I have a friend named “Melanie” who feels overburdened by all of the things she has to do to manage the household. Recently, she has felt so overwhelmed that she has simply shut down. She feels that she has little time to spend playing with her family and even less time to explore her individual interests.
Some members of the extended family frequently reinforce the idea that it is the mother’s job to keep a perfect household and sacrifice to meet everyone’s needs. As a result, Melanie has become placed in a role where everything must be perfect or she is found lacking – by the extended family, by herself, by her husband, and by her children.
She has a very low self esteem and rarely looks for avenues of expressing herself as an individual. Recently we had a conversation about her role in the household and came up with several considerations that maybe you could benefit from as well.
I think there are more women that strive for unattainable perfectionism than accept their limitations. We tend to look hardest at where we are lacking and what we have been unable to accomplish. Some are able to build their self esteem back up by remembering their positive impact, their unique talents, and the milestones they have achieved, but many more seem to always find the scale tipped a little or a lot to the negative side.
If you have a family living in the house with you, the most important thing that I think you need to remember is that they contribute to any untidiness and disorganization in the house. You should feel guilt free about asking them for help.
I am always amazed at the need some people have to try to do it all themselves. I know I do not have the strength of mind and body to manage it alone. Even if you are a stay-at-home mother and feel it is your job and duty to take care of the house, aren’t you are still taking care of the house when you partner with another family member or delegate to get a task done? The result is the same. You have taken care of the house by making sure a task was accomplished.
Some of the most memorable conversations I had with my parents when I was growing up occurred when I was helping them with some chore. Some of the most bonding moments I have had with my husband and children have been when we were undertaking projects together. Often trying, but bonding none the less.
When you do a task alone, it usually takes more time to do. The more time you take in doing the task is less time you have to play with your family. Work together then play together. Doing both will strengthen the relationships.
Even toddlers are capable of doing more than you might think and they love being “Mommy’s little helper”. They will make mistakes, they will make messes, but they will be learning and spending time with you. Don’t wait for naptime or encourage TV time. Let them make the mistakes and messes so they do not later develop a need for perfectionism. Encourage each of their attempts for the goodness of trying (and do so for your own).
And the older kids, they have to learn these life skills somewhere. It is just as much your job and duty to make sure that they have those life skills. You might be surprised what normally tight lipped teenagers will suddenly start sharing with you when you have their hands busy and their minds distracted.
And as for husbands, if you start the request with, “I need your help with…” you will be surprised how often they will come through without complaint. After all, if it is your job to take care of the house, it is more likely than not that they see their job as being the strong man coming to the rescue. (Isn’t in their nature to want to fix everything and everyone?) Please, do not tell them what to do and do not just ask them to do it. Let them perceive themselves as white knights coming to your aid, helping you with a task. Be careful though and do not over do this, men need to be needed, but you do not want them to think you are helpless either.
On the chance that you are the husband reading this article, I know that what encourages me to do something is just as often the same line that works for you guys. I want to be needed, too, I want to help, and I want to be asked not told.
Also don’t forget to take a minute at the end of a task to admire the result out loud and then to say, “Thank you” to the person assisting. I like to be praised and appreciated, don’t you? They will, too. Consider your job not as a sole doer, but as a manager with part-time coworkers, a teacher, and as a help-mate.
One of the things that they tell you when you are first getting on a plane, is in case of an emergency, put your own oxygen mask on before assisting others. In our everyday lives, we have to look for ways to take care of ourselves and then make ourselves do it. If we do not take care of ourselves, we soon become too weak (on many levels) to take care of our loved ones.
No one is perfect. There is always going to be someone higher and someone lower than you on any scale you select to judge yourself on. Even the very best and the very worst find themselves in the position for a small amount of time before someone comes along to claim those titles. I wish we could each find our own baselines and strive to make them better tomorrow simply because it makes us feel good to reach the next level. No judging, no comparisons, just personal growth and that excitement that comes from making small accomplishments.
Thank you for taking the time to read this long post. If you have anything that you could add, please leave a comment. “Melanie” knows that I am writing about this today and would love to hear your thoughts and encouragement just as much as I would.