Alma and Ronald Brown first discussed divvying up household responsibilities shortly after their marriage 18 years ago.

"We were having a small party," recalls Alma, "and Ron said 'I'll vacuum if you do the dishes.' It's been that way ever since, with both of us pitching in to do whatever has to be done."

The Browns have two teen-age children, a large home off 16th Street in Northwest and two high-powered jobs. She directs the women's opportunities program for the National Council of Negro Women and he is deputy campaign manager for Edward Kennedy and chairman of the Board of Trustees of the University of the District of Columbia.

When it comes to household management, says Ronald, "Our philosophy is flexibility and trying not to get uptight or overreact if everything isn't perfect.

"I don't think things should be so structured that each person feels a certain task is their legal responsibility. In our house, things kind of evolved, with the understanding that the work was to be shared, depending some on preference and skill and time."

Since Ron is "an excellent cook," according to Lama, he prepares large weekend breakfasts and occasional party meals. On weekdays each person "catches their own breakfast (cereal, donuts) and lunch (purchased at work or school)." Alma prepares dinners, often in a crockpot.

Grocery shopping is usually Alma's job. "When Ron and Mike (their 15-year-old) go, they spend a lot of money."

They eat out at least once a week, and "carry in" chicken or Chinese food if no one's had the time to plan for dinner.

Laundry is done by "whoever is downstairs or needs a piece of clothing," says Alma, admitting that Ron does most of it. "His shirts go to the cleaners, and he usually takes them in and picks them up."

"I like to have the downstairs straight in case someone drops in," she adds, noting that a once-weekly housekeeper does heavy cleaning. "Our bedrooms are usually messy. We have comforters, so making the bed only takes a minute. If it's going to get made I do it, but we have pretty sheets, so if it doesn't it's okay."

One reason Alma chose not to nurse her children when they were small was "so Ron could share the 2 (a.m.) feeding," she says. "When I was away on business, he'd get them up, comb their hair and get them breakfast."

Today she's usually the first one called if they get sick at school, and is more likely to stay home with them if they're ill. They try to go to PTA meetings together.