Don’t Let Housework Hurt Your Relationships
Inside: It’s normal to feel frustrated, even angry when you don’t get the help you want around the house… but it doesn’t need to hurt your relationships.
The other night, as I was setting out clothes to wear the next morning, I caught myself smiling when I grabbed a pair of jeans off the shelf in my closet.
You see, the jeans were folded the “wrong way” — at least in my opinion.
They were folded the opposite way I fold my pants, so I knew Dave had folded them.
He always folds my pants “wrong”.
As silly as it seems to me now, this bugged me early on in our marriage — after all, how many times had I showed him (and reminded him) how I fold my pants? Not to mention the fact that I always fold his pants HIS WAY.
But at some point over the last 14 years, I realized my husband’s willingness to help out around the house by folding the laundry (or doing any number of household tasks) is WAAAAAAAY more important than if my pants are folded the “right way”.
Now I smile whenever I pull out a pair of freshly washed jeans, pants, shorts, or capris and notice they are folded the opposite way because this means Dave folded them… and he folded them because he loves me.
Similarly, there are countless times throughout the day when the kids pick up after playing a game, doing a craft, or making a massive LEGO creation — and they don’t do it nearly as well as I would do it myself.
Deep down, this bothers me and I’m always tempted to go back and straighten the books on the shelf, put the LEGOs in the “right” bin, and tuck their sheets on the bed so they don’t hang down longer on one side (certainly, I can’t be the only one bothered by sloppy beds!)
However, I know my children are (usually) doing their best to help out around the house.
My Quick Fix:
Instead of grumbling and complaining, or feeling like I’m the “only one who does anything around the house”, I take 5 seconds to reframe my thoughts and focus on the fact that I have 4 amazing kiddos who are trying to pitch in and do their part around the house!
And I can’t help but get a big smile on my face when I find something of Claras in an odd place — knowing she was trying to be organized in her own little toddler way!
I know these examples are REALLY small and insignificant compared to the struggles some of you wrestle with on a daily basis.
I regularly get asked for advice on apathetic spouses, stubborn children, and families who don’t help out around the house (or appreciate the work you do around the house).
I have shared a few helpful tips before… but family dynamics are so different, it’s hard for me to feel confident giving concrete advice as to what will and will not work.
However, one thing I know works is to change myself!
This is NOT to say we should willingly do every little thing around the house or that our family shouldn’t help or show appreciation for the work we do.
It’s simply to state the often overlooked fact that the only person in this whole world we can truly “control” is ourselves.
- We can control our own actions (doing the work even if others aren’t helping).
- We can control our own words (praising instead of condemning or correcting).
- We can control our own thoughts (giving the benefit of the doubt, not jumping to conclusions).
- We can control our own feelings (gratefulness for our family… even if they aren’t always the easiest to live with).
- We can control our own perspective (searching for one tiny positive in a sea of potentially obvious negatives).
- We can control our own expectations (possibly lowering our expectations a bit).
No, it’s not easy!
And in case you think I’m so far ahead of the game because I have this all figure out already — I’m not… and I don’t.
I wrestle with negative actions, words, thoughts, feelings, and perspectives every single day. And my expectations are often too high for myself and my family.
I am nowhere near perfect — neither is Dave and neither are our children.
BUT… I make progress every day, and that’s the best I can do.
The next time you feel frustrated or angry regarding your spouse’s lack of support, your children’s unwillingness to help, or the fact that most of the housework falls on your plate, I challenge you to look at yourself first — your own thoughts, actions, expectations, etc. — and consider if there’s anything YOU can change to view the situation in a more positive light.
In all honesty, you might be TOTALLY justified in your frustrations.
You might have every right to feel sorry for yourself and the fact that you do WAY more around the house than anyone else.
But… will that help your situation?
Does showing your frustration and anger magically entice your spouse to fold the laundry or your kids to willingly pick up after themselves?
Allowing yourself to be angry and resentful will ultimately hurt you and your family. It won’t solve anything, and it could potentially even exacerbate the problem.
On the flip side, your family, your marriage, and your own life will be positively impacted by your efforts to be more positive and encouraging (even if the final outcome isn’t immediately what you hope for.)
In my experience, it’s most helpful to first focus on improving your relationship with your spouse and children.
Of course, this is not to say that just because you have a better relationship, your family will automatically want to help out more around the house! However, if the relationship aspect is there, so many of the other “puzzle pieces” of life will fall into place.
These are a few of my favorite relationship-building books!
As for me…
I told Dave he’s not allowed to fold my pants the “right way” anymore.
I don’t want to miss out on that feeling I get every time I pull out a pair of wrongly-folded pants, knowing he loves me enough to help out with the laundry (and so many other jobs around the house).
It’s YOUR turn…
Instead of wishing your family would be more helpful, what’s ONE way you will change your own thoughts, action, words, perspective, or expectations TODAY?
Feel free to share with me directly if you don’t feel comfortable sharing publicly in the comments.