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Working couples make peace in the housework wars


Your letters always arrive in large sacks after a column about the second shift at home that most employed women put in. This issue of who does the housework clearly is still placing a strain on otherwise compatible relationships.

"There is no way to tell you how angry I am about the injustice that goes on in my life every day," wrote a furious Dallas mother. "I used to be able to out-wait him -- let the house get dirtier and dirtier until he announced it was time for a clean-up -- but now we have two children and I can't.

"I can't wait for him to do his part while they crawl around a floor that's filthy, in diapers that haven't been changed, eating peanut butter sandwiches every night -- which is what would happen if I tried to out-wait him.

"Once you have children to take care of, these men who won't lift a finger around the house have you at their mercy. You can't sacrifice your kids to make a point -- and husbands like mine know it."

On the other hand, some of you wrote to share your solutions to this problem -- something that hasn't happened before.

"My husband and I fought constantly about housework until this last Christmas," wrote a Lansing, Mich., wife of 15 years. "After a truly terrible argument, we decided this had to stop, so for Christmas, we gave each other the services of a cleaning woman!

"She charges $9 an hour and comes to our apartment for five hours every other Friday. This costs us $45 a day, or $1,170 a year, or $585 per year for each of us.

"For Christmas we each put $200 into a special savings account and bought each other stocking stuffers, which cut what each of us owes for the rest of the year from $585 to $385 -- but we've already agreed that whatever we had to give up will be worth it.

"I don't know how we lived without her! We haven't had a single argument about housework -- or anything else -- since the first Friday she came to work for us.

"Tell your readers to hire a little of the help they need, Niki, and if they say they can't afford it, ask them what they'd pay to have time to themselves and a romantic relationship with their husbands again, one that isn't clouded by stupid, infuriating, never-ending battles about housework!"

A reader in Sacramento, Calif., insisted that for the first time, the rest of her family do their fair share, on the other hand.

"Reading in your column that my husband and I aren't the only ones having trouble over housework inspired me to sit down and talk the problem through with him -- for the first time, really," she wrote.

"It was a stormy night, but by the time we went to bed, he had agreed that from that day forward, housework had to be a family affair. Now everybody has chores after work --not just me -- and on Saturday morning, we all work together until the house is clean.

"You'd be amazed how fast a family can clean a house when everybody's heart is in it, and since I'm finding all kinds of ways to let my husband know how appreciative I am, and the kids can't watch cartoons until the work is done, everybody's heart is really in it!"

But a Baltimore woman says she hires not one but three teen-agers to clean her house each week. "They all live in my neighborhood and will work for $6 an hour -- hard, if you don't give them too much to do at one time," she wrote.

"Each of the three does two hours of work per week, either in the evening when I'm home, or on Saturday morning, or on snow days or school holidays if my husband (who works at night) is awake.

4 "This system may sound scattered, but it works."

If you've found practical or philosophical solutions to the housework dilemma, do drop a line. We're all in this together, after all, and when we learn from one another, we grow together, as well.

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