Q: I do the prep work all season long while my partner relaxes with eggnog. Even if he cooks, I have to clean up after. How do I get him to pitch in?
What else do you want to know, the secret of cold fusion? But seriously, it actually is possible to get your husband to shoulder his share of the load—and you don't have to turn into a taskmaster to get him to. First, spend some time thinking about how you'd like your home to look and feel for the holidays, says Jenny Evans, an executive performance coach and exercise physiologist who helps clients succeed at major undertakings.
"Men and women often have very different expectations," she points out. "Your husband may think that as long as there's food on the buffet table, your holiday party's a success. Meanwhile, you may have a movie in your head about beautiful hors d'oeuvres arranged on platters. You'll end up disappointed if it doesn't turn out like that, but it's not fair if you never communicated your ideals."
So write down the must-haves and the chores they'll entail. Share the list with your husband at the start of the month and map out a timeline together so he has ample warning that his next couple of Saturdays won't be spent topping his score on Grand Theft Auto. Give him a chance to voice his opinions, and be willing to at least hear him out—do you really need to steam-clean the rug, or can you just spot-treat it and vacuum? By the way, divvying up chores means exactly that: Don't just toss him tasks, Evans says. Let him pick, or take turns choosing till everything's claimed. Who knows? Maybe he actually wouldn't mind grocery shopping and having you unload the bags for a change. (He might even buy pre-chopped veggies or some other shortcut you hadn't thought of.) And make it a rule that completing a chore includes cleanup—no dirty counters after baking; no Styrofoam peanuts on the carpet after the tree ornaments are fished out of storage and hung.
Most important, says Hall, put one last thing on your to-do list: something fun to do as a couple in your downtime, like watching a Netflix movie or sharing a bottle of wine after the kids are asleep. It'll help remind you that you're in this together—and together's pretty good after all.