Work - who does what?

3 August 2009
While I don't want to make DTE a question and answer blog, I do want to address a question Donetta posed last week. In part, she wrote:
I see your Dear Hanno laboring in the garden often in your images. What percentage of the physical labor are you able to tend to in the garden? You see many of us women have this heart and the efforts tend to come from our hand. I think it would encourage us to see that it is your combined physical efforts that achieve those awesome wonders grown on your hand. It is a very different story if the woman tends to much if not all of the hard labor of tending the earth. Truly Rhonda do you do the hard labor too?

Donetta and friends, our work here is truly a partnership. Sometimes one of us may do hard work while the other doesn't, but overall, it evens out. We have tended to divide our work according to what we like doing and what we're good at. We both work in our community, me as the manager of our local Neighbourhood Centre, which I do twice a week + extra bits and pieces at home, Hanno drives the bus from the Centre to take elders on shopping trips and to pick up food from the Foodbank. He does that about once a month. We consider that work is part of our normal weekly work.

But on a daily basis, Hanno likes working outside and does most of the gardening. However, I set up the gardens with one of our sons when we first came to live here 12 years ago, and carried on gardening over the years until Hanno took over when he retired about three years ago. Now, he does the day to day tending of the gardens, while I sow seeds, tend seedlings and look after the worm farm. I harvest and still plant a few things, but Hanno likes everything tidy and in straight lines and I'm not a straight line gardener, so I usually leave it to him.

I do most of the inside work - the baking, cooking, cleaning etc but now that I'm writing my book and a monthly column for a magazine, writing is a large part of my daily work now, so Hanno helps with the laundry and some cleaning. Now that we're here by ourselves now, that is minimal. When we clean something it tends to stay clean - unlike when our boys lived at home; we do laundry about once a week.

We each work on our little projects - Hanno's are usually outside and mine inside. Hanno worked on making a new lid for the worm farm today while I recovered from a bout of the flu, the first I've had in years. When I work inside I'll do a project like the oil lamps, make soap, sew, knit or mend; at the moment I'm knitting a jumper for Hanno. When Hanno is outside his projects are things like mowing the lawn, making compost, tending the chooks, house and car maintenance.

I have to tell you, none of it seems like hard labour, although in the past I would have seen it as such. Now there is a gentle flow to most days. We rise when we feel like it, we work at whatever task or project we choose for that day along with the normal daily chores. At 10 am each day, tea is taken on the front veranda and we take the time to relax and talk about what we're doing and what we have planned. If we don't want to work, we don't. But we both know that if we want to live this way for a long time, there is work to be done, so we get to and do it. Not every day is a diamond but generally the work we do is enjoyable, gratifying and enriching - not only in what it gives our home but also in what it gives us.

How do you divide up the work to be done at your home?


  1. The older we become, the easier our 'work' flows between my husband and me. We have no division in labor. We do what we enjoy most. And there are many times we do the work together. I've helped him cut down trees and he has helped me fix dinner. We've been married 33 years and I can say it was not like that in the early years. Following a life of simplicity now allows us some flexibility. I think the most important thing is that we enjoy our life and each other. Simplicity involves a lot of give and take in order for it to work. Good post, Rhonda.

  2. I am honoured, as a recent addict to this Blog, to be the first to pass comment on this post. :-)
    Sounds like you have a wonderful and cooperative system for your daily chores and tasks, Rhonda. It is clear that you both relish these things immensely (you did an excellent job in "convincing your partner.")
    As a social worker, I would love to, at some stage, here more about your work with the Neighbourhood Centre, too.
    I enjoy your Blog immensely.
    Tracy (Brisbane)

  3. In my home, it is just me. But I want to thank you so much for talking of all these things as "work". It is a struggle with my own subconscious to really recognize the work I do at home as work. There are times when gardening, cooking, cleaning or caring for the chickens or the dog seem frivolous and unnecessary. And writing always seems to be this extra "hobby". Some things don't seem like work because they are enjoyable. But it is good to recognize the value in them. I live in a city in the States and the mainstream culture sees work as something you get paid for. Other ways of spending one's time are luxuries. I think that this mentality is holding all of us back from having fuller and more connected lives.

  4. Ha, we are pretty traditional. I do 95% of the housework and all the gardening. Gardening is my hobby and not considered work at all though :) My husband does the mowing, building, and fixing upping. But it's not like we are a "Hey thats YOUR job" type of household. I enjoy getting dirty and hammering some nails for a new project and he has no problem doing a load of laundry. It is what works best for us.

  5. I do it. and go operatic at the boys when the place gets too messy or I need work done in the garden.

  6. First let me say I love your site!

    We're a pretty traditional household here. I do most of the inside work & hubby does most outside work. However, we generally share as & when needed. I love most any "physica work".


  7. Thank you Dear Heart
    for your answer.
    Keeping up lately had been exceedingly difficult.
    I have been doing at least 80% of of the work load both inside and out. My Husband works 8-10 sometimes 14 hour days. He has been ill so I have lifted a bit of the weight of his yoke.
    It can be grueling.

    Now that he is feeling better he is really more energetic.Now that he is feeling a bit better he has begun to pitch in a lot more by doing up the dishes. Sounds strange but somehow help with the dishes just really keeps me going. I prepare all meals even bread from scratch. He did water the compost last week and has been taking more of an interest...perhaps the realizations of what This is about. He builds the coops and assembles the gates and water tank and such. It took a while though for him to catch on.
    He would give me the moon if he could.

    The kids have also become pulled into the education of shared tasks.

    The gardens are mostly all at my hand except that yes he is doing the heaviest of labor like loading the block into the truck. It is I who educates,throws the pick and press the shovel and haul the loads of compost. If I can do it well than so are most of you able.

    Hard work is good. If however we exceed our physical limitations injury can result in an instant and all the labor will go to naught.

    Here is Hoping that your spouses see this goal as a benefit to the whole of your family and that it is not JUST A HOBIE as some partners of friends my see it.

    I thought of many of us who try to live simply at the same time earn an income to sustain a family what that reality is...
    Sometimes reality is blurred by perceptions and then the ideals seem impossible in comparison. It is my hope that those who are discouraged like I was for a time, might realize that "JOINT" effort is really what makes the simple life possible.
    That ALONE.

    Unless your gardens are established or you have a good strong healthy body you are going to NEED TO ASK for help or pay $$ for it. That at times is the hardest thing for me to do. How about you?

    Non of us can do this alone and raise our families too. So if your struggling and see this know that Rhonda and I have help doing it. It is not the gardens alone but the whole of the simple life where each member must offer the skills possessed to make it a workable reality.

    I hope you do not mind my two cents worth Rhonda. Thank you for clarifying the simple life shared work load.

  8. My husband works a lot overseas ,so most of the daily farm work falls on me.Don't get me wrong when he is here he works nonstop ! The garden work is definitely mine though,but he will gladly till a tough patch of dirt or haul heavy stuff to help me along.I just found your blog and really like it.

  9. We have a small hobby farm. In addition to his full time job, my husband takes care of the "outside," with our high school son helping. This includes the animals, as well as the property. He also maintains the cars and anything else that breaks. He is able to fix or repair just about anything! This is in addition to being a great husband.

    I take care of the "inside," homemaking jobs. I home school our son, cook from scratch, help with the garden, put up food, as well as sewing (clothing and household), knitting and mending. I keep up with the grandchildren and adult children. I bring in some "pin" money through my artwork. I also have music obligations (classical).

    My adult daughters (fabulous seamstresses) who live with us usually do the indoor chores. When life gets in the way, however, everyone pitches in with what must be done, indoors or outdoors.

    Unfortunately, family medical emergencies with both sets of parents, forced us to reassess our work load. (My total care mother will be moving in with us in about a month.) Mostly we reduced tasks in each area, but we also needed to eliminate or put some things on hold. Unfortunately, our large garden was one of them--at least for this year. We are looking forward to gardening again next year.

  10. The work load has really changed around here. I used to do everything IN the house, plus anything to do with the gardens. (except the rototilling, the thing knocks me on my bum!) Hubby would work at his job, then do household maintenance, and the mowing of the lawns/weeds.
    This past year I have had some severe knee problems (osteoarthritis in both knees) and my abilities to get around have been limited. Hubby does a lot of the weeding now. And also usually does all the dishes at the end of the day. I still do laundry, cooking, and daily household chores, but he is pitching in like he never has had to before. I don't like the changes, but nothing I can do about it at this point. Knee replacements loom in the future, but I can't hardly bare to think about it.

  11. Your shared labor and life sounds wonderful and fulfilling.

  12. I think living this simple life is work; but it's so rewarding. In our house my husband and I share the workload. He's good with doing anything that needs to be done.I'll do gardening, weeding, etc. but if it's real muscle work, then he does it. I get the kids to help, too, as this way they learn to can, garden, clean, chickens, etc. All good to know.

  13. I do the housework/work inside the home. I also garden and will help my dear husband with anything he needs help with. He takes care the outside, heavy work as I have an extremely bad back. He will help with the dishes or the laundry..anything if I ask him to. We work well together and mainly take care of the things we enjoy. :)

  14. Wow Rhonda, what a can of worms you have opened up today!
    We're like Erica and rather traditional too, with me responsible for most of the home and garden, with Hubby working.
    BUT, if anything life has taught me is it isn't what jobs each of us do, but how we feel about doing them and how much we respect one another!
    I am very happy and feel valued and try my best to show gratitude and appreciation for what my Hubby does!
    It's not important who does what job, but that both share the load, and if that's not the case work it out. Sometimes your problem is not your partners. I wash dishes and let them drip dry, cause that suits me and probably nobody else! ha! Be kind to yourself and one another!

  15. Around here, my husband works long hours at his engineering job. He puts the kids to bed (not that it is work), and does the vacuuming. He also does the grass cutting and weed wacking. I do the gardening, food preservation, most of the cleaning, child rearing (for the most part because I am with the kids more), cooking, etc. David will jump in whenever I get overwhelmed and he will do just about anything that needs done. The kids help and do their part - our 7 yo daughter more than our 9 yo son. She helps with the laundry, loads and unloads the dishwasher, keeps her room clean and helps me in the kitchen and does just about anything that needs done. We struggle to get our son to clean his room - he has a processing speed learning disability and ADHD and we find that he struggles to see his way through a multi-step job. We encourage him and help him to do his chores, but he really resists it and struggles to get anything accomplished.

  16. The thing that stood out for me in this post....that is the exact trellis thing I want! Did Hanno build that??? Are there directions anywhere?? Very cool!

  17. Like you Rhonda, my husband and I split the home life chores. He mostly doing the outside things and myself tending to the home things. He mows the lawn and takes care of the yard while I cook, bake, clean, homeschool and do the wash.

    Our roles are a little more "gender traditional" in our home.

    We like it that way! :o)

  18. Rhonda, I just wanted to let you know that your hot crossed buns look better than the ones in the recipe you said you used. Every time I see the picture, I think about eating them hot out of the oven. So I am going to make some, but not with all of the stuff in them. Going to try plain ones and eat them with fresh butter and homemade jelly.

    Your blog really inspires me.



  19. If it's inside the houseyard or in the farmyard, it's usually me who does it as my hubby works 9-5 each day. If it's on the farm such as planting/ fencing etc - well it's over to hubby. But being a SAHM & homeschooling, I often find I get very behind in the gardenwork - will have to try & get the kids involved as they get older.
    Thanks for your blog Rhonda -I love the fact that you are a fellow aussie!!!!

  20. I quit my job to stay homme with the baby.I understand that my husband has to work so I decided I would get up with the baby at night(naturally)and he wouldn't have to.He works from 7am to about 8-9pm 6 days a week.I care of everything around here..the baby,laundry,cleaning,fixing meals,baking,gardening,mowing and weed wacking the grass,checking the fluids in the mowers,getting the gas for them too,banking and grocery shopping,keeping the porch stocked with wood in the winter for the wood stove.He comes home and mowes the fields or builds stuff in the garage and takes care of things that need fixed.I understood how things were going to be when we decided that I was going to stay home,but it is well worth it.I have never been busier or happier and I would never want to go back to the way it used to be.

  21. I have to say to take heed please to Donetta's words about too heavy a work load maybe hurting you. I was and am still strong and lifted and toated too many things too often when I should have divided the loads and not carried so much at once. I over did my body and now am paying for it. My husband would have helped if I had asked but I felt strong enough and kept on working hard but not smart for years. Please women, learn how to lift things right and ask for help when you need it. Just because you Can lift and do very hard things does not mean you Should do it. Our bodies are built different than a man"s and there are things he can do with ease we struggle with...or can get hurt doing it repeatedly. I know how hard it is to ask for help when it seems you can do it but if it is a struggle to do something think of how it can be done easier. Lift half as much at each sessioin of work and such or us a hand wagon{and don't over fill it either}. I hurt my shoulders pulling too much. I absolutely love working outside and doing hard long work but wish I had worked smarter earlier and avoided several longtime injurys. Jody

  22. when dear hubby was here on earth- he mainly did the outside and I did the inside but we did much together also- and it was never his work or my work but our work- somethings he could do that I could not mainly due to his muscles compared to mine- we often did things together and we did things for each other- it was never a competition to who did the most or who did the hardest work and we did this all of our 42 years together- not sure if we even thought of it- what had to be done was done - He was a gentle kind man and I miss him and also miss the things he did for us

  23. We have a funny system Rhonda, but basically the same principle as you and Hanno. We each do what we love, and what the other cannot do. I can cook, but don't like cleaning out the car or the shed. My partner loves digging his head in to the shed and car, and can't stand cooking. So it evens out, and we negotiate things together. I hope you have a lovely week!

  24. We divide by ability. For example, I can't do most heavy work but my husband and son can. They then don't have energy to cook so I do it. If we are planting a garden, we work together because even if the kids don't have the ability we want them to learn things. When I start something new I try to get everybody in on it and then it gets done by interest. No set plan.

  25. This one got me thinking (as do most of your posts). My husband works full time and I work (outside the home) part time. I do all the cooking and cleaning. In the garden he does all the digging, watering and takes care of "his" compost! I do the planting. This year he has taken over care of the tomatoes, de-leafing, watering and side shooting and tying up -this takes quite a bit of work!

    Some evenings I am inside cooking dinner and then clearing up and he is outside and I think that I would like to be outside too, but by the time I am finished inside it is too late. Not sure how to address this one.

    I have been so inspired by your blog that I have started my own, if anyone gets chance to take a look and comment I would appreciate it.

  26. Our division tends to be along the traditional lines. My husband does the maintenance, building, and heavy lifting while I work mostly indoors. A lot of this has to do with what we enjoy and what we already have as skills. My only problem is that I don't want our kids to think that our particular division is based on gender and applies to all. To that end, we'r conscientious about including all the kids in as many types of projects as possible.


  28. The comments have been very interesting to read! My husband travels alot for his job. He's home maybe 3 days a week. I take care of the inside and outside of the house. I mow the lawn, I plan, plant the gardens, weed etc. I cook, decorate, clean. My husband helps with what he can (usually the more major fix it up projects)when he's home and he loves hanging out the laundry! My daughter will do what I ask but she really has no interest in gardening and sometimes it's just easier to do things myself. So mostly it's just me doing everything!


  29. Hello Rhonda
    The box of seedlings looks great. Do you raise them yourself or buy them at that stage ready to plant out?
    I have a lot of trouble getting seedlings from two leaf to "ready to plant out". They seem to stagnate!
    I notice that most gardening gurus on TV seem to buy their seedlings.
    Perhaps you could show us how?
    I love reading your blog. All the best.

  30. My DH is no where near retiring yet ;), he has a full time job with heavy equipment. I know he works very hard, so I do my part by looking after the home. My man usually helps me out with a big job needing done on the weekend- painting, fixing something, or cutting the lawn. He can see when I'm in over my head and he rushes to help. :D I do the cleaning, cooking, baking, and general care of the house. I do the yardwork and gardening, but Dan helps a lot with that as he loves it! I would say it's pretty even. Many times if I'm sick or tired he will help with the cleaning and do the dishes. We share the load pretty well, and are both happy with it. Looks like you and Hanno have everything balanced out nicely! :D Tea on the front porch sounds wonderfully relaxing! Thanks for posting!

  31. My husband's job at work is very physical and therefore exausting. He does the mowing and bigger fixing around the house. He takes care of the car repairs. I haden't thought about it before but I do all the other yard trimming and gardening. Cooking and house work and such. We have a lot of yard work but I love being out. When you love what you do it does not seem like work. As I said though, I tend to love it too much and overdid it for too many years and hurt my body. Now I am being smarter. I want to also add when using lawn cutters or tree trimming equipment or other tools, to not strain or twist too much there either. Get a bigger pair of cutters or have some one else do it! It is well worth the time to stop and go to the shed and get the proper equipment and not hurt yourself. You might not notice the injury you are doing to yourself that day. It adds up. Overdo it here then again and again then one day double ouch!! Jody


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