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With a Stay-at-Home Husband, Who Does the Chores?

Dear Bintel Brief:

My husband is taking a few months off from work to write fiction. He’s always felt like writing was his calling, but until now has not had the opportunity to devote more than a few hours a week to writing.

On most weekdays, while I’m at the office, he’s at home writing. I support his commitment to his craft, and believe that he has the talent to succeed as a writer.

My question is this: Can I expect him to contribute more than I do to the household chores — such as cooking, ironing and grocery shopping — since he’s working from home, without pay? Or should I be treat his creative endeavors as if he had a full-time job with compensation?


Joan Nathan responds:

Dear Writer’s Wife:

I’m a writer who works at home, and I also do all the cooking and much of the cleaning and errand-running. I am not alone. I know many, many writers — men and women — who do the same. I find that cooking is a great way to get up from my desk and spend a few minutes getting my literal and figurative juices flowing. Same goes for laundry and ironing.

Writing requires breaks, and even if it’s not going so well for the day, at least you’ll accomplish things around the house. Even running errands provides you something purposeful to do. But take note, this does work best with some organization and planning. I go to a farmer’s market and grocery store once a week, but for something last minute I feel comfortable asking my husband to pick things up on his way home. I also prepare things in advance — soups, piecrusts, etc. — so they’ll be on hand if I don’t want to spend too much of my day doing housework.

If you have a professional housekeeper, you can also ask him or her to help with some of the more labor intensive tasks like peeling potatoes or chopping. I truly believe that taking care of the home is quite in sync with the writer’s lifestyle and I think your husband will, too.

Joan Nathan is the author of numerous cookbooks, including “Jewish Cooking in America” (Knopf, 1994), “Joan Nathan’s Jewish Holiday Cookbook” (Schocken, 2004) and “The New American Cooking” (Knopf, 2005). She is at work on a book about French Jewish cuisine, slated release next fall.

If you have a question for the Bintel Brief, send an email to Questions selected for publication are printed anonymously. New installments of the column are published on Mondays.




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