Sadly this statistic from the census didn’t surprise me. I see a constant stream of women who are stressed from working two full time roles as employee and mum/housekeeper. It isn’t just the housework – the shopping – driving the kids around – making lunches – making dinners – but also the constant burden of thinking about everything that needs to happen that many find exhausting.
Personally it’s taken me a long time to get my household to a fairer balance and so I can’t pretend that I have the answers. But i do think this is an important topic and maybe some of my useful techniques can help yet another exhausted mother/housewife/carer from hitting the wall!
One of my colleagues tells this story about me and whilst I honestly don’t remember this it does sound like me. Many years ago my husband washed all my lingerie with brightly coloured clothes and turned it all pinkish. My response was “don’t worry hon it will cost me about 400 bucks to replace it but you’ll get the hang of it”. 27 years later he still does all the washing and ironing . In fact my son also irons beautifully. They both like ironing whilst watching TV.
Lesson #1: You don’t have to do everything yourself!
It takes 10,000 hours to build competence so don’t expect your partner or kids to do it perfectly in fact let go of the expectation that they will do it your way at all. After all “done” is better than perfect. Also remember that whilst you can do it faster and better than they can now, just think about how much time you are liberating if they cook just dinner one night a week? Over weeks or months how much extra time would you have and this should help you build your resilience to make some changes.
The area that really started getting to me about four years ago was cooking. With a gluten and dairy free household and our preference for organic food most meals are made from scratch and it takes a lot of time. In fact I think I have spent years of my life chopping vegetables. About 4 years ago I taught my husband a few simple dishes such as my Easy Roast Chicken and Turkey mince Lasagne. His rule is that I need to cook it with him twice and then leave him with detailed step by step instructions.
If making a whole meal seems a big stretch then start by suggesting other’s participate in food preparation by asking them to make a salad or at least chop some vegetables and then build up from there. Meal preparation is a lot faster with a few extra sets of hands.
Lesson #2: Baby Steps
One strategy that I really liked was for the whole family to participate in 20 minutes of home beautification each day. It isn’t a huge amount of time but it’s amazing how four people working for 20 minutes can get so much more done. It’s also surprisingly how after a few weeks thing start naturally being returned to their correct location.
Lesson #3: It’s OK to ask for help
Another strategy is outsourcing. For many women this can feel like failure. Personally I think its amazing to come home from work and find the house has been cleaned by someone else. Also you create employment – in Africa, for example, employing help as soon as you can afford it is regarded as an obligation. Often that salary is supporting a whole family. What you pay a cleaner will certainly contribute to the success of a business even though maybe it won’t create a whole wage , so think about the broader community and outsource.
The area that I still haven’t cracked is the teenage attitude of I’ll do it when I get around to it. One weekend I left unwashed dishes on the kitchen bench for 36 hours waiting for that magical moment. Came back home to my husband washing up who said that he knew I would lose it if it wasn’t done (and he was spot on there). Any suggestions for how to manage this one? Please post in the comments section below if you have any hot tips.
Christine Pope is a Naturopath Nutritionist and Homeopath based at Elemental Health St Ives. Appointments can be made on 8084 0081 or book online at http://www.elementalhealth.net.au .