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A Marriage Agreement and Business ContractWhat if a marriage contract also came with a signed agreement stating chore delegation? Some argue it would solve much angst that results from one spouse (usually the wife) taking on the bulk of homemaking and childcare. That stress can very well lead to filing for divorce, hopefully combined with other reasons, since the problem of housework seems more than solvable. Others say the nature of a formal marriage agreement regarding duty responsibilities is overly business-like and controlling. Perhaps striking a balance between a written business agreement and no discussion at all would solve the problem of housework and childcare responsibilities.

The Original Proposal

In 1970, when feminism was burgeoning and housewives were fed up, one lady decided to write a book about the issue. Straightforwardly called, “A Marriage Agreement,” Alix Kates Shulman spells out a detailed contract applicable to marriages suffering from an uneven balance of menial task loads.

Shulman used her own personal situation with her husband to lay out an example to women everywhere. She divided tasks like making meals, running errands, and doing dishes, into fair share holds; she would shuttle kids around during the day, and he would help them with homework at night, for instance.

The lasting question is whether this arrangement sits well with the average couple, let alone whether it works or not. As Emily Matchar describes in her review of the book, “More than 40 years after the essay was published, housework and childcare arrangements are still a huge source of stress for tons of couples…Yet Shulman’s essay is still being mocked as uptight and humorless and absurd.”

Borderline Between Home and Business

The criticism of being “uptight” most likely originates from elements of business entering into the personal, more relaxed space of the home. We expect that kind of daily, list-making management inside the office, and it’s put up with because that’s what all paid work involves. In the home, you do things voluntarily out of love, not merely because someone tells you to, or because it’s part of a binding, written contract you signed in blood.

It seems many people, perhaps especially men, don’t like the idea of a stiff document and schedule that tells them what to do around the house and when. I personally don’t either. The threat of feeling overly controlled and robotic leaves a bad taste in my mouth when it occurs within my personal space of living.

Customized Compromise

Alix Kates Shulman had the best of intentions–to draw attention to the plight of females overworked and frustrated within the home. But perhaps spouses need to make personal agreements on their own, doing what individually works for them in their unique homes. Similar to how sometimes it’s best for a judge to stay out of the divorce process, it’s often best for outside influences like this book to stay out of the marriage. Unless it works for couples, of course. Something tells me that for most couples, though, business and home-life remain separated for good reasons.

How do you feel about the idea of a marriage agreement? Would you sign up?

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