National Catholic Register

Culture of Life

Clutter Chaos

Family Matters, Married Life

BY Tom and Caroline McDonald

February 14-27, 2010 Issue | Posted 2/8/10 at 2:00 AM

 

We’re at an impasse:  I’m exhausted from being at home with four kids all day, and my husband is worn out from his high-stress job.  Neither of us can bear the thought of housework in the evenings. At this rate, our house may be condemned, and the clutter is driving me toward insanity. What can I do to inspire him to help me more with the chores?

Tom:  We hear you! Tonight, just the thought of standing up to do the dinner dishes made Caroline and I both want to hide under the table. (It had been a long week!) But the reality is: The laundry must be done, the groceries put away, the children bathed. And being the husband of a stay-at-home mom, I know that her job is just as demanding and tiring as any other career path.  Yet, the household must run. There’s no point debating who is more tired and who has the harder life — we call that “running on the misery treadmill”: It leads to fruitless arguing and gets you nowhere. You two will simply have to accept that to instill order around your home, you both must die to self, get off the couch, and tackle some of the more pressing jobs.

My best advice is to think of a few specific things your husband could do, and then just ask him to please take them on regularly — tasks like vacuuming the living room or putting away the folded laundry. Avoid an accusative tone: “You never help me around here!” Statements like those immediately put him on the defensive. Instead, share honestly how you’re feeling overwhelmed and explain how much his help with an extra chore or two would mean to you.

Caroline:  Be realistic, too, in what you’re asking. Is it something he feels comfortable doing and can manage for the long haul? Tom doesn’t mind washing the dinner dishes, but he despises the thought of cleaning bathrooms, so I never ask him to do the latter. He loves reading the bedtime stories to our younger set but is weary of the whole bath and pajamas routine, so I do that part of bedtime most nights. I’m grateful for any help, so I’m not picky about where he pitches in.

Also, you didn’t mention the ages of your children, but even little ones can be a big help to the household, with some preliminary training and patience. Toddlers can pick up their toys and place them back on a designated shelf. There are fun, child-sized brooms and dustpans available so that kids can sweep. Our 5-year-old empties the silverware basket from the dishwasher every morning. And if you invest in a lightweight, upright vacuum (we recommend Shark Vacs) all ages can vacuum! We believe that “family responsibilities” (as we like to call them) should start early to form good work habits in our children.

Finally, in this season of your life, we say don’t stress out about the house too much. With four small children around, your home probably won’t be ready to be showcased on the home and garden channel — so what? Focus on the basics to keep things running, and enjoy the happy chaos. It is so fleeting.

The McDonalds are

family-life directors for the Archdiocese of Mobile, Alabama.