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Miss Manners: Set some ground rules for household chores

DEAR MISS MANNERS – My girlfriend moved in with me and, overall, things have been great. She is a student and was looking for a job in the beginning of summer but she couldn’t find anything and took the summer off.

It’s not my business if she doesn’t want a job; she had a stressful school year and she has money saved away. But I work a couple part-time jobs and I am writing my thesis, and I don’t think she is very respectful of my commitments.

I largely work from home, and I see her all day. For most of the summer, I did my fair share of the housework. But I’ve been getting busier as deadlines approach, and I just don’t have the time now. I still do what I can, but I definitely have been shirking some of the chores, and she’s been getting upset. However, when she asks me directly, I’ll usually cave and stop working to do the chore.

I’m not constantly working – and it feels even harder to resist if all I’m doing is reading a book for fun or watching TV – but my schedule is busy enough that if I’m not working, no matter the time of the day, I’m taking a break from work and I’ll have to go back to it in a few minutes.

I have a lot of enticement to procrastinate; all my work is large projects, and I don’t have much or any oversight. It sometimes seems ridiculous for me to insist I have to work right now for something due in a week and that I can’t wash the walls or go to the Laundromat.

However, all these little diversions add up, and I often have trouble jumping back into work. Is it wrong that I would expect her to do the cleaning that she thinks needs to be done, even if she’s doing more housework than I am?

GENTLE READER – The person you need to talk to here is not Miss Manners, as if she had some one-size-fits-all formula for dividing household chores or an objective way of knowing the best uses of your and the lady’s time.

When adults live together, in whatever capacity, this is something they must settle between themselves. The system of gender division is not yet totally obliterated, but she does not recommend it. Better systems are based on each person’s abilities, preferences, other responsibilities and, if they truly respect each other, their quirks.

But that is assuming that each enters the bargaining with good will, and not a determination to do as little as possible.

Miss Manners repeats that she has no way of judging your justification, nor has she heard that of the other person concerned. But she would advise you to open negotiations by volunteering what you are able to contribute, not stating what you feel you cannot do.

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