gray socks hanging on a clothesline with a blue sky in the background

Nov 25, 2013 • Ask Alexa • 355 Views    No Comments

Dear Alexa,

My husband and I both work, so we try to divide the chores as equally as possible. I am in charge of my laundry as well as the kids. My husband is in charge of his laundry (both doing and putting away.) Lately, he has been taking a long time to do his laundry and his socks have been very, very stinky. Should I do his laundry?

Sincerely,
Stressed Spouse


Stressed Spouse, being a woman myself, I know what you are thinking, “What would men do without us?” And though this question is valid, fortunately there is an easy solution to the problem you are facing. While it may seem like you and your husband are currently splitting up the household tasks of doing your personal laundry and taking care of the kids in order to be efficient, it sounds like you and your husband have not taken comparative advantage into account.

Comparative advantage is the driving force behind specialization, and allows for us to gain from trade by dividing up tasks with others. Specifically, it is when someone can produce something at a lower opportunity cost than another person. So for example, in your case, the product is the completion of the laundry or taking care of the kids, and the cost you and your husband are dealing with is the time you could be spending doing something else. You, on one hand, seem to be incredibly adept at speedily getting laundry done and still having time for your young children. On the other hand, it is clear that this is not the case for your husband. In economic terms, this might imply that you have the absolute advantage in both doing laundry and taking care of your children. This means that you can complete these tasks at a lower opportunity cost than your husband can. Now I know what you might be thinking, “If I can do both tasks at a lower opportunity cost, then why don’t I just do both tasks myself?” Although that seems like the easy answer, it is actually not the solution you are looking for.

That being said, my advice to you is to find something your husband is much quicker at and trade him! Maybe your husband is better at caring for the children, or perhaps he is extremely skilled at walking the dog. Whatever it is, you would both benefit more if you performed the tasks that “cost” you less. This would leave you both with more family time, and maybe even put an end to your husband’s stinky socks. I know men can just seem so helpless at times, but hopefully this advice will help. Good luck and I hope to hear from you again!

- Alexa

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