Monday, January 26, 2015

Parenthood – Week 87: The Insensitivity Of Keeping Score

Many relationship experts warn couples to not “keep score.” The idea is that a relationship should not be based on who did what and when. While I agree with this advice in general, it’s not always a bad thing to keep score.

 It’s not unreasonable to ask your wife to cook dinner if you have been cooking dinner for the past two nights. When it comes to splitting up chores and house-hold duties a certain level of accountability is helpful in making sure that there is a level of equity within the relationship. At the same time one should not be so strict and dogmatic about chores to the point that it causes unreasonable amounts of tension in a relationship.

Sometimes get lazy and don’t do the dishes when it is our turn and our partners clean them for us. Yes, it is annoying when people slack off, but in general it’s usually not that big a deal and it’s not worth getting into a fight over if its not an everyday occurrence. Part of being caring and in a partnership is doing things when its not your turn, to be nice and to help out.  Dishes can wait, yes, they get gross, but they can wait, and no one really suffers. However, if someone is being lazy and doesn’t want to do the chore of letting the dog out to go potty, there is very real suffering occurring and the same thing goes for changing diapers.

Feeding Buffy, taking her out for walks, cleaning up after accidents when she was a puppy and cleaning up Buffy when she is sick are all chores that have to be done in a timely way. While it’s a good plan to split up these chores and responsibilities, when the time comes for one of these things to be done, they have to be done, regardless of whose turn it is to take care of the dog. It’s cruel and selfish to let your dog suffer for you and your partner’s lack of communication and ego.

When we first got Buffy, I was working from home. I took care of her during the day and Diana took care of her in the afternoons and evenings when she got home from work. We felt that house-training was very important, so even though it was sometimes Diana’s turn to take Buffy out, if it was clear that she needed to go out, I took her myself.  In return, Diana has always been willing to pitch in to clean up after Buffy regardless of whether it was her “turn.” It was really that whole house-training process that really solidified in my mind that we had to do things for Buffy in a timely way or else she would suffer. We couldn’t let keeping score get in the way of her care.

Now there are diaper changes, spills, feedings, comforting, tooth brushing, and many things that Ollie needs from Diana and me. Since the day Ollie was born we have discussed and continue to discuss how we split up attending to Ollie’s needs. This agreement changes on a monthly, sometimes weekly basis. At the core of this is the understanding that things need to get done. We do the best we can to do our share, but sometimes one of us does more than the other because of circumstances and we try to balance it things out later if we can.

It is vital that our relationship has a level equity and fairness, but more important that this we have two lives, Buffy and Ollie in our care. While we strive to make sure that we keep the score even, when it comes to taking care of our kids, we need to keep in mind that we aren’t playing against each other. We are on the same team and every time one of us scores, we all benefit.

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