. Shit started not being done, and then he realized that it needed to be. Now he thinks about stuff, and I don't. It wasn't this easy, we had a lot of me sobbing, and of him feeling neglected, and some frank "You can have me spend time with you or you can have me cook all the things and clean all the things and do all the laundry." talks.

    Mealboard (a meal scheduling app that gives you the grocery list that can sync between phones) is a lifesaver.