I’m sure I’ve heard even more profound wisdom than this, but this piece of advice, which I heard over 15 years ago, is one that I think of almost daily.
You can get your husband to help with the housework,
or you can do it your way.
I know you proud obsessive-compulsive housekeepers (I’ve been one of you, myself). You take a lot of pride in the fact that the clothes in your closet are grouped by color and arranged in ROYGBIV order. You stand up straighter when someone notices that the bookshelves in your living room follow the Dewey Decimal System. You place the dishes into the dishwasher Just So and have outlines of your utensils traced on the bottom of the kitchen drawers so that everything can be returned to its proper place after use.
If doing housework and maintaining your home organization systems is your hobby, by all means, keep it up. But if you find that it’s just one more thing on that overwhelming to-do list, I think you should try giving up on the perfect systems and settle for a home where everyone helps and the work gets done, although imperfectly (or, at least, not the way you would have done it, which is actually not the same thing).
The towels in my bathroom cabinet are hardly ever folded exactly the same way. That’s because I fold them one way and Stephen folds them another. But do you hear what else I’m saying? I’m not the only one doing the laundry.
I know that not all husbands can help out around the house. I know that not all husbands will help out around the house. But I also know lots of ladies who insist on doing it all just so that it is done “right.” But then they are resentful, overworked, and tired. It just doesn’t seem worth it to me.
But there’s a catch. You accept that you can’t do it all, you enlist help from your husband (this actually applies to kids, too!)…and then you have to back off and let him do it. The point is for the work to get done, not for it to get done your way.
I remember pitching in with the dishes at a friend’s house one time when she sneaked her hand under the faucet, pretending to rinse her hands. Later I figured out that she was checking the temperature of the water. When I asked what she would have done if the water hadn’t been hot enough, she admitted that she would have washed all of the dishes again after I left. I laughed, and teased her a bit…and then never offered to help again.
It is unfair and disrespectful to nag your husband about how he doesn’t help out with the house or family, but then to criticize him every time he tries. If you want him to do the dishes, let him do the dishes! And as long as they’re reasonably clean at the end, don’t mess with his methods. Ask yourself, “Does this REALLY matter?” And then choose your battles accordingly.
Sometimes Stephen puts things in the dishwasher that I prefer to hand-wash, or he forgets to remove my bras before moving the whites into the dryer, or he follows a different order in Abby’s bedtime routine. And guess what? We’re all still here–dishes, underwear, family members. And do you know how I have time to do things like write blog posts? It’s because of all those ways that my husband pitches in around the house.
The next time your husband puts away the dishes and mixes the salad forks and dinner forks together in the silverware drawer, bite your tongue before you mention it. And try these words instead:
(P.S. A couple of weeks after I wrote this particular blog post, I pulled white clothes out of the dryer and found my favorite bra among the dry clothes. And guess what? I had been the one doing laundry that day! It’s worth remembering that even we Cleaning Queens don’t get it exactly right, every time!)