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In my post from two weeks ago I discussed the idea of cross-training for domestic labor. (This reminds me, I still haven’t taken the actions I assigned myself at the end of the post…).

Another reason we cross-train in the workplace is so that it’s possible to reallocate tasks between members of a team. So if a colleague has too much on their plate, another can take up something they both know how to do.

Because dishes are a fairly simple task, they can work that way, too. If a heterosexual couple has a new baby, Dad can’t do half the breastfeeding, but he can try to partially compensate by doing the dishes (and lots of other work, too). Or let’s say one person has to prepare for an important meeting or presentation, or grade a huge pile of exams., or whatever. Other members of the household may not have the skills and knowledge to help with those tasks, but they can do the dishes even if it wouldn’t normally be their turn.

Both at home and in the workplace, having someone offer to do something for you has benefits beyond the time it frees up; it can also raise the spirits of the person receiving the help, giving them the comfort of knowing that they’re not alone.

I think the key, though, is it needs to be a two-way street. Maybe next week the member of the household who was offering to do extra work will be the one who is overwhelmed and needs help.

And all of that requires, you guessed it, negotiation and coordination.