The Parent Games

The tit-for-tat around chores is a bad thing for marriages

The score is tied. There is no way she is going to let him beat her. Using her stealthiest offensive moves, she moves jaguar-like into position to shoot, score and win.

But he is onto her. Though seemingly asleep, his defensive acumen is on high alert. He will wait until the last minute to pounce, deeming her best effort obsolete.

“I picked up the dry cleaning a day early. Did you remember printer ink?” She positions herself by the net. No way he remembered.

“Not only did I get the computer ink, I signed up for a delivery service, so they will drop the dry cleaning off. And, if you noticed, I put all the dishes IN the dishwasher.”


Victory: Him.

She slumps off to the bench, wounded. No fret. Tomorrow the score resets.

Delegating housework when it was just the two of you was a non-issue. Stuff just seemed to get done.

But pile on school lunches (catering to three totally different food sensitivities); endless laundry; dog poop in the living room (everyone ignores it until the dog heads back in that direction to eat it); homework no one understands (when did they change long division?); loose teeth (and losing said tooth fumbling for $5 in the dark)…and oh, boy…

The Parent Games are on.

The theme: I am busier than you.

My husband works long 10-hour days doing, not to discredit him but, essentially one thing. I “get to work from home.” And while that sounds easy, there is never a non-multi-tasking moment for me. As I write this, I am running the dishwasher and dryer, planning dinner, reminding myself that Picture Day is tomorrow and that we are low on cat food. Before 3 p.m., I will hit the grocery store, library, bank, have two conference calls and edit a full website. PLUS, there is always the chance I will get a call to pick up a sick kiddo from school. (No joke, the cat just threw up.)

That frantic pace bubbles up…as does The Score. So, when at bedtime I am the one doing the reading and backpack packing and folding (more) laundry and cleaning up from dinner while someone is on the couch…yeah, I know this is familiar to you, too.

Here are a few things we can all try to stop The Parent Games from entering overtime, because this tit-for-tat around chores is a bad thing for marriages.

Lower Expectations
Does every bin need a handmade label?

Make The Kids Help Out
Isn’t that why we had them?

Say Thank You
When you notice they did something, say thank you. It’s good manners and, if you show gratitude, they will do more to get more.

Ask for Help
If your budget allows, maybe hire a cleaning crew, a dog walker, use a grocery shopping service or have the neighbor’s tween water the flowers. Ask the other parent to please clean up the poop. (You may have to promise them a foot rub.) You don’t have to do everything. I promise.

Get Less Busy
Since the core of the resentment is, “I am so much busier than you,” try to get less busy.

Don’t Keep Score
The hard one. Everyone needs to know that everything that gets done is a point for the whole family. Everything is important, nothing is the most or least important.

Wishing you the best of luck in our mass retirement from The Parent Games.

Maggie Knowles writes about all things kid. She and her family live in Yarmouth, where she gardens, keeps bees and refuses to get rid of her stilettos.

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