Getting Chores Better Distributed through the Family

It’s awful to feel as if you are the only one who is doing chores around your household – not to mention exhausting.  It can also literally destroy a marriage.  The resentment that builds up around household chore distribution easily seeps into all areas of the relationship.  Many report here that they try to get their spouse to help out, but to no avail.  I think that this area is too important to give up on, so would propose a couple of ideas for attacking this issue.

It’s important to get your spouse’s buy-in to the idea that running a household is a job that takes more than one person.  I tried a lot of approaches over the years, what didn’t work for me was nagging or calls for “fairness” (too easy to write off and too likely to put your spouse on the defensive).  What did finally work for me was a straightforward “I’ve tried to do all of this for years but simply can’t any more.  I don’t care how we get some of this load off of my shoulders, only that we do.  We’re no longer talking convenience, we’re talking survival.”  And, since it really was survival for me, he listened.  I also have to admit that since it was survival, I wasn't willing to take "no" for an answer.  My husband didn't just jump up and suddenly start doing chores.  I simply insisted that he MUST.  It was then up to him to figure out HOW he would lighten my load.

In the next few posts I’ll talk about different approaches to getting others to help out.  Here’s the first one:

Idea #1 – Businesslike, for the Entire Family
Chances are good that if you are feeling overburdened by chores, it’s not just your husband who isn’t helping out – it’s everyone.  This approach can work for families with kids who are kindergarten age and older.  It involves tracking what everyone is contributing to the success of the household, and redistributing chores as a result of your “fact finding”.

Have a family meeting to talk with your family calmly about how a household is a joint undertaking, and while you don’t expect everything to be even, you do expect that each person will contribute in a way that reflects their age and capabilities.  Tell them that over the next couple of weeks you will all be working together to figure out who can do what in a way that distributes work that each person likes to do to them.  To do this, you will all work together, including tracking, officially, for one to two weeks what each person is already contributing.  As you set this idea up, talk about good ways to remember what each person is doing so that they get full "credit" for what they already do.  Do they need to carry a small notebook?  Write down notes at each meal?  Talk into a Blackberry each time they do a chore to track it? 

It’s a good idea to keep your language positive.  For example, when setting up the idea, you might say “It takes a lot of energy to successfully run a household, and every person in that house needs to contribute to make things run smoothly.  So I am asking everyone to assess what they are currently doing, and what else they could be doing to help out.” Agree to sit down at the end of every day (or perhaps right after dinner – some regular time) and make a list of what you each did during that day, and how long it took.  The purpose of this exercise is to open the eyes of each member of the family.  At the end of a few days they are all likely to see that one member of the household is doing 95% of the chores of making that household work.  At that point, you can start to talk about items that other family members could take on.  Ask for their input…what would they like to do?  What would fit into their schedules the best?  For example, your younger kids might agree to make their beds, pick up their laundry, hang up their towels, etc.  Teens might do yard chores or laundry.  Your husband might agree to empty the trash, cook, mow the lawn, whatever.  You might decide that certain chores would be more fun, and less onerous, if multiple people did it together.  This can include yard work, folding laundry, cooking...(In our house I run the laundry, but we all fold together - usually with some good music on.  My teenage son also helps with the cooking some days.)

By involving each person in picking chores you have the highest chance of creating a "good fit".  It probably doesn’t make sense to ask someone who needs to leave the house at 7am to take on a chore that takes 30 minutes first thing in the day, such as walking the dog.

As family members begin to take on more responsibility celebrate this in a general way – perhaps with a cake, etc. to make it “fun”.  Kids sometimes like sticker charts to show their progress.  If people aren’t following through on what they say they will do, decide with the group about what they think should be the ramifications.  Kids who don’t do their chores might have to do them before going out to play, or lose sleep over privileges, for example.

The goal is to set each person up for success in the chore arena – a good matching of chore to skills, interests, and timetable plus reasonable support.  So if you have a child who doesn’t know how to do laundry but wants to take it on, consider making a list of the steps and taping it up over the washer after you teach him.  If your husband has trouble initiating chores that he’s agreed to, talk with him about potential reminder systems (alarms, buzzers, notes, etc).  There is nothing wrong with these reminders – they should be considered “neutral” emotionally (not representative of a fault or problem).  They are simply one tool in an arsenal of tools to “get things done”.  Yes, one person will still be in the role of “organizer”, at least for a while, but that’s okay…because chores will get better distributed.

Tip #1.  Make sure that the “ramification” for not doing a chore is that mom does it for you (“because it’s easier” or “because I couldn’t stand it any more”)  That’s the wrong type of reinforcement!  Pick something else that is immediate - just make sure you don't "cover" for your family.

Tip #2.  If you are already in a battle with a spouse over chore completion, break down longer chores into shorter "sub" chores.  This will help you (and him) see some positive progress.  And, yes, ramifications for adults are okay, too.  Make this part of the family discussion...then stick to what you all decide.  If kids lose their rights to go out and play if they don't do their chores by a certain time, would it not be okay to suggest that dad can't go play that round of golf until his are done?  (Hint:  He can wake up earlier or stay up later to complete the chore on time...and if he stays up until 2:00am to get the chore done, don't give him a hard time for coming to bed late!  He won't do everything the way you expect, or even the way you like...but the chore will get done.)

Tip #3.  Expect that your feelings about this will get tested for a while.  Since it's much easier if "mom just does it", expect that others will see if you're willing to fall back into that pattern.  Resist that temptation, even if it does seem easier.  Reconvene the "family court" (if you will) and talk through the issues in a business-like way.  What got in the way of the chore getting done?  Would there be a better time of day?  Is there a skill missing?  Are you overscheduled?  Is this a long-term issue or a one-time issue?  Do you have the wrong chore for some reason?  Pretty soon, "I didn't feel like it" will sound pretty lame to everyone, not just to you.

This approach can work for families because:

  • It distributes responsibility for chores, and for crafting solutions, across the entire family, taking it away from just warring spouses (where one is likely "dictating" to the other what the solution should be)
  • It illuminates the dimensions of the problem through measurement and tracking
  • Kids can help define what's "fair", which can go a long way towards diffusing some of the arguments over this topic

A completely different approach would be to get at least some of the chores out of the family completely, by hiring various types of help.  More on that in a later post.


One step forward......

On the advice of our couples counselor we tried a technique in our family where I made a "Task Tracker".  I made a list of household chores broken down into all their parts and a way for each family member to record which task they had done.  For instance, feeding the cats, feeding the dogs, refilling the water bowl were all different tasks rather than just "feed the pets".  We needed this kind of detail in order to end the fights about who did what around our house.  My (ADD) partner felt she did all the work and that the kids didn't do enough.  I felt confident that I did the most, etc etc.  I'm sure you get the picture.  We kept track of tasks for a number of weeks.

Keeping track motivated my partner to do more stuff.  (She denied that this was the case.) This was good in a way.  She actually cleaned up the bedroom one morning before she went to work.  However, it meant that our record wasn't exactly accurate.  The kids loved it.  Our youngest loved cleaning the litter box and writing it down in her color marker.  So it was fun for the kids.

Since feeding the dogs (something my partner did religiously) didn't take quite the same amount of time or energy as grocery shopping or managing our finances and paying the bills, even though there'd be more checks on the paper, I had to find a way show this difference.  So each task was given a "time".  I also had to include time spent at work, because my partner claimed that she had to do less at home because she worked all day.  I worked at a retail store part time and have my own business part time.  Since we included her work I decided to include my work and the girls school time.  We couldn't include their lessons after school because those were "voluntary", according to my partner. 

I also included ways to chart large one-time tasks that my partner was likely to do.  During that time period she put a cover over the chimney, as it happened. Yard work would fall into this category.

I graphed the chart and it clearly showed that I did the most work around the house by quite a margin.  She, obviously, spent the most time at work.  It showed that she was doing more than I thought she was, so that was quite useful.  It showed her that the kids were doing more than she thought.  It showed one of our daughters that she was doing the least amount of everybody and she was motivated to do more. 

I thought the project was a great success.  Then, when we reported back to our counselor, she actually said that the graph showed that she did the most chores.  I was shocked.  That's what she recalled.  So we were right back where we started.  And who spent all the time on that project to try to take it out of the emotional element?  That was a year ago and the argument continues on.

I'm not against trying this technique again. It seems, in fact, like it could be useful.  Perhaps when school starts up again.

The thing that's hard is that my partner does do things around our house.  She just does things when she feels like it or gets around to it.  The only thing she does on a regular consistent basis is feed the animals.  She does the clean the kitchen...when she feels like it or can't stand it.  She does pick up the living room...when she feels like it or can't stand it.  She does snow blow the driveway...but she complains about it sometimes and/or tries to make me feel guilty that I'm not helping.  I've asked her to take over one thing.  I said, "Please just take care of the trash."  I'd love to not have to think about the trash; not have to ask for it to be emptied because it's spilling over or the recycling falling on the floor.  If she'd just stay on top of the trash.  She can't seem to do it.

Anyway, when I say I do most of the work around the house she remembers all the times she has cleaned up the kitchen or picked up the living room.  She doesn't think about the fact that she refuses to do the dishes at night after dinner.  She doesn't clean the house on a regular basis. She doesn't pay the bills. She only occassionally does the laundry and doesn't seem able to put her laundry away because it gets so overwhelming.  She rarely vacuums the living room rug that is covered with dog hair from the dogs I inherited when we got together (I Hate dog hair).  To sum it up there is nothing that she does on a consistent, regular basis.  She spends most evenings in her recliner and has been known to spend most weekends in her recliner watching TV.  I was shocked when we got together to discover that there were people who actually did this.

As I am learning more about ADD I am coming to understand her.  I get that the laundry pile is overwhelming so I can help more putting it away.  She's happier and I'm happier and when I do it she gets involved and does it with me.  And the more understanding I am the more inclined she is to do some of the "projects".  But we still fight about it and I'm not against trying the TAsk Tracker again.

Now I need help with money.  When I tell her we have no extra money to spend she doesn't get it.  She spent $400 we didn't have on eating out, movies, etc and now I can't pay the bills.  HELP!!!


One step forward.....

I totatally sympathies with "Cat Blue "on the household chores distribution. We haven't tried any sort of TASK TRACKER in our household.  I seem to end up doing most of them, including the shopping, taking out the dog etc.  All that ontop of my job, while my fiance stays at home.  I have explained and showed her a few times, without much luck or result, the time that is available to me every day after subtracting from 24 hours in a day: 11 hours of work (including the time in the morning before work and to get home); 7 hours of sleep; time to do the shopping; spend some time with our son; taking out the dog, etc.  There isn't much left!  We have had several argues and discussions on the subject, without any result.  She says she forgets, is overwhelmed, too tired or lacks the engergy to do these things.  Or she just snapps at me and finds me fussy (niggling). And of course the "I have ADHD" answer. It seems that the best way yet, to get her involved, is by asking her to help me do the chores. Sometimes she manages to do certain things but that usually means that I have to first ask her (and be careful to do it in a gentle way), then I have to remind her (e.g. by putting it into a reminder in her mobile) and often also to remind her by calling her. The "taking out the trash" chore seems to be an impossible task, eventhough it is only like 10 steps out of the front door.  Instead, the bags of trash just pile up on the kitchen floor, maybe 3 or 4 bags!  I admit that there are times that are better than others, in regard to her involvment. But most of the time, I'm carrying the main burden - which is getting very tiresom.

In the past we have had a big communication problems (it has gotten a bit better though).  We seem to be specialists in upsetting each other, eventhough we really try to choose our words carefully in order not to upset the other one.  But when she gets upset I have often gotten the reply from her, that she is obviously a total looser in my opinion - incabable of doing anything. The conversations have often ended with her saying "So why on earth are you with me, if I'm so impossible in every aspect?".  For me, this is a way of trying to make me feel bad.  A way to end the discussion without any result, without taking any responsibility. A way to make sure,that things stay unchanged.  And it kind of contains an "underlying threat".

Whether it is a around household chores or something else that has to be done I feel that she tries to move all responsibility from her - to me or someone else.  To make sure, that she doesn't carry any responsibility.  To make me or someone else accountable.  And it sometimes seems that, if I forget to do something or am unable to because of the lengthy list of things I have to accommodate in my every day routine, she seems to really get something out of letting me know, how I've failed to do what she has asked me to do.

I've been trying to get the point across, that we are both responsible for the houshold chores.  That we don't have to have a 50 - 50 responsibility but that we have to reach an agreement and stick by it. I'm aiming at trying to set up some sort of a schedule in the fall for dividing responsibility.  Hopefully she will be willing to take part in that and see some positives in it.

Regarding finances, I'm finally gonna have to take them over.  Our kredit has risen quite a lot in the past few months and she seems to turn up with kredit card bills for around $ 1500 - 2000, every month for consumption!!

Regarding clothes and dirty laundry, that is also an issue I'm gonna try to adress with her.  It is just so tiresome to be walking over clother, lying on the floor, all over the flat - mixed up with dirty laundry that doesn't seem to find it's way into the laundry basket!

rapidly aging's picture

consistency & daily tasks

Hi CatBlue

If you change those last the pronoun on those last 3 paragraphs from "she" to "he" I could have written them (not as well as you). Except , the tasks are different.  

I constantly find nails, screwdrivers in the playroom and on several occasions a plugged in power drill in the kids' (ages 4 & 6) bathroom.

rapidly aging's picture

Impulsive spending!

One step foward,

if she's acting childish with family funds then you have to treat her like a child, no plastic, limited funds in envelopes given out on a daily basis

Distributing chores around the family

We have implemented a chore distribution system in our house and it has worked well.. My husband has ADHD and at times gets overwelmed by all the tasks and details to keep track of on a daily-weekly basis.....One day we just sat our kids down & explained that mom and dad both work, drive kids to and from  sports activities, and  are overwelmed with activities and keeping a household together & we cannot come home to get dinner on the table in 30 minutes or less.

So, We developed a  "chore list"  posted on the refigerator by month by week by teen (We started this when they were 6-7 years old)...Each of our three kids is responsible for certain chores when they come home: One for setting the table before dinner, one clears the dishes, wipes counters & table ,one loads the dishwasher, another feeds pets.....If tasks arent completed by 6 p.m. the person who forgets the specific chore, gets to do ALL the remaining evening chores....

Its not perfect, but it does engage everyone to step up so we can have a nice family dinner each evening, rather than watch mom and dad scramble every night while the kids watch TV.  To reinforce the message with a specific consequence... if one teen doesnt have the table set by 6pm, Ive been known to put just a  casserole on the table, have everyone sit down, (with no place settings) and the person who forgot to set the table, gets the message pretty clearly!

 We also have a weekly chore list for picking up the house, vaccuming bedrooms, baths that is done on Saturday..... There are glitches and arguments, but the practice is in place, and the kids know The routine, the drill, or what has to be done, gets done. The alternative  to the chore list is that mom and dad were getting so stressed out, our kids activities and driving would stop and our kids miss out. It was "STEP UP TIME" or "CUTBACK ACTIVITIES" at our house.....

It certainly has taken stress off of us and caused everyone to realize that our family harmony is dependent on everyone collectively working together....for a common good.

Sometimes fairness becomes an issue when one teen has an activity and cant complete by 6pm, but we let them work it out, and the habits are in place....Not a perfect system, but it  one we have successfully put in place & has alleviated lots of family stress for us!


Help from non ADD Spouse

Perhaps it is the fact that tonight I decided my marriage was over, but I am darn tired of all the advice that has the non ADD person making all kinds of lists for the ADD person. Having ADD does not mean you can't write! Make your own list. You remember your underwear everyday, remember to check your list. All this advice for how non ADD people can "help" just enourages enabling patterns. I am NOT my husbands mother!

rapidly aging's picture

Help from non-ADD spouse

To "AboutToDivorce",

Amen!  Perhaps if his mother had foster some independence and less video games/tv,better nutrition, etc.. I wouldn't be in this situation.


My husband doesn't remember to WEAR underwear! I tell him this is gross and he just doesn't care.

Making Lists for Another

I'm not suggesting that you must be the person to make the lists - perhaps your husband should be the scribe?  Or one of your children if you have any and they are old enough?  I'm suggesting that you should be the initiator...and also could likely use your strength as a leader to make sure the chore distribution gets done.

You are not his mother, but someone needs to initiate things that work in the family, and it's not an ADHD strong point.  Furthermore, the person to initiate is often the person who cares the most.  Would that be you?  In any event, there is a difference in how one acts when being a mother and being a team mate or partner.  Envisioning what "partner" means with a spouse with ADHD is often hard for people, but it can work - really!

Experiment to make it register

The making of the list might be a good opportunity. If someone gives me a premade list, I'll lose it right away or I just won't ... SEE some items. My eyes tend to jump around a lot.

Some tricks make lists work better for me:

  • I hold the pencil and paper and do the writing.
  • I help come up with list items.
  • I do something - like draw a checkmark or scratch line - when the item is done.
  • I talk through the list and get a verbal confirmation from my boyfriend/mom/whoever.
  • I imagine walking through the house/store/wherever so I have a sense of the journey to get it all done.

Mostly I forget to do these tricks and screw it all up anyway, but it helps when I remember them. Some people might do better making the list big — on a dry-erase board or posterboard on the wall. But that might be bad if you know you'll get sidetracked walking from the laundry room back to the list. Some might do better with a list they can carry around. But that might be bad if you know you'll lose the list. I still haven't figured out a good way, but I believe there are ways to customize the process.

The point is, we all internalize information differently. Looking at a list doesn't captivate my attention, but being involved with its production does. It may sound childish and selfish that I need to be captivated to help out, but it's called Attention Deficit Disorder. People with bad backs need to find ways around heavy lifting.

What if the lists are thrown in your face

My husband has yet to be diagnosed with ADD, but trust me I am firmly convinced that is what is ailing him. Reading your blog is like reading my life. However, I must agree with the others about the list thing. It doesn't work. I have tried list. I get told they are too long. I made it shorter making it only 3 things that were important to get done. I was told I was treating him like a child.  I stopped the lists.  I have asked nicely, screamed, cried and begged. I get apologies and yes dear I will do that.  Our son is almost 2 and he hardly pays attention to him, except when it seems to suit him. A 2 yr old doesn't understand ADD. He understands that is my Daddy and I want him to play or pay attention to me. I have told, asked, begged etc to my husband that there are certain shows that are simply not acceptable to watch with our son.  The other day, my husband let me sleep in. I was exhausted. I had worked most of the long weekend cleaning up the huge pile of mounting laundry that he simply won't do unless explicitly asked. I cleaned the house. Did the gardening. I needed the rest. We have many of our son's favourite movies and t.v. shows compiled on a box that is simple and easy for everyone to access without fiddling with dvd cases. What did I wake up to the sounds husband and son watching Family Guy! I love the show, but it is in no way appropriate for a 2 yr old to be watching! so I got up and told him to turn it off and switch to one of our son's shows. I am worried for my husband. My parents live with us, but my mother is disabled and unable to help out with chores, and my father is not much better. he isn't well right now and quite often I find my Father having to pick up my husband's slack. Everybody is getting worn to the nub.

My husband reacts extemely badly to criticism and takes as a personal attack and then says I am picking a fight. Our son is starting to not go to him because you can see the look of disappointment on his face when Daddy doesn't acknowledge him.  I realize you have to work with ADD, but there has to come a point where the person with ADD has to take personal responsibility for his/her actions. What do you do when lists don't work? I am beating my head against a wall. I love him dearly. He is a good man. If he could exercise the same amount of effort on the yard as he does completeing a video game my life would be so much easier.

There has to be help other than just bending over backwards for the person with ADD. I need help. What do I do? I feel like I am going crazy.  I can't talk to him about these concerns without a blow up.  I want to help. But he is slowly burning the bridges around him, including some of his family. They know they can talk to me, so they do. But they are slowly distancing themselves from him and he can't see why this is maybe a bad thing.  They have openly said they can't talk to him. I sometimes they are scared to talk to him.

Any suggestions would be helpful.

The "enabler"

Boy do I feel your frustration.  I am so tired of hearing what I need to do to make things better and he is allowed to use the excuse "it's my ADD"  I think I may explode the next time I hear that. Can I ask how long you were/have been married and are there any children involved?

I agree, and I'm the ADHD one

I find a lot of the treatment of people with ADHD, from family or otherwise, just encourages enabling behaviors.  While I may have gotten more of a head start on developing coping mechanisms than other adults with ADHD, I still think the principals are the same.  I am the ADHD spouse, and my husband is the one who forgets chores, items on the grocery list, what we had planned that night - and that came from years of memory exercises and constant listmaking.  I make to-do lists almost every day, from things as long term as life plans to a short term as that day, I also write out and detail calendars of my own, and copy my notes into a calendar I look at every day.  I have specific locations I designate for important items (passport, keys, car title, purse), and replace those things religiously.  

I come off looking very OCD to people who don't know that I'm ADHD, but without those habits and constant attention to them, my life would probably be a mess.  Your ADHD spouse is not incapable of doing things on his/her own.  Instead of making lists FOR him, make him do homework for you.  Requests various lists on different topics (you have to give a topic or else the list will go on forever - or not go anywhere), and then go over it with him.  For example, ask him to make a list of the chores you think need to get done daily, and chores that need to get done weekly.  If he comes back missing important items (laundry??) ask him how his shirts are going to get cleaned, see how the chores go that week - and ask for the same homework next week.  This is what my mother did with me when I was 10 - but it obviously helped.


We are NOT handicapped.  We just need a little bit more structure than others - and we NEED to learn how to provide that structure for ourselves.

When lists, charts and counseling do not help...

Thank you everyone for your comments!  It is very nice to read that I am not alone in feeling this way. My problems with my husband is finances and his refusing to help around the house/with the kids. We both work full time and have 3 kids together.

My question is what do you do when counseling, chore charts (he ignores), lists (he throws away without doing anything on them) and task tracking (he won't meet me halfway) doesn't help? I do love my husband and think he is a great person. But he simply refuses to help himself. He tells our counselor that he wants to change and wants to work on this, but as soon as we walk out of the counselor's office, it's back to life as usual. He will not stick to things and will just do a half-hearted attempt at a chore (starting laundry then leaving it in the washing machine to mold). He is really good at going to work, coming home, taking really long showers/bathroom breaks and playing online games. Where does he find the ability to religiously adhere to these activities? Why can't he project the same dedication to being a team with the housework and childrearing? He is notorious for procrastinating and has dug huge debts and collections because of his lack of motivation. He is constantly making new messes and crisis for me to clean up. If I ignore the problems they begin to affect our family in a really bad way emotionally, financially and in regards to health. Then if I handle the problems, I resent the very air that he breathes and want nothing to do with him.

I've written letters to him, talked to him, cried, screamed and wished myself far far away. The counselor has talked him through his ADHD. She recommended all the things we've tried and he won't committ to. He is always ready with apologies and empty promises when I reach the breaking point. I am sick of trying to work on this and always failing to get through to him. I have very little respect left for him which is dangerous for relationships.

Is divorce the only option? I don't want to do this because of our kids. Does anyone have a magic wand that will make him less like a lazy child and more like the man he portrayed when we married??? :)Throw your input at me please. Just please don't tell me to make lists, charts etc. Thanks!



Pink's picture

I am in the same boat as you

I am in the same boat as you are. But to get divorce is like running away and no one win but the kids will get hurt the most. I do all the work and we do go to counseling and he promise and out the door he goes back to his way. then telling my I am complaining too much.

When I do tell him  what to do... or what you would like to do.. he feel like another kid in the house. 

Let me know when you find the answer. I really do not know. Unless he is rich... you can get a cleaning lady to clean the house and the laundry to go out and someone else do them for you.

Maybe that is the answer... nothing is free in this world. You can say... look either help to keep the house clean or You need to pay every week for someone else to come in and help me clean the house.

In my house... sometime I will throw things away... next time he ask me where is it? I told him if it is important to you... you will keep it in a good place... otherwise, you don't want it and you leave it on the floor mess... I don't need it so I throw it away. Sometime, I have to do that for him to learn to keep things together.

Believe me if they have something important to them, they know how to keep it into one place. But the rest of the house they look at it as a cloud. As Melissa said before the mess doesn't bother them.

me too!

I wonder how you are doing now. you wrote that in 2009, i am at this point now. I have lost respect, don't believe anything he says, and see him as the child. We don't have kids. Two dogs, a house, he sort of has a job and I am an arty soul not sure what to do with my life. It is all so paralyzing.

Yes, What Do You Do?

When I sat my husband down and explained that it just wasn't fair that we both worked full-time, but I had to do ALL the housework, he said "I know it isn't fair, but I don't like housework, so I'm not going to do it". What do you do?


Is it possible we could be married to the same man? Maybe they were twins separated at birth! SERIOUSLY!! I haven't read responses to your post yet, but I just wanted to let you know that someone in Florida has your exact frustrations! 

Rooms are getting smaller

I sympathize with all the very tires spouses who are asking for help, making lists, and trying to refrain from nagging, but now I have a new issue. 

Since retiring from the military reserves 3 years ago, my husband is now home on weekends and is committed to helping around the house and with the kids since I took a more demanding job at the time he retired. 

It is a nightmare. 

Picking up a stray coffee cup may involve moving it to six different locations in the living room, before dropping it and breaking it on the kitchen floor. When he picks up newspapers and toys in the living room, he stuffs them into corners "out of sight." When he cleans up in the kitchen the recyclables are meticulously clean, but the dishes are put away filthy. He helps with laundry and consequently the family room looks like a clothes bomb went off. It takes me hours to re-straighten up the new mess and he still wants recognition for cleaning up.

I know it hurts his feelings when I criticize what he's done, or redo it totally, but I can't function any more. I had a system in place and could accomplish five times the housework in the same amount of time I am cleaning up after his efforts. I spend more and more time at the office where I don't have to face the nightmare.

The worst thing is that the kids are picking up his habits. He is constantly at the computer, tv, or listening to ipod. When they haven't done what he tells them to, he turns on them in a rage. (mostly it is that they are interrupting his hyper focus on electronics) Then he doesn't understand why they won't stop playing wii. I need a referee shirt most of the time. Add to this that we are trying to parent a 13 year old boy with ADD who is getting random orders barked at him. Since I built all the relationships with his teachers, they really wonder what is going on and when I'm going to get it together. Did I mention I am in a rather public role in the community and don't feel like I can entertain at home because I never know what to expect.

Instead of helping, he is fussing with things all over the house and never getting anything done!

Where do I start?




I sympathize with your situation!!

How terrible for you both.  He wants to do a good thing and you appreciate his desire to help, yet the result is terrible.

I have no idea how to help or what to suggest, so I asked my ADD husband to read your post.  He giggled at some of it and shook his head in sadness the rest of it because he can understand how his *helping* is not working for you and yet he understand how proud he is of trying to help.

His first question to me was did he understand correctly that you would actually be better off without his help.  I said that is what I got from the post, so his first suggestion was to find something for him to do on the Little League, Volunteer at the Y, etc.  

As far as trying to get him to help in a way that would benefit you more, his suggestion was to say "Honey, I've found the easiest way to do this job is to do it this way.  I appreciate your helping out and it would help me the very most if you did it this way."   His other suggestion was to put it off somewhat onto the kids...."Honey, I appreciate very much that you are helping so much at home. The kids are used to this being done this way and that is how I am trying to train them to do it.  It would be a good example for them if we all did it the same way. Would you be willing to try that?"

I hope at least it helps to know that we sympathize with your situation, and I sincerely hope you can find a good solution for both of you.

house is getting smaller

This is my first time on this site and I feel like i am reading a diary of my own thoughts and words.  I have been with an ADD husband for years and i am to the point of feeling like I am crazy as a loon by now.  The frustration, feelings of being married alone, isolation, hopelessness, anger, depression and, believe it or not, continued hope.  I am very much in love with my husband but I feel like I am the only adult in the relationship.  My children are grown but i am still the mother of our household.  I have decided not to leave the relationship for many reasons but am still striving to find ways to make my life tolerable within the marriage.  My adult son keeps telling me the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.  I have taken that to heart recently and have realized that my complaining and nagging WILL NOT EVER CHANGE MY HUSBAND'S BEHAVIOR.  Never, Never, never.  Believe it or not - that is hard for me to swallow.  It leaves it up to me - everything up to me.  I know that the future of our lives depends on my making a living, paying the mortgage, doing the taxes, cleaning the house and making good decisions.  I have tried the lists, the notes, the posters, the communication styles, the counseling, the medications, and everything else.  I have come to the realization that I either stay and take care of business myself or I leave.  Oh, at times he will do this or that but it is always temporary.  Because of what my son said to me though, I have taken a look at myself and asked myself why do I stay.  I stay because I was once married to a man who got everything done, was neat, tidy and made a good living.  He also was incapable of love and was completely unfaithful.  My ADD husband is a depressed messmaker but he does love me and he is faithful.  It drives me crazy the way he is often unemployed and messing up the house but he is not chasing the neighbor ladies - he is always home with me.  He is distracted and does not say and do loving things the way I wish he did - but he does try now and then.  When he does try - I see his genuine effort to want to please.  ADD is a disability and I feel deep in my heart that he would do the things that needed to be done if he were indeed capable of doing them.  For Easter we told each other four things we appreciated about each other.  It was really nice.  Will he forget them tomorrow?  probably yes - but i won't.

Delay response

Did you hang in there? I'm ready to throw in the towel after 26 years  - the (latest) straw that broke the camel's back today was when I asked him if our 19 year old son (he'll be 20 in two weeks) was going to help him with a household project (that resulted in a damaged appliance that I believe the 19 year old is responsible for.) My husband's response was "I don't know." I reminded him that our son is not a "guest" in the house, rather an adult member that shouldn't have to be "asked" to assist (especially since he was partially responsible for the problem.)


I'm completely fed up with my husband wanting to be my son's "buddy" and not a father to him. And I"m fed up with my husband telling me to "get help." (Mental help.)  I've been avoiding divorce because I know the standard of living for both of us will tank considerably, but frankly it seems that we don't have any $$ now as it is, so I"m hanging in and handing on basically for no good reason. Our children are 19 and 23, not counting my husband who I often feel is a 3rd child.

Minor Breakthrough - rooms getting smaller

Since my last frustrated post, we have had one minor breakthrough that has given me reason to hope.

I managed to give my husband a month "off" from doing the laundry so I can teach our teenage son how to sort, launder, fold, and put away clothes. He has agreed to stay out of the laundry room while this is occurring so our son is not "confused" by our different styles. 

Turns out, the ADD kid is a dream come true when it comes to laundry. Think "Sheldon" on "Big Bang Theory" meticulously folding shirts and putting everything away with precision. 

Now, how do I tell the husband that he can't go back to helping with the laundry? 

And when do I teach the younger son to do the dishes? Hmmm.

arwen's picture

have you considered

having your *son* teach your husband how to do the laundry?

There are a couple of potential benefits in this.  First of all, it reinforces the knowledge in your ADD child.  Second, your spouse is more likely to listen to your child than to you, for a variety of reasons.   Third, your spouse *seeing* that this skill is learnable, and by a child so young, may be prodded out of the "I can't" attitude -- because obviously people with ADD can, if your son can.  All you would really have to do up front is make sure that your child understands that no matter what your spouse says, the child knows how to do it appropriately -- and if your spouse starts to argue with your child, your child is equipped with the stock response "this is the way mom taught me and that I'm teaching you".

I didn't use this technique with laundry in my family (ADD husband and son, non-ADD daughter), but I did use it with other things, and it worked for us.

I taught my kids basic skills as soon as they were big/tall enough to handle them.  My son learned to do his own laundry and set the table for dinner before the age of 10, and how to warm up leftovers in the microwave before high school (ours is mounted fairly high up).  I didn't teach him to load the dishwasher until high school, because we had a cantakerous machine with some peculiar idiosyncracies, and the "rules" for loading it would have been too complicated, but unloading the dishwasher and putting dishes and glassware away was a preteen chore.  The only skill my son had real trouble mastering was picking up in his room, until I gave him an algorithm (put away the big and easy stuff first, then the stuff that doesn't require any decisions, then whatever's left).  He doesn't enjoy cooking -- but he does know how to make simple dishes like spaghetti and meat sauce, or hamburgers.

This doesn't mean that my son doesn't have struggels with his ADD -- but he doesn't struggle with these aspects of everyday life, now that he's grown and on his own, at least.

Good luck!


"It matters not what someone is born, but what they grow to be."  Albus Dumbledore

Cooking ideas?

So, I get the impression that I am not alone in my ADD frustration with cooking. I have tried many times to have a nice meal for my man when he comes home (we work opposite schedules), but it usually ends with me crying and him dusting mountains of spilled cumin off the casserole. I feel bad because I know he loves coming home to hot food.

Mostly it's a matter of poor planning. I have a hard time deciding which foods to serve together, and I never anticipate how many things will happen (and go wrong) at once when I want to finish multiple hot dishes at the same time. It takes forever to figure out what ingredients we have and what we need to buy. And I always, ALWAYS underestimate how long it all will take. Except when my miraculous crock pot is involved.

I am thinking of asking him to take the reins as meal planner and make me the helper elf. I can grocery shop without too much trouble, and I can get ingredients chopped/measured/set out/heated if I know when to start what and don't try too many ambitious dishes at the same time.

But I'm a little afraid that he won't avail himself of my offer. One, he has strong instincts in the kitchen and it may hard to even come up with specific instructions. Two, he never asks me to do household chores. Maybe he does and I don't hear them. But I know he's never said, "How about meatloaf tonight? You pick up the beef on your way home from work and cut the onions." Or anything like that. Maybe he's afraid I'll screw it up. But I kind of think he's afraid of asking me to cook when he knows I'm not confident and am easily frustrated in this realm. I don't think he knows that most of the frustration is in trying SO hard to plan (rewriting recipes in a flow chart with instructions down to the minute, including washing measuring spoons I'll have to use twice) and still ending up with a huge mess and food that tastes like ass. But I know he doesn't want to ask me to do something and then have to console me/put ointment on my burns and cuts.

Anyway, does anyone here have a good cooperative system for getting meals on the table?

Pink's picture

Keep it simple

find a meal that you know how to cook with out this crazy measuring.  Try them during the day... cook it on weekend during lunch time.  See how long it will take you.  I love to cook but I work all the time. I make a simple meal. I don't like to read cook book and I don't like measuring. But I keep thing simple and they taste good.

Here are some meal ideas.

Boil a pasta - simple.

Ground beef meat... - brown the meat -

Tomato sauce - put all of them together.... Add spice you like... leave it on stove low for 20 min done.


Fish - Salmon - put it in pan... add some spice, lemon some olive oil... put it in oven for 20 min... done.


I do the same Pasta with cheeses rather than meat.


Burger - add spice - shape into a round burger... cut up onion - or vegetable pepper, tomato put them on the top and put it in the oven for 20 min.


Ravioli - are frozen - Just boil them - put sauce you like on them and cook for 15 - 20 min.


I keep my meal simple to 20 minutes cook.  Then we add salad - you can buy simple cut up salad just put it in plate and add tomato.

Then, Vegetable - either can or fresh or frozen.  I kids love beets, corn and mushroom.


If I want more complaint meal... either buy it already cook or go out for dinner. Then everyone is happy.



Do you have a crockpot?

You can put everything in there together and it's all done at the same time. They make seasoning mixes that you can put in with your chicken and vegetables (or whatever) so you don't have to do a lot of measuring. Those meals are pretty forgiving if your timing is not precise, which often happens with people working opposite shifts. Mine has a removable "crock" that you can serve in, or make everything in the night before, refrigerate, and just put it in the cooking part before you leave for work. (Don't forget to turn it on :)) It would let you take care of the main meal in the morning when you have lots of energy and your meds (if you take any)  haven't worn off.

I am fortunate in that my ADD husband finds a creative outlet in cooking. What would it be like if we put this with that? Sometimes it doesn't work, but most of the time it's fun. I love lots of the recipes he makes up.

Cooking & Chores

I had a good chuckle reading the cooking and chores posts.  I'm not sure how the ADHD plus cooking got past me but I had a little light bulb go off.  My bf does cook but cooks the same thing all the time and puts cheese on everything!  He calls it dressing it up.  I don't eat that much cheese and it took a looong time for me to get him to stop putting it on my food.  I'm surprised it's not in my coffee.

It started with I don't care for cheese. 

Really, I don't care for it...cut it back a smidge

Me scraping cheese off....little less cheese but made up for it with butter.

You know how far I'd have to run to burn that off?....embrace your age.

He'll cook me steak and eggs or an omlette, serve it to me in the hot tub (I know odd place to eat) and add just a little sprinkle of cheddar on top.  I now see that little sprinkle of cheese as his way of showing me he loves me and smile.  He sees me chillin in the tub, listening to music (full blast), eating his cheese and you can see the glow on his face.

The fridge is another matter.  I'm not allowed to clean it (in case I throw EVERYTHING out).  At first he was embarrassed by things I found living in there.  Now I can just hook and eyebrow and he'll laugh and give me a head shake for "safe" or "not safe" to eat.  Not that I don't trust him but I still check the label lol.

With household chores we just naturally fell into a he has his way and I just go with it.  Out of the blue he'll hyper focus on cleaning so we throw the music on and he does his thing in one room while I do others (not a chance in H## I'd work in the same room).  I did drop the hammer when he was using my electric toothbrush to clean the vents in his car.  I gratefully take the bathroom as one of my jobs. 

In between cleanings I made a conscious choice to let go of my need to be pristine on a daily basis.  It just wasn't worth seeing him be tense about it.  I remember saying to my friends and family enjoy it now because if we move in together it will never look like this again. 

I do do more on that level but he absolutely runs the fun side of our life and I love it...we are both very outdoorsy and athletic.  I never have to get us ready.  He packs us up like gold fish in a bowl.  The bigger the available space the more he takes.  He won't be able to find the keys but it'll be packed ready to go and he happens to forget something it will most definitely be my fault.

We have other issues that cause angst between us and he is forever saying, "let me love you my way".  Sometimes reading these posts remind me of his ways.


at least you can do the store!

My husband and i are both ADHD. I am more able to deal with house stuff and getting tasks done... My weakness is the grocery store and cooking. I grew up with parents who both cooked, liked it and taught me how. So I am in this strange place where I am capable of cooking, and good at it when I do it. The problem is I LOATHE the grocery store. I know, make lists.... I do. I get there, then see that the whatever it was I was going to get is more expensive than I thought it would be, so I just don't get it. Then we have the ingredients for 3 different meals, and none for one complete one. I get so overwhelmed at the store that I have been known to just "abandon ship" in the isle .... put it all back and walk out with nothing.

So my husbands cooks. We eat a lot of spaghetti. And I am okay with that. He knows that if he didn't get food, I would eat whatever bizarre items that were in the pantry and be fine... If he wants real dinner, he makes it for us.