As we find ourselves housebound for most of the waking day, how are we divvying up the household chores? Do tasks still get divided up along stereotypical gender lines? Is it causing blazing rows? Has it changed the way we view each other’s roles in the household? 

Another day, another 23 hours inside. We both roll out of bed and (sometimes) get dressed to head to our respective workplaces: I have a spot on the kitchen table and Alex a desk at the other end of our open plan living room. 

We live, work and eat in this one single space. On the one hand, we can’t complain: we’re comfy, have a commute of a few feet and one another for company. On the other, it can be stifling. Our relationship with that space and with each other within it has necessarily shifted. 

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It’s made me quite OCD in some ways. If I haven’t woken up with much time to spare (difficult with a 7.30am start 😬), last night’s dishes stare at me from the kitchen surface. If I go into the bathroom and the sink isn’t sparkling clean, I physically flinch. 

But then it’s Alex who will often start making lunch or dinner before I’ve even realised I’m hungry. And while I’m hypersensitive to dirt, I’m blind to my piles of clothes and other random paraphernalia that gather in corners of our flat. I take great care to puff and rearrange the scatter cushions; he tends lovingly to our houseplants.

In general I’d say this new reality has brought welcome change. Instead of eternally being frustrated with the other’s habits – he would fixate irritably on my mess, I found his seeming inability to scrub a toilet chauvinistic – and mundane tasks taking up precious weekend time or causing rows, we’ve reached a far more calm equilibrium, maintaining our household a little bit every day. 

Now he cleans and washes our clothes way more and I take on a much fairer slab of the cooking. And most importantly, we observe and appreciate the contribution each makes. Plus we have far greater motivation to keep it nice since we have to look at it all day…

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But I wonder how it must be for others – what about if you are both working from home full time but also have out-of-school kids to care for? If one is off work, should the other take in the lion’s share of the housework? How are those living alone, with housemates or back with parents coping? What about those in same-sex relationships? We heard from the TMIK team and community….

Holly, TMIK reporter:

“I’m isolating with my boyfriend, though we don’t usually live together. Striving for equality in terms of domesticity was something he told me was really important for the lockdown. 

On a few occasions he’d stop me from washing up after cooking, saying it felt “too patriarchal”. His sensitivity means I don’t mind asking him to do things, because it’s really important for me to live in a clean and tidy flat. 

It’s really been a great trial run for living together, though I think I’m still quicker to spot when things need doing!”

Emma, TMIK reporter:

“I’m isolating with my boyfriend, who I don’t normally live with, and his family. The upside is that there’s never a dull moment; the downside is that there are a lot of people with different habits and schedules in a confined space. 

As someone who loves a clean room (tidy house, tidy mind…), I am struggling a bit with the fact that there is always a cuppa left on the side or a plate that hasn’t been washed up. As a semi-guest (I’ve been dating Archie for nearly six years, so am over the impressing them stage, thank GOD) I tend to do the lion’s share of washing up, but I’m definitely wary of slipping into a stereotypical role while my boyfriend and his brothers relax. If anyone has tips on navigating how to get the balance right, please let me know!”

Marta, TMIK reporter:

“I live with my boyfriend and so during self-isolation I haven’t noticed much difference in how we split the domestic chores.

I think I’m lucky that he has been raised by “a feminist” as he likes to put it, which means he is usually quite happy to help out and doesn’t mind me asking him to do specific things.

When I’m on early shifts and finish work before he does, I tend to do a bit more housework that he does, but otherwise I think the workload is quite balanced.

We usually take in turns who cooks and who washes up or we split both tasks with some cheerful music background to get us going. None of us is either particularly great or terrible at it.

We’re also lucky that we like doing different tasks… just not laundry. We both kind of hate it, that’s when we put some music on again and start a competition to see who does it faster. Five weeks into lockdown, we gotta make it fun or we go crazy!

What the TMIK community said:

Are domestic chores split evenly in your household? 

Generally. I do most of the cooking, husband usually cooks – @clauds_little

My husband is doing way more childcare than me and it’s been amazing! – @caralmckee

Equally between me, myself and I – @lellie137

As a stay at home mum, all but bins is mine but I’m finding I’m much more relaxed about a messy home. Bins will always be a blue job! – @mrs_hibberd

I’m WFH so I cook tea but my husband is doing everything else as he is unable to work currently – @seymouraptor

No, because I’m not working at the minute, whereas he is still having 500 meetings a day – @bec.sh

No, but I’m not working at the mo and my husband is. I’ve got tonight off tho, he’s doing dinner – @seqfuller

I live with my sister and fiance. I can assure you the most irresponsible is my sister 😠 – @stella1bella7

No, just do whatever needs doing between us – @fredzisme

Yes but it requires “effort” to ensure bother parties do their part – @delphgz

Not really – @m_jireland

Trying to – @frankochane

Yep, pretty much – @stefling

Nope – @yasminthelondoner

Would you say chores end up being split along gender lines?

Try to avoid gender lines and go by what we are best at and hate the least 🤣 – @emilylck

Same sex relationship? – @clairelaxton

Probably, yes – @clauds_little

Only after we had kids, but now I’m working and he can’t, he’s doing the housework – @caralmckee

When there’s only one of you NO lol – @joanelliott

No, we both do house cleaning and DIY – @martaghermandi

No, we split based on what needs to be done – @bfloru

Unconscious bias for both my partner and I, as I end up cleaning “because I want to” – @coconoeschanel

No I do both – @janielady66

Ish but this is tongue-in-cheek in our household. Yes hubby takes out the bins but I have also take out the bins lol @stelfling

Yeah, I ain’t touching that lawn mower – @naturelleh

Yep! I do laundry and cook, he cleans and hoovers – @seqfuller

Not really. I end up doing most of it – @yasminthelondoner

Yes – @the_green_planner_aus

Not in our house @seymouraptor

Has it caused arguments?

I’ve wanted to do more but it’s taken a while for my gf to trust me with new jobs 🤣 @clairelaxton

Honestly not really. We’re both content and have clear expectations – @clauds_little

We had arguments around chores but not about sharing them – @bfloru

Tbh I try to keep my mouth shut about him not doing it right, I don’t want to stop him doing it! – @acaralmckee

No, we naturally want to pull our weight around the house – @seymouraptor

Yes – @emilylck

Has the current situation changed how you view one another’s roles?

I think so. My husband can see now how quickly things get dirty and how often I clean! – @clauds_little

Yes. I used to be the breadwinner. I now would like to be at home – @martaghermandi

Yes I expect my husband to help me more. We are both at home and we have 2 kids @yasminthelonderoner

No, not for us @emilylck

By Sarah Bradbury. Published on #ThisMuchIKnow on 16th April 2020.