If you’re vague about chores, I’ll be vague about doing chores

A letter that is not wrong to Captain Awkward:

Dear Captain,

Every year I go on holiday in a cottage somewhere with the same group of 10 people. It’s lovely and a really important chance to catch up with old friends I don’t see enough. But every year I end up resenting the half of them who don’t pull their weight with the chores.

Not all of us are decent cooks, and it seems perfectly reasonable that only the people who are good at it cook dinners. And we have a “you cooked, so you don’t have to clear away after dinner” rule. But that’s only a tiny fraction of the cleaning that goes on during the week. We also need to load the dishwasher at several other points in the day, do the shopping, plan what we’re going to do, keep tidying things away, organise the holiday itself… All of this emotional and logistical labour and the majority of the cleaning/ cooking is done by the same small group of people.

As you might have guessed, there’s a strong correlation between gender and whether or not people do their share, although it’s not clear cut. My (male) other half is one of the cleaners, and one of the worst shirkers recently came out as non binary, so I don’t want to make a thing of the gender issue as it isn’t as simple as just the women doing the work and the men avoiding it.

I have in the past said something like “it feels like the same people do the majority of the chores, partly because a lot of it isn’t noticeable unless it doesn’t get done, so please be aware of whether you’re doing enough”. This has increased the amount of chores the shirkers do slightly, but not to their fair share, and it hasn’t changed the balance of emotional/ logistical labour. It also resulted in one of the shirkers hiding in a corner not talking to anyone for a couple of hours. (They’re in bad mental health and will do this occasionally throughout the week).

Policing other people’s chore is a) annoying and b) yet more emotional labour I don’t want to do. I’ve tried just not doing the chores, but this results in them not getting done until one of the people who already does too much work does them.

Lots of my thinks this is just one week a year and I should just deal with it and not make a scene or sit there stewing when half the group aren’t contributing. But I’m really pissed off by the injustice of it, especially given the gender divide. And as a friend, I also think my heterosexual male friends are much more likely to have happy romantic relationships if they learn how to divide labour more equitably.

Any advice?

I Am Not Your Mother
(She/ her pronouns)

It’s great that you’re the standards police among your friends! Could you imagine what life would be like if they only had their own standards? Better if you watch them and constantly feel like you’re not doing enough on these vacations. I hear you. You’re uncomfortable around people who don’t know the standards that your parents trained you to do. Their parents trained them wrong. Your parents trained you right. It’s just that simple.

It sounds like the cooking and dinners rule works. Rules work. I like how the other needs such as shopping, planning, and tidying aren’t rules. They’re perfect for lazy people like me who never heard of these rules. Then I can do whatever I want. This is perfect for me as I rely on people like you who thinks it’s labor to what you want. You’d literally rather do actual labor and worry about it for months than just say “Here’s what I think we should do and when on our vacation. Does that work for you?”

Luckily, you’re the police and ignorance of the law is not an excuse! So you try not doing chores – since talking is hard – and now other people *gasp* do the chores. Seems like you’ve joined my side in doing nothing. You don’t like watching other people do things unless it’s fair by your arbitrary standard.

You told people to “be aware”. That’s all you can do. I’ve noticed in society that if we ask people to become aware without any specific action, that totally works.

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