Fay Weldon has just written what some people are seeing as a shocking article from a feminist, where she is telling women to pick up men’s socks. But I salute her, for her realism and I’m going to explain why, but maybe in less shocking terms! (She is making a distinct difference between home and work – with work where she stresses that we shouldn’t pick up the socks! i.e. make coffee)
I’ve talked before about having realistic expectations of your children, rather than expecting a 2week old to sleep through the night, or a 3yr old to be able to articulate clearly, or a teenager to manager their emotions. Every child will mature at their own unique speed, with some areas that they excel at and some that they are slower at. Every child is just as great and clever as the next child, it’s just that they do it in different ways, that’s all.
The same rule applies to all ‘humans’. We are all great at some stuff and rubbish at other stuff. Not all men are rubbish at picking up socks, but there probably is a healthy majority, which doesn’t have it as a key skill. Just as not all women are great at looking after a house, but we do have a tendency to be better at it than the men. It’s all down to what we value in life, because if we value it, we will do it automatically and better than the things that we don’t value. Everyone has different values, which affects how we see the world that we live in. Some Mums will have a huge value on being a SAHM and will therefore judge others for not doing it. Some Mums will have a huge value on eco-living and judge any mum using a disposable, even if it is eco-friendly (believe me, I’ve been at the receiving end of ‘nappy-date’ in our local NCT! – but thats another story!). The eco Mums will wonder how come the other Mums can’t manage to wash nappies. The disposable nappy mums will probably be thinking that they’d go mad if they attempted to do that as well, which is because it isn’t in their values, so it doesn’t come easy to them.
So we all have different values, and the man in your life will have very different values from your own. They are MEANT TO BE DIFFERENT!! There’s no need to us all being the same, that would make us unnecessary, so everyone has a different combination and hierarchy of values. Everyone is totally committed to their OWN values. They might say that they are interested in yours, in an attempt to appease, but it’s what they do that counts. Everyone has skills according to their values.
So it is unreasonable to expect yourself to be anything other than yourself, and it is unreasonable to expect the man in your life to be anything other than who they are. There are times in our life when we have to do things that we don’t want to, especially as a Mum. But it probably wouldn’t work for us if the house was a total disaster area, so even if we don’t find it the most fulfilling job (and I’m jealous of those who do enjoy it), we still do it. Now your bloke probably doesn’t notice or care as much when the house is in a state, because they have totally different values filtered eyes to you. (Like the fact that my hubby can see a Ferrari on the opposite side of the motorway going past at 100 miles an hour, but can’t find the tomato ketchup sitting stock still in the cupboard).
We are ‘equally’ as valueable to society as men. But that doesn’t mean that we all have to be the same. It’s more about embracing our differences and who we are, just as we are. You maybe an exception and much more interested in typical ‘male’ activities – that’s great, that’s who you are. Or you maybe the extreme opposite, loving baking and home making – perfect, that’s who you are. And the same applies to our men.
So what to do, if it’s winding you up about the socks?! Well, one thing definitely won’t work; shouting at him that he ‘should do it, and is unappreciative of what you do! Here are a number of options, let me know if none of them work and I’ll come up with some more:
1) If you can afford it, get some outside assistance – my hubby likes the house clean, is not so good at doing it himself consistently (can do it in an emergency), but as I’m part-time working, there is no way he expects me to do it. So I employ a cleaner. I probably only just cover the costs of the cleaner, nursery, and a few other bits & pieces, but I’d prefer to be working part-time than not. If I clean all the house, it doesn’t suit me, and I get overstressed, and my self-esteem drops. So this is a good compromise for us.
2) If there is a chance that you can persuade your other half to help out then learn the art of negotiation – have a think about what your other half values and enjoys in life. Then have a think about the things that you would like to delegate to him. Which suit him best? For example, bins is great for mine, because it’s not every day. Emptying the dish washer was our agreement for getting one, because I’ve always hated doing that for some reason. None are too ‘heavy’. Then have a think about how you can sell it to him in a way that works for him. It worked for me to say that doing the bins was tricky because were I am it takes ages to sort out the recycling and that would lead to a stressed and frantic child. I’ve also asked for help in getting my little boy into his pj’s, because if hubby gets home before DS is in bed, it will delay things, and then if I do everything, we won’t get much chance to sit together in the evening before I’m shattered and off to bed. If he helps, it gives us 10 more precious minutes together. Now these might not work for your bloke, but something will.
3) If there is a task that you know would be totally pointless to delegate, but you hate it, then sit down with a nice cuppa one night and have a think about how it helps you with what you value, the people you love and the things that you would love to achieve. For example, I used to get stressed about being in a 3 storey townhouse and trying to be ‘efficient’ in always thinking of what needed to go up/downstairs before heading off. It was a bit retentive! Instead I realised that if I was less efficient, then I would be getting valuable exercise if I was less organised; and exercise is something that I have problems with fitting into my schedule of family/work. It went from something that made me stressed and freaky, to just another thing that easily fitted into life.
So, what I’m saying is, forget what society says men should be doing at home. Comparing your other half, to a fantasy picture of what he should be like, will just cause trouble between the two of you, and mean that you aren’t appreciating what you have. In the meantime, you won’t be much fun to live with either! Instead, work with the reality, make it work for you, not against you.
If you would like a starting hint at looking at values, there is a free audio on my website here: http://www.mummywhisperer.com/Pods_Vods.html
Let me know how you do!
Had lots of comments about this one on my facebook fan page! Many mums pointed out that sometimes when you are trying to sell helping out with things like the socks as I mentioned, that it doesn’t always have to be selling by offering a reward. With some people offering a consequence or cost instead! The great options were, anything left on the floor ending up in the bin, or only what is in the washing basket getting washed.
Remember, I’m not suggesting that you attempt to do EVERYTHING! I’m just suggesting you be realistic about what you can and can’t expect from your other half. Plus be appreciative of what they do do, rather than always complain about what they don’t do.
This works the other way as well of course, for any men reading! Don’t expect your other female half to do things that they don’t have the skills or motivation to do. Luckily my husband doesn’t expect me to be a cordon bleu cook, because he’d be really disappointed, just as he would be if he wanted me to be toned, tanned and a size 10 ;o)