Operation Caffeination

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The New Normal

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My lovely, lovely doula friend is bringing her own new baby over to meet us for the first time tomorrow. I am so excited to meet this child, and I really want the house to be clean and welcoming for them as this is one of the first times they have been out of the house since the birth.

Melia can’t leave my side for a second right now between the teething and the separation anxiety that has suddenly gripped her little heart. It’s been so hard on her that she’s been joining me in the shower and everything. We are literally touching one another all day and all night…it makes me miss the convenience of pregnancy. I used to have hands!

Anyway, between the way she falls apart if I round a corner and Darren’s unstoppable playtime that requires every toy we own to be out and on a *totally specific* spot on the floor, the house is completely trashed, like, I hope no one finds out how utterly gross it is in here or they may try to report us territory.

So, today, I took both kids out grocery shopping and wandered around very slowly for ages and ages, changed a poopy diaper on the car seat (WHY are there so few good places to change a diaper? And WHY are there no trash cans built into cars?!), and I returned to a spotlessly clean home, courtesy of my husband who got to eat dinner in peace before tackling the nightmare after Christmas that we’ve called home for the last week and a half.

Women often ask me how I “get” my husband to clean. I’m not sure if they mean it in the context of training or bribery but I’m offended either way. Jon cooks, cleans, bathes kids, does laundry, participates in play dates and shops for groceries. He’s even purchased clothes for the kids and braved a few pediatrician appointments on his own.

Jon does these things for three reasons: one, he isn’t an asshole. He sees how much work I do, he knows that he’s able to lead the life he’s leading because I’m picking up a lot of slack at home and he appreciates it. Also, he knows that if he doesn’t appreciate it (and communicate that appreciation), I will walk. Neither of us have any illusions about this being an idyllic till-death-do-us-part situation. We’ve no qualms about divorce and aren’t shy about discussing it. We’ve been married for four and a half years now and together for six, and I can honestly say that we’re only together because it works. We like being married to one another and are generally both happy.

Lastly, I say I came home to a spotless house, but I may be lying about that because I didn’t actually check to see if it was perfect. It looks nice, the carpets have been vacuumed, it’s a hell of a lot better than anything I could have managed on my own with the kids. It’s perfect enough, and that’s an important distinction. It’s a work in progress, but I am working hard to disconnect my ego from the condition of my home.

People do make judgments about me based off of the cleanliness of my home, the way I groom my children, etc. That is their failing, not mine. My children are safe, happy and deeply loved, and THAT is perfect. It wouldn’t even be good for them if I were to slave to make everything perfect all the time.

With this in mind, I do not give Jon grocery lists or “to do” lists around the house. He figures stuff out the way I do, by paying attention. I don’t often ask him to do anything, because we’ve (through a LOT of arguments and discussions) established that I assume that he will keep up with his own shit. No clean socks? Should have done your laundry. Not. My. Problem. (Although, caveat, he is totally welcome to ask me for help from time to time; it’s the assumption that I’ll take care of any and all background work needs to be done that I don’t tolerate.)

At times when I do want him to pitch in on a specific task, I work hard to avoid phrase it as asking for help because the housework is not my job. I do way more than my fair share of housework already. If Jon were living on his own, he would do quite a bit more housework than he currently does living in a home with two adults, a teenager and two small children. Instead of asking for help, I explain the situation: my friend is coming over and I want her to speak to me after tomorrow. The house must get cleaned tonight. It is tricky because it is easy to come across as bossy, overbearing and generally awful when you refuse to simper. I often find myself injecting humor into these conversation for no good reason, simply because I feel uncomfortable.

Yes, I do feel guilty when the housework goes undone. On the other hand, though, I also feel guilty when I give my child terrible-tasting medicine, when I’m late on lunch and they’re actually hungry for a few minutes before I can get the food to them, and when they have a good time but not a GREAT time at a party. My threshold for guilty feelings is super super low, perhaps due to my background, perhaps my own innate sense of duty, perhaps because of societal conditioning.

Whatever the cause, my guilty feelings aren’t an accurate indicator of whether or not I’m doing something wrong. This is unfortunate because guilt should be an incredibly useful instinct. Hopefully, though, given enough trial and error I can re-hone my feelings to accurately reflect reality. Because guess what? My husband is happily wrestling with our son in the nice, clean, open living room right now, and tomorrow I’ll be able to focus on getting a good breakfast together for my kids instead of rushing around like a maniac trying to clean the house on my own. And on top of that, we have groceries! Lots of groceries!

These are good things, and when I look around I realize that this works. I don’t know many families who can say that about the division of housework in their home.

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Written by GRSeim

January 5, 2012 at 5:35 am

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