ContractsProf Blog

Editor: Myanna Dellinger
University of South Dakota School of Law

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Warning: Do Not Try This At Home

The WSJ has an interesting story today (subscription required) about the use of contracts (though, perhaps, only metaphorically) in the home. Turns out, contracting is not the most effective device to ensure that the chores get done. The article begins:

Elizabeth Gray wasn't getting anywhere with her husband on a particular parenting issue. Always admiring parents who have the kind of control she's accustomed to having at the office, she finally turned to the kind of tactic that comes in handy at work: a contract.

"I'm a project manager," she says, "so I managed it like a project."

The document was intended to lay out a compromise over the couple's one source of friction. She valued her boys doing chores while her stay-at-home husband was more permissive. So, the document attempted to close the gap, including "Whereas" resolutions stating that consistency is important in parenting and that the boys would get the same answer from both of them, she recalls. She would have quoted the two-and-a-half page contract verbatim but, after they negotiated it last July, she ripped it up in a fit of frustration when she felt her husband breached the agreement by December.

"It was an abject failure," she says.

The moral: just because you are the boss at work doesn't mean you'll be the boss at home. (Also: what were the remedies for breach?) One CEO told the WSJ:

"The whole economic system shifts, from capitalism at work to communism at home." If metrics existed for the family as they do for business, "you're measuring gross family happiness and yours doesn't count more than anyone else's -- and probably less," he says

[Meredith R. Miller]

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