Domestic Burn-Out

bathroom Villeroy&Boch early 1980s

Image via Wikipedia

There’s this great little tradition in my relationship that I really want to reinvent, but I really think I’m going to need some outside help.

When we started our relationship I was 21 and I had just spent several months indulging in personal privacy.  I had 3 room-mates, and shared a bathroom with one, but she was almost never there.  I was in college and having a hard time with the social pressure and just really wanted to focus on being mentally stable, so I decided to do only what I wanted to do.  That included only going to classes when I wanted to, being on whatever schedule I wanted, and generally avoiding my room-mates and feeling like I had the apartment to myself during the day.

I had no problem doing my dishes, making my own meals, cleaning the bathroom and keeping my room cleaned.  I never had a problem finding anything I wanted.

When I moved in with my husband we were staying in his aunt’s house.  We were supposed to be part-time caregivers for her, and we were doing our yoga teacher training.  Her other caregiver was her mom.  I remember when I first moved in, I was jet-lagged for a few days and had odd hours.  I’d eat something late, too tired to wash my dishes, not knowing where things went, not wanting to wake anyone up… in the morning my dish(es) were done.  I noticed this happening all the time, not just my dishes, but my husband’s, and all day long.

Eventually, my husband’s aunt and mom left the house because his great grandma needed to be cared for.  We suddenly had the house to ourselves.  I quickly realized that the person who was doing all the dishes was his Grandma.  I noticed that he wouldn’t close cabinets, drawers, throw away wrappers, put his dishes in the sink, and just in general, created hurricanes in the bathroom, kitchen and everywhere he went.  This was overwhelming to me.  I grew up trying to be discreet and always trying to clean up after myself and leave no evidence of my existence in shared spaces.

I don’t remember exactly how I first started to deal with this, but it evolved into many different approaches of making it work.  Mostly, with my Leo-of-a-man, I’ve burnt out over and over again, due to his fiery nature.  He doesn’t want to be told what to do, he likes to reject schedules, rules, routines…and I was silly enough to let his preferences burn me out… I’ve always wanted to avoid fighting, but there are some things I’ve learned over the years.

1. Fighting is good.  Learn how to fight fair.  If the person you’re fighting doesn’t fight fair, tell them that and stop the conversation.  Once things have cooled down bring it up again.  If they refuse to tackle it, try another angle, but if it is worth fighting about, don’t give in… don’t let your guard down.

2. If you can get the person to agree with where you’re coming from…or once you get them to a place of mutual agreement on something, work with that.  Find out how they have dealt with similar or equal situations in their past, either in their childhood, alone or with you and find acknowledge and work from the good, in that respect.

3. Research, experiment, plan out changes.  Keep working on changes, check off where you’re doing good and make a record of what you’re doing, what you still want to add, and make sure the person you’re dealing with is well aware of this.  In the case of keeping up a household, a binder with charts, lists, schedules, notes/memos will go a long way.

These are the things I know.  I have seen that putting up little notes and telling him what to do, if it is one big thing or no more than three little things works for his mom and Grandma.  Unfortunately, this has gone on too long and three little tips aren’t enough for 7 years of dealing with the same problem.

I know that I need to establish routines, make him aware of his responsibilities and show him what is done, what needs to be done, what suffers when not taken care of… but I don’t really know how to do this.

I will say there have been times when I was sick and he was doing a fair share of the cleaning, making food, caring for our oldest daughter, so I know he can do these things… but over the time I’ve had this blog, I’ve been continually working on improving my household management skills and I know where my weakest link is.

I’ve looked at a ton of websites and books about this particular topic, but I haven’t seen anything specifically saying how to get the other parent in a household to do their share and how to establish yourself as the household manager, meaning that since one person is more organized, more a natural and more engaged with the household activities, the other person should respect that person’s efforts and follow their lead.

Dear readers, I am desperately asking for your advice, help, links, whatever!  2011 is almost over and I need at least the last month of this year to feel like progress.  Please share anything you think will help me.

–Still dreaming


One thought on “Domestic Burn-Out

  1. Pingback: 11-29-2011 Dream Fragment | My Ancestor’s House? | John Jr's Blog

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