We look around and see the work to be done. It’s too much for us to do with the time we have available. We’ve all been there.
How do we respond?
Sometimes we might sigh and get on with what we can do, sad it’s not more.
Sometimes we might decide to just put it off until the magical day when we’ll have the time and energy to deal with it all fully.
Sometimes, we feel anger.
When we feel the anger, we might not even identify it as anger. We might justify ourselves in our response.
However, unless we rightly name our real problem, we can’t effectively solve it.
And the problem is not the housework, nor even the fact that we have to do it again so soon after “finishing” it.
In my own life, I’ve seen three different scenarios where anger — even self-justified anger — typifies my response. Each needs to be answered in a particular way, but each can be answered and resolved – without yelling or bitterness or resentment.
Someone undid my hard work!
First, we can feel angry while we clean the house when we focus on finishing or being done with the work and then — too soon after we “finish” — we have to do it again.
It’s easy to blame the kids or even our husband for undoing the work, for making messes again, for needing more food or more laundry. When we see housework as a thing we’re supposed to finish, check the work off as done, then the people in our house feel like a problem. We finished the work, but because of others, the work has to be done again.
The problem in such cases is only our perspective, not the other people and not the work. We have a wrong view of the nature of housework and the nature of life. We don’t understand our position in relation to our home and family life.
**The work of keeping a home is not work that ever stays done. **
That’s not a discouraging statement if we look at it rightly. If that statement makes us say, “Ugh!” and wonder why we even bother, then we are the problem. The good news is that we can fix our attitude problem.
Housework is ongoing, maintenance work. It is the work involved with tending for life. The repetitious nature is evidence of life. If the work were ever actually done once-and-for-all, it would only be due to life ending — and that’s not what we want.
When we wash clothes, make food, sweep floors, and tidy up, we’re living out our caretaking role in the family. We’re loving our people and nurturing them in very hands-on, practical ways, whether they appreciate it or not.
A home is a place where life is nurtured. Life is messy. So nurturing life means keeping up with entropy and keeping our home functional for growing life.
There is no cause for resentment in that work. Our people are not a problem; they are the point.
No one ever helps me clean.
Second, we can feel angry about the housework when we feel like others are not pitching in, carrying their “fair share,” or helping with the work as much as they are contributing to creating the work.
There are two possible errors happening when we respond to our housework with resentment against others’ lack of help.
The first is misunderstanding our position as homemaker and our responsibility in that position. Either we don’t see homemaking as a position and responsibility or we focus more on the perks than the work entailed.
The culture today assumes that housework is work that everyone in a household should share equally, and that’s simply not true. It’s not true, it’s not biblical, yet most of us have never heard the assumption questioned!
As a homemaker, the work of running the home — cooking and cleaning included — is our responsibility. It’s our job. It’s not drudge work. It’s not a downer.
For there to be a home, someone has to be responsible for keeping things running. For a home to function, much work, effort, and attention must be poured in. Just as any business requires an owner and manager to run, so does a home.
A home is a business-like endeavor, a company or troope of people together on mission. We are entrusted with management of this endeavor. We can throw ourselves into that role with gusto and grow in competence in it. It is worthy of our efforts.
The second possible reason for being upset when others don’t help as much as we want is that anger or irritation (same thing) is easier than putting in the strategy and relational work to bring the family on board with pitching in.
Instead of training our children and figuring out routines to allow them to pitch in properly, we do the work while indulging in self-pity and martyr-syndrome. No one – ourselves included — is served by this response, even if we think we’re keeping it to ourselves in our own head only.
Just because the housework is our responsibility as the homemaker doesn’t mean we necessarily have to do all the work ourselves. However, we are responsible for seeing that it is done, and done with competency and goodwill. Morale is our job as well as keeping the house running.
Taking the nagging wife or mother option is not an effective way to get more help. Asking your family for help is not necessarily a problem. Demanding it without setting them up for success in being helpful is. Demanding it from a place of resentment is.
If we do believe our kids should be helping more, we can bring them on board as part of our team, teaching and training them so as to equip them rather than take from them.
Housework feels like a demotion
Related to the culture’s assumption that housework should be shared equally is an undervaluing of the work itself. Once, a man left a scathing comment on a blog post about teaching kids chores, saying, “There’s no reason to teach kids how to do something that anyone could learn in five minutes.”
Such disrespect for the work of keeping a home is in the very bones of our society today. We don’t even realize how poorly we view the home and the work it takes. So it’s not surprising when, even if having a family was our lifelong dream, we feel like being in charge of dishes and laundry is demeaning. The feminists have been beating that drum for so long that we don’t even realize when we operate from their assumptions.
When we have a low view of housework, we will also have a low view of the home. With our words we might honor the home and family and homemaker, but our attitudes about the actual tasks that make up the job description bely our professions.
A true understanding of the worth of the home would enable us to enjoy the work of maintaining the home — even the repetitive work.
Instead of being angry when there’s work to do
It’s not uncommon as a mom to look around the house and feel overwhelmed by all that we could and should be doing.
But the next feeling after feeling overwhelmed doesn’t have to be — and shouldn’t be — anger, irritation, or discouragement.
After feeling overwhelmed, we can take a four-step approach to dig into the good work in front of us:
- Brain dump. Write down all the things you feel weighing on you, all the could, should, or would tasks pestering your mind.
- Write a list or a true statement. You can’t do all the things you brain dumped. Pick 3 and make a super short list. Or, write a motto or a true statement about your work to align your attitude with reality.
- Take a baby step. Do one thing on your super short list. Just get started. Use a timer and spend just 10 minutes working on something rather than worrying about getting “finished.”
- Iterate. Life changes and so will our methods and routines. We can adapt and plan on it. Just get started and learn from your own real life; don’t wait to figure it all out before beginning.