Creating a Domestic God

Getting men to help with housework and the kids is not only a battle of the sexes, it's a battle of wills. Before things reach boiling point, try employing these tactics to help bring out the domestic god in your husband.

1) Roster Him On
Before you begin "the chat", pick your time and place. Try talking on neutral ground, rather than in a kitchen laden with dirty dishes, and at a time when you are both calm and in a positive mood, says US psychologist Dr Joshua Coleman, the author of the Lazy Husband: How To Get To Do More Parenting And Housework. "Raise the topic with your partner and ask if it is a good time. If he says no - which he has a right to - ask when in the next week would be a good time." says Dr Coleman.

Say you'd like to talk briefly about the division of labour in the house. And try not to criticise. Dr Coleman suggests opening with: "I really appreciate that you're [positive trait]. I'm wondering if we could brainstorm a way to share more of the housework because I've been feeling really exhausted lately."

The trick is to be flexible and open to his input. When it comes to rostering, it's best to get him to commit to doing as much as possible because it's likely there will be some slippage on this part over time. Sit down together and write a list of all of the things each of you do. In black and white, your list will almost certainly be longer.

Ask him which tasks he'd be willing to take on. Try to keep it playful, positive and upbeat. Then thank him for taking the time to talk about it - you shouldn't have to, but it works better if you do.

Once a roster is in place, try to hold quick weekly meetings about how things are going and what needs to be done to prevent resentment building up.

2) Adjust Your Standards
Monitoring and criticising the quality of this housework, redoing tasks, or refusing his offers of help are sure-fire ways to prevent him from even attempting to pitch in.

Many women feel guilty if they're not being superwives. As a result, they might have a harder time giving clear messages. They get their partners to agree to do something and then do it for him before he has a chance to do it himself. Women are generally more houseproud than men. Don't assume your standards are the right ones for both of you.

3) Let Dad Be Dad
Of course it feels like you're the expert in child-rearing - you've done it more intensively than he has. But you're more likely to gain aco-pilot in uniform-ironing and hair-plaiting if you lose your "expert" cap.

This is especially important when couples first become parents. Give him time alone with the children (without instruction). Men who get involved in parenting in the beginning stay much more involved with the kids and the housework.

Men don't always parent in the same way as women. They often encourage more risk-taking behavior, don't respond as quickly to children's distress and are often more strict. Try to see these as differences, rather than rights or wrongs. The more your husband feels valued as a parent and respected by you, the more involved he'll want to be.

4) Work On Your Relationship
This is the fun part, one that will make you happy in a way a spotless kitchen never can. Work harder at becoming closer to your partner, and watch the knock-on effects flow. Men do much more parenting and housework when they feel close to their parners. Give voice to what you like, love, admire or value in him.

Once way to nurture a united front regarding the housework is to do some together. Why not alternate changing the bedding your way with his. And if he's not home at scheduled sheet-changing time, it won't hurt to leave them unchanged until he is.

5) Offer Praise
When your recalcitrant partner starts falling into line, say things such as, "I really appreciate you emptying the bin without me reminding you - that meant a lot to me."

The happiest marriages are those in which men participate equally in child-rearing and household tasks. So if all else fails, mention the research of Dr John Gottman at the University of Washington - it shows husbands who help more with household tasks enjoy a better sex life with their wives.

perhaps that statistic is all you need to swing him into mop-wielding, dish-cleaning and nappy-changing action.

The (new) Rules
If your new housework arrangements are taking a little while to kick in, consider a new approach.

"It is more effective to have a sense of humour and not to go in with all guns blazing"

"Say something like, 'Hmm, you said you were going to do the laundry and it's not done. What's the plan?."

"Get him to re-commit. If he says he will and still hasn't done it in a few days, revisit the matter - this time a little more firmly. Say 'So. the laundry still ins't done. I know you don't like nagging but you're putting me in a tough position here. if I don't nag, it doesn't get done. If I do nag, we're both unhappy. What's the solution?'

"Put it on him to give a solution. Then assume this will take time to work out. And don't become discouraged if it doesn't fall into place quickly."

By Karen Heinrich