Working parents bring to light a divisive and painful issue in their household, which is a common lament.
My husband and I have a combined family. When we first mixed our two families, everyone seemed eager to get along. The kids were mostly cooperative with housework and lawn chores. But now that they’re teenagers, it’s my job to get things done around the house.
I can’t get my husband to participate in discipline or task management. I don’t want to have more resentment than I feel. I am so tired. Please help me master this.
G: Sometimes it takes a near-collapse or a high voice to be heard, and I hope you’re nowhere near that. Before coming up with a structure or expectation of what needs to be done around the house, and by whom, have a private conversation with your husband and let him know what you intend to suggest to teens.
Here are some approaches:
OPTION 1: Start with a to-do list. Divide them between wet and dry tasks, for example, washing the dishes or putting them in the dishwasher – if you have a dishwasher – is a “wet” task; cleaning cat litter is a “dry” task.
Taking out the trash is “dry” while mopping the floor is “wet”. Vacuuming and dusting is “dry” and car oil change is “wet”… you get the idea.
Once you have decided on the list of household chores, as well as how often they should be done, present the list to each of the teens and your husband.
Ask them to choose the chore they will be responsible for.
You can ask them if they’d like the chance to revisit tasks in a month to see who still likes the job in question, or if they’d rather swap with someone else. This way they see they have flexibility and variety in what they will be required to do.
I was introduced to this concept of wet and dry by married friends who had no children. They realized while living together that they naturally preferred one type of job over the other. So they started dividing the tasks by measuring the humidity.
This delineation of duties also prevented them from feeling obligated to remind the other to do their part. It was easy to see what needed to be done, and whether or not the job was their responsibility.
OPTION 2: Consider prioritizing their schoolwork over housework.
This will require you to allocate your time and budget to getting outside help for all the things you and your husband can’t do alone, because when one of your teenagers can’t – or won’t – plan a game of his free time to help.
When my daughter was in elementary school, I explained to her that my job was to bring home the paycheck so that everything flowed in the household in terms of comforts and needs. I told her that her job, and her only job, was to excel in her schoolwork and why that was the most important thing she needed to worry about.
I reinforced that over the years, so that there was total buy-in to the arrangement, with the understanding that she could then go to college and become the doctor she had talked about becoming since the five years old.
What helped make this a positive experience was when she heard from her friends that they couldn’t get together because they had chores to do, and how upset her friends were about that. .
Even though some of her friends received an allowance, perhaps as compensation for helping with household chores, and my daughter did not receive an allowance, my daughter always felt she had a better deal.
If there was an occasion where I actually needed her help with a chore, and she clearly had the time and mental energy to participate, she would do it without changing her attitude.
As a teenager, she learned by watching me how to clean a house, do laundry, cook and clean up after meals, but it was without any pressure or the typical nudge that drives a wedge between parent and child. .
One last favor
On a personal note: Two weeks ago someone I had been counseling for over 20 years passed away. I will call her Miss C. For months, Miss C had been in failing health due to an unexpected terminal diagnosis.
Her ordeal and untimely death have given me many opportunities to consider some of the challenges of dealing with a complex health crisis and the challenges that remain for survivors, beyond coping with grief.
Four days before Miss C died, she contacted me by phone. During the conversation about how she was feeling then and the care she was receiving, she asked me for a favor.
Miss C asked that I reach out to one of her close friends, a woman in her 40s who lives in another state, who was grieving the loss of her husband. Last fall, he died in a freak accident, hit by a truck and killed instantly.
Miss C knew that her own death would be terrible grief for her friend, who was already in deep grief. Miss C felt an extreme sense of guilt for adding to her friend’s suffering, but the more we talked, the more her peace grew knowing that I would be a source of support for her friend.
The thought of a deathbed “favor” is not uncommon and can be one of many signs that a death is imminent. I share this in the hope that those of you who are now with loved ones or friends – who may be in hospice care or dealing with acute and terminal illnesses – are aware of this.
With an increased sense of grief and fatigue that accompanies long caregiving, it is sometimes easy to overlook the “signs”.
Listen to these particularly tender and precious moments of sharing. In this way, your own heart can be comforted in the knowledge that you have provided a place of safe love that will survive grief and loss.
Email Giselle with your question at [email protected] or mail: Giselle Massi, PO Box 991, Evergreen, CO 80437. For more information, visit www.gisellemassi.com