The first book I get to review for the Tyndale Blog Network is Kathy Peel's The Busy Copule's Guide to Sharing the Work & the Joy. Tyndale House Publishers provided me a complimentary copy of the book to review.
In getting to do my first review, I had the choice of two items, this book or a DVD set on Christmas and helping the homeless. Both sounded interesting, and the latter is more directly related to my blog. However, when I saw the advertising line, "Are you married to your housekeeping opposite?" I knew this was the book I should get.
You see, my wife and I often comment how we are essentially housekeeping opposites: I like things a lot cleaner than she does. And it leads to a lot of fights. So I thought this would be a good opportunity to both do a review and better our relationship.
Content-wise, the book is solid. I may actually reference it in the future for therapy clients. I like how Peel emphasizes that we spend a lot of time on many compatibility issues in relationships, but ignore housekeeping, and yet that breaks up a lot of marriages. I would agree with that. It is often the little things that nag us and bring a couple farther apart. And it's the little things that bring people closer. So it is an important issue to address, and Peel does a nice job normalizing the struggles and looking for practical solutions. In many Christian traditions, we often say that if you find the right spouse and try hard enough, the relationship will just work. As one of my friends and I have discussed, it's rarely that simple, and this book does a nice job of addressing that.
Martial problems due to housekeeping differences or other things are not due to spiritual or relationship deficiencies.
I also like how Peel is not prescriptive in how tasks should be assigned. She actually asserts that chores should not be determined by tradition, but rather by time and talent. I think this is really important and emphasizes a more egalitarian perspective. The problem is when a certain chore does not really fall into anyone's time or talent (I don't think the toilet is high on anyone's list). But Peel is practical and even has a website with downloadable worksheets that can help a family determine what needs must be met and their priorities.
She also recommends couples sit down and address what their respective norms were growing up and trying to compromise to create a new norm. There's even a worksheet for that. This is a psychologically sound practice that is frequently used in other areas of a relationship, but I do not remember hearing this be applied to housekeeping very often. So major kudos to Peel.
The use of technology through the website and even recommending iPhone apps that are applicable is excellent. Peel does a great job of being practical and making a lot of suggestions so that the reader that find what is most helpful.
Now to the negatives. The book is labelled "A Couple's Guide." The problem is the content is really not aimed at the couple, but rather the wife in a heterosexual relationship with kids. I did not realize this when I chose this book to review. Peel even says this book is meant to be a companion to The Busy Mom's Guide to a Happy, Organized Home. And then there's a subtitle on the book, stating "with advice for men from Bill Peel."
That just made me groan when I opened up the package with book and saw that. I thought, "Great, another book emphasizing and oriented toward gender traditionalism in which the woman is neat and the man is a slob." These kinds of comments alienate men who are the neat ones or even couples who do not yet have children. At the same time, the content is solid. The "advice" from Bill Peel is really not gender-specific. If they could have taken out the specific references to make it oriented to mothers, the book would probably have much larger marketability.
Perhaps the mother crowd is the biggest audience, but if I saw the book in the bookstore with the men advice line, I probably would not purchase it. Yet the book would help. I have not gotten to practice the suggestions yet (I want my wife to read it, too, although she doesn't know it yet :) ), but I think they are solid, useful ideas.
If you are married to your housekeeping opposite, this book is very useful. If you're in a gender traditional marriage and have kids, it'll be great. Otherwise, you'll have to overlook a few words (really not a big deal) and just have faith there are other couples like you out there.