Ladies, let’s talk about your role in the home…
It’s International Women’s Day and I wanted to mark the occasion by blogging about something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately. In a nutshell, what I want to discuss is the split of household chores in the home. Stay with me. I’ve been doing some research and I have some insight for the women out there who take on over half the responsibility of running the family home. My guess is that this applies to most of you?
A couple of years ago I read a brilliant article in Psychologies Magazine about who is carrying the ’emotional labour’ in your relationship. ‘Emotional labour’ involves all the tasks such as remembering birthdays, sending cards, prepping for visits from guests etc. These are things that take time and mental effort, but can go unnoticed. And guess what, these things tend to fall with women too.
A bit of a disclaimer before I really get into it – this is not a man-bashing blog post where I moan about how little my husband does around the home and how all men are lazy!
A couple of weeks ago I was experiencing a genuine frustration. I felt like I was doing everything in the home. My husband was coming home from work and doing exactly as he pleased without a care in the world. This was starting to get to me since I’m working full time and working on my coaching business outside of that. I knew I needed some advice about how to tackle this and nip it in the bud. I mean, this is before we have children in the equation which will add a whole new layer to things!
I turned to the wonderful Psychologies Life Leap forum on Facebook which is a closed group and full of other Psychologies ambassadors like myself and subscribers to the magazine. It’s a wonderful community so I was hoping I’d get some real nuggets of wisdom. I was not disappointed. In fact, I couldn’t believe the response I had. It was a very hot topic.
Each year it feels like women are getting seen and heard that little bit more in society and the workplace which is so fantastic. I can’t help thinking though that we are still several steps behind when it comes to women’s roles in the home. I think it all comes down to social conditioning.
My husband grew up with a lovely mum who did lots for him so he never had to fend for himself and that’s why it’s not his go-to approach to be super helpful around the home. I’m not saying there is anything wrong in that. His mum is just doing what her mum did and making sure everyone is cared for and looked after.
Just like my husband has been conditioned, so have I. I grew up seeing my mum work hard in her career and keep the home running, making sure everything was ‘just so’ when we had guests to stay.
Let me be clear, when I felt these frustrations around household responsibilities I took 100% responsibility for this situation. In fact, the response I got from the Psychologies Life Leapers, on the whole, confirmed that I am just as much a part of the problem.
So what can be done?
The role of the enabler
If you’re a woman and you’re doing most of the household work ask yourself this question – are you an enabler? I certainly know I am and I’ll hold my hands up to that. I do it at home, I even do it at work and I need to change this pattern. I enable my husband to live a care-free existence in the home. I take charge, I rarely ask for help and, in a way, I enjoy taking on the caring, nurturing role. The flip-side is that when I have lots of other ‘hats’ I’m wearing I can resent this role I’ve taken on and then play the martyr. I see myself doing it and it drives me mad.
I know my husband isn’t going to turn into Mary Poppins overnight (and nor would I want that) but I can change my approach.
Since getting all that helpful advice in the Facebook group I’ve made a couple of tweaks to my approach in the home. So much of all this boils down to my constant striving for perfection. I know a lot of women will relate to that. Someone in the group suggested ‘lowering my standards’ and that was something that initially made me break out in a cold sweat. I then considered it and tried it out.
I’ve become a little less concerned with everything being in its place over the last couple of weeks. I’d normally have everything neat and tidy 99.9% of the time but is it really that important? If I’m honest, to me it is quite important because in my eyes, ‘a tidy home is a tidy mind’ but I can definitely ease up a bit. Yesterday I didn’t even bother putting my used cereal bowl and mug in the dishwasher and my husband jokingly pulled me up on it (he does see mess, who knew?!)
By loosening my grip on everything being ‘perfect’ I am being kinder to myself and allowing my efforts to go elsewhere. Striving for perfection is pointless. I do know that deep down, and that’s why I try to pull myself up when I find myself trying to do everything ‘perfectly’.
I am very open with my husband and even told him all about the great advice I had on this topic. I am not sure he was that interested, but it’s important to speak about these things or else it breeds resentment.
By starting the conversation it gave us the chance to really look at how we split things and who takes responsibility for what. He likes cooking, so why not let him take on that task a couple of nights a week? He’s never going to offer it because he sees me ‘taking charge’ and as I’ve said, it’s not how he’s been conditioned, but I can change my approach and simply ask for help.
Men and women are different. That’s a positive fact of life but I really hope that, as time goes on, there is going to be some tweaks in how we condition our children. That’s where is all begins.
There is work to be done on both sides for sure but my overriding feeling about all this is that the responsibility of making any kind of change lies with me. We can’t change others, we can only change ourselves. Yes, my husband has to meet me halfway but that will only happen if I tweak my approach and work on how I am showing up in the home.