Thursday, May 17, 2012
Sharing Responsibilities in the Household
Photo from Photo Bucket.
The late, great Erma Bombeck once wrote about how, when her husband retired, he tried to help her out by rearranging her kitchen to make it more efficient. Rather than being helpful, he drove her to distraction and she wanted him out of her kitchen!
I'm not here to complain about husbands, or their helpfulness around the house. Quite the contrary. I'm thrilled for help, anywhere in the house. Sometimes though, the help adds to the work: spices left on the sink after use, onions too near my sink to get things accomplished, and perhaps the biggest "sin" of all, leaving a cast iron skillet filled with water. That last one is a particular no no for me. My cast iron skillets are the workhorses of my kitchen and I take care to keep them in top shape.
I'm not the most organized person in the house, that much is obvious. I can't rightly fuss at my husband for leaving spices out when I'm behind on a few chores around the house. I don't want to, anyway because it makes him defensive and less likely to volunteer to cook. Like most humans he tends to get a little defensive when I even say things such as "While i appreciate your help in this, I'd l'd like it better if you did that." I'm not sure there is a way to get the message across without hurt feelings so for now I'll zip it and (try to) lead by example in how I want my kitchen to be run.
See? I'm kind of a perfectionist there, huh? I'm trying to ease my grip on that, but my kitchen is small, as is the rest of the house, and the place can get cluttered up very easily.
But do we as women take on too much of the household load, even those who work outside the home? While we know that it is a good idea to delegate some things, we end up doing most if not all of it ourselves. Why? We think this is what is expected of us as women, and besides, no one else can do it the right way (translated: our way. Even if we let the kids or The Hubby help, what do we do? We go right behind them, redoing the job that was just done. And we complain about it out loud or we steam about it, right?
Organizer Julie Morganstern teaches this about delegation: If someone else can get it done better than you, faster than you, or just as good, let them. That's really good advice. Even full time homemakers can and should delegate some of the work. Face it, we're not here sitting at the computer all day pinning recipes and crafts on Pinterest and chatting on Facebook all day while stuffing our faces with chocolate. At least, not all day. Some of us home teach our children (aside from reading to them, singing to them, toilet training, and all those other things we do without once thinking we aren't qualified to teach), planning and cooking meals, running errands, cleaning the house, and taking the kids to appointments and activities. And some of us have home businesses that also take our time. Not allowing the kids (and the husband) to help out because they get in the way, they need to be kids and not worry about such things, they can't do it good enough to suit you, or "its my job" leads to Helpless Husband syndrome and Helpless Child syndrome.
What happens if you're away on business, or you end up in the hospital for a few days, or heaven forbid, you die? Who will do all those things you do? Most likely the real scenario is your child will move on to college, coming home only when they've run out of things to wear and expect mom to do the laundry while they run off to visit friends. Teach them when they are young that everyone must pull together to keep the house clean and running smoothly. A four year old can make her own bed once you show her and help her the first few times. Sure, it's not going to be perfectly neat at first, but praise her efforts and resist the temptation to remake it. A two year old can pick up his toys and put them away, especially if you already have an organizational plan in place. Simple dollar store bins with pictures and labels can allow him to know where to put the legoes and where the toy guns belong.
Have the whole family work together in the kitchen. Depending on age and development the children can set and clear the table, wash the dishes (or load the dishwasher, and help prepare the meal, leading up to them learning to plan and cook a meal by themselves. Even if its just you and your husband, team up and have one cook while the other acts as sous chef, chopping veggies, putting away the ingredients as they are used. Use this time to reconnect.(This will also help avoid the frustration of discovering a cast iron skillet filled with water.) Part of our jobs as mothers is to teach the children, both female and male, to take care of themselves as they eventually leave the nest.
I will admit I've been a little slack in teaching J some skills. It's been easier to let him do his own thing instead of showing him how to set the table or wash plates. I want him to be as independent as possible yet I forget he isn't totally helpless. He is capable of learning to do things himself. He may even learn to cook some things, with supervision. That one will take some work, however.
What are some ways that you teach your children homemaking/self help skills?