I am a wife. I have a husband. I homeschool my kids. They make messes. I make messes. My husband makes messes. We mostly eat at home. We wear clothes. Stuff needs to get done. I don’t always have enough time to get it all done. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed.
However, I have found that if asked nicely, the people in my house will work with me (especially the other big grown up person) to get some of the things done. Now, keep in mind, switching up Lincoln’s saying “I can get all of the things done some of the time, and I can get some of the things done all of the time, but I cannot get all of the things done all of the time.”
So, on the pregnancy message boards and the Facebook, I read a lot of how people’s husbands just sit around and don’t help out. These husbands are labelled as extra children, lazy, worthless, stupid. blind, and numerous other things. On particularly vicious rants, women are urged to leave these guys who have the audacity not to help out around the house.
Having a counselor background, I’ve read a lot of marriage books, and I want to introduce a not-new, not-original way to get a little more help around the house if you need it.
First, what does NOT work is sarcasm, nagging, and other mean-spirited dialogue. “Gee, it sure would be nice to have some help around here sometimes.” “I’ve asked you at least five times to take out this garbage!” “Looks like I’m the only one around here who can find the laundry basket.” Let’s stop it right now, ladies.
If someone talked to you like this, you would have zero motivation to help them out at all. Especially, if this person is your equal. In fact, you might find perverse satisfaction in actually making a bigger mess just to mess with them.
What works, first of all, is relationship. When you have invested in your husband (or kids), he (or they) are much more likely to want to work with you on the common goal of not living in a pigsty. How do you invest in your husband?
- Ask him about his day.
- Do something that he likes with him.
- Give him some time and space for a hobby.
- Tell him about your day.
- Give him a hug.
- Tell him that you appreciate him.
- Give him a smooch when he leaves for/comes home from work.
- Buy him a special treat or make him a nice dinner.
- Tell him he looks good.
- Send him a text or a message on Facebook to let him know you’re thinking about him.
Basically, give him some of your attention, do the things that you like for him. Whatever he liked when you were dating, he’ll probably still like. This is about making your relationship good. When your relationship is good, you are better able to address being overwhelmed with household stuff. Give it some time, and get a solid foundation going in your marriage. Plan a date night, enjoy each other. There are times when this is more difficult (sick kids, aging parents, new babies, big transitions like moving or a new job), however, it’s still usually possible to take some time just listening to your guy.
After you have established your relationship and made your guy realize how important he is to you, the next step is to ask for help. It goes something like this: “Hey guys, I would like to clean up the kitchen after supper. Can you help me out?” They will most likely say “yes,” although somewhat reluctantly. Now, if you stop here, everyone will sort of meander around the kitchen after dinner, the kids will mess around, and what you need done may or may not get done. So, after people say yes and get done with dinner, assign a job. “Honey, can you put away the leftovers and wipe the counters while I wash the dishes?” “Kids, can you wipe the table and chairs so they aren’t sticky?” “Fido, can you lick up that meat sauce from the floor?”
Ok, so you have your help. The jobs have gotten done . . . kind of. The table still has some crumbs, your husband didn’t throw away the junk mail when he cleared the counters, etc. So, what do you do? Well, unless the queen is showing up for tea tomorrow, you thank your helpers. (If the queen is coming, I give you permission to either hire Merry Maids or go all drill sergeant on your family until it’s clean enough. But only for the queen, not your mother-in-law.)
Some imperfect help is better than no help. If you’re dealing with kids, you can do some training with them to show them how to get the job all the way done. If you’re dealing with your husband who has been helping for a while, and he is missing something; first, let him know how much you appreciate his help, then ask if he can also clear the mail when he does the counters or wash out the sink when he is done with the dishes. Nothing kills cleaning enthusiasm like a drill sergeant. I know because, on occasion, I have specialized in being one, and it only made me crazy. So, don’t do it. Stop it. Be thankful, and offer some suggestions to make it better. They REALLY don’t see the mess like you do, but they will if you keep your cool, and let them know what you need.
So, really, this plan has three steps. To get the help you need around the house so that your don’t go insane:
1. Be nice to your husband (family), love on them and get to know them (because sometimes those husbands go and change on you)
2. Ask nicely for help. “Can you do X for me?”
3. Thank him (them)
Should you have to ask them for help? Shouldn’t the see the mess? Shouldn’t they know what needs to be done? Can’t they see that you are struggling? The woman in me says “no” “yes” “yes” and “they should”, but the realist in me says that they really do not have the same perspective as you, so at the end (or the beginning) of the day, their goals and yours may be entirely different. If you need the help, then you need to ask for it. Then, maybe, someday they will do this automatically. I make no guarantees, though. This is what it is to be a keeper at home. We keep stuff how it should be.
As a disclaimer, I also want to say that I fail at this sometimes. I get very exasperated at people who have been asked multiple times to do things, but still figure out other things to do. But, I’m not telling you what I always do, I’m telling you what works when I do it. I feel for the exhausted mommies. I am a bit of one myself after being up with a cold last night. Just remember, at the end of the day, it’s step one that is the most important. If you have done nothing else today but build a better relationship with your husband and kids, you have done a big job indeed.
Now, if you were here, I would give you a hug and maybe a cup of cocoa, but instead I’m just going to ask if you’ve tried the magical solution of asking nicely and how it worked for you?