Making A Game Plan
(It Needn’t Be Carved In Stone)
I know that most people will look at the list below and ask, “C’mon, who does this kind of thing in their marriage?” The answer is, couples that want to be happily married and fight less. If you and your spouse already have a system in place that works for both of you, stick to it. But for many, they are resentful of so many roles they feel they’ve been “forced” into. They want the opportunity to reconsider their roles and how they could better work with their spouse in making their family and lives work smoother.
Consider the exercise below, if even as a tool to just talk with your spouse about the kinds of roles you’ve taken on or agreed to in the past and consider if there could be changes that would help you both.
Creating Your Management System
Step 1: Together, create a general list of areas that need care.
For example: childcare, work, food, clothing (purchasing), housecleaning, home maintenance, financial management, social (calendar arrangement, purchasing gifts), transportation and pet care.
Next, list responsibilities that take place during certain periods of the year: vacations, holidays, birthdays and anniversaries. After you’ve completed your list, write each item on a separate piece of paper as a heading at the top of its own page. You’ll need plenty of room for step 2.
Step 2: List as many duties as you can create under each item.
Yes, it’s time-consuming, but your goal is to be sure you and your spouse understand what is required of each of you. If you only write something general, such as “food,” you may not realize that the category includes making up the shopping list, organizing coupons, going to the store or shopping online, putting groceries away, preparing menus, cooking meals and doing the dishes afterward. The more detailed your list is, the less room you leave for uncertainty and unspoken assumptions (“I thought you were in charge of ____.”)
For example, childcare responsibilities might be divided into general care (feeding, clothing, bathing, haircuts); education (supervising homework, reading with your child, hiring tutors, communication with teachers, yeshiva); healthcare (medical and dental checkups, visits to eye doctors, etc.); extracurricular activities (play dates, sports, music lessons, class trips); family recreation (outings and other activities); and so on. Financial management might include investing, paying bills, balancing the checkbook, doing the income taxes, reading up on investment strategies, meeting with financial planners, organizing receipts, and so on.
Step 3: Place your initials with the number 1 to the left of the specific responsibilities you would most like to be involved in. Place your initials with the number 2 to the left of the items you think you are most capable of handling. Even if you already have your initials and number in the same spot, put your initials there for the second time with the number 2 next to it.
Next, place your initials and the number 3 to the right of any items you feel you are not capable of being responsible for. Finally, place your initials and the number 4 to the right of anything you strongly prefer not having much to do with.
Be honest about your preferences. It’s foolish not to choose an area of responsibility you’re good at because you don’t want to seem “retro,” old-fashioned or stereotypical. Freedom comes from choosing from the heart, not from media messages, the advice of friends and family, or any other barometer.
The two of you are now clear on your preferences and your sense of where each of you could best serve the family union. Begin to discuss which areas you want to temporarily adopt as your own. Start with the areas that you’ve marked with a 1 or a 2, indicating that you would like to be involved in that area and that you also feel capable of handling it. You may even want to break down certain responsibilities even further. Perhaps you would like to be in charge of your children’s Torah schooling while your spouse would be in charge of their secular schooling. Or your spouse will be responsible for math, and you will supervise your child’s writing and science.