This might smart a bit...

>> Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Where do you draw The Line?

For me, it's putting the laundry away. And sewing on buttons. For one of my friends, it's tending to their swimming pool (give her a break, she lives in a very warm climate), and for another, it's stepping over used boxers on her way to the bathroom in the morning. For you, it could be picking up the change, receipts and crumpled tissues left on the hall table, putting the dirty coffee cups in the sitting room into the dishwasher, or moving the shoes littering the hall floor into the cloakroom.

What am I talking about?

I'm talking about the line that many of us draw in the sand where we say; that's It. That's the one thing I choose not to do for my husband/partner, because if I do that one thing - more than any other - I will know that once and for all I have given up the fight to treat you as a grown man, and have instead accepted that I have an extra child to care for.

It's insidious, isn't it? For many of us, it seems that one minute we are tripping along in a partnership of equals, where domestic tasks, whether they be household, financial, planning or child-care related are shared, and the next... Well, the next, we look at the minutae of our daily lives and realise that somewhere along the way something has gone wrong.

Somewhere along the line our generous offers to take up the slack when our partners seem particularly stressed, busy, or are simply too exhausted to function properly have become our expected roles. And without really registering it, we have become the constant care-giver, the person responsible for deciding what is to go on the table when, what the programme for the weekend might be, what colour the kitchen should be and - almost worst of all - the go-to person when a cursory man-look doesn't reveal the location of the remote control (where you left it, darling), the matches (by the candle-stick, sweetheart), or the napkin drawer (where it's been since we moved into this house 12 years ago, dear).

This, by the way, is not something peculiar to either stay at home or working mums. I see it happening everywhere, whether the mum is home full time, whether she works part-time,or whether her more than full-time outside the home job is far more demanding and exhausting than her husband's.

I'm surrounded, both here in Moscow and back in the UK, by bright, sensational, ambitious women who assumed when they settled down with the grown-up man of their choice that he would remain that way - a grown up - and who, swept up in the day to day havoc of family life turn around one day to be blindsided by the realisation that this is not the case.

And I don't know what the answer is.

I only know it makes me mad as hell.

So I will continue to leave my husband's clean laundry in a heap at the foot of our bed, boxers unfolded, socks not sorted, and shirts not hung up, in a gesture that feels childish and not at all graceful, but which helps me to maintain my sanity. Because that is where I have chosen to draw my Line.

Where's yours?

Note: This is a post that is less a reflection of my home life than what I see going on around me. And the anger may possibly be because I'm partway through an excellent book called 'The Price of Motherhood' recommended by Noble Savage and am feeling particularly sensitive to such issues, or simply because it's rained cats and dogs all day today... Whatever the reason though, surely this is still not an acceptable state of affairs?


Belgravia wife - sort of 26 May 2010 at 18:11  

You're not going to like this but it involves tissues and ear wax solution. You stamp your foot PM xx

Potty Mummy 26 May 2010 at 18:20  

On his head? (Although don't get me wrong. Compared to much of what I see going on, Husband is paragon of virtue. I've just spent the afternoon watching a good friend choke back the tears as she contemplates how demeaning she finds all this and I think that's probably what prompted this...)

Sara 26 May 2010 at 18:21  

My husbands a virgo, so he tends to be anal about picking up after himself. He also had a strict father. Anyways... for me? I draw the line in doing the dishes. We have a pact: when he cooks, I clean the dishes. When I cook: he cleans the dishes. The problem? He won't clean them that night, or the next night... it may take him a whole 5 days (F-I-V-E) before he cleans that pot that was probably used for boiling pasta. AND then when he DOES clean the dishes?? He (says he does) forgets to use SOAP on the sponge and only wipes clean the pots/pans. I generally have to re-wash everything he supposedly cleaned because when I go to use it again, it's slimy looking and you can see the streaks from when he sponged the pan. So even though I've drawn my line... I'm still stuck re-cleaning the dish. Maybe my line isn't dark enough...?

Irish Mammy 26 May 2010 at 18:55  

You are not alone that is exactly what I do, if I am in the mood I pair his socks otherwise big pool of laundry (might fold his t-shirts out of habit) on the bed and he needs to sort it out, after all it has been washed, dried and sorted, I have put away the kids stuff. Discovered a place that irons shirts as well down the road 5 for 10 Euros, bargain they go there.

planb 26 May 2010 at 19:30  

It's the loo for me. I'm not cleaning it after.... Well you know.

I'm sorry. But I'm just not.

Beta Dad 26 May 2010 at 19:54  

It's funny. I think that my wife, even though she is the breadwinner, probably does way more around the house than the typical male. I do the childcare and cleaning up during the week, but she definitely pitches in with laundry, etc. when she's home. I have noticed though, that I get irked when she's watching the kids on the weekend if I have something else to do, and she lets dishes pile up or can't seem to keep the house straight. I just hold my tongue and know that I can get things back to an acceptable order when she goes back to work.

BTW, I just came here from Single Dad Parent because I saw in your comment that you're living in Moscow. I lived there as an American diplomat's kid in 1978-1980 (yeah, I'm old) and have been reminiscing about those days a lot lately. I'm going to go through your archives now and see how the place has changed. (Probably not much, right?)

Nora 26 May 2010 at 20:15  

I've forgotten what this is like. When you live alone and your kids are grown up, you forget all the unfairness and the injustice, because you only have your own messes to clean up. And that's more than enough. I would not dream of ever cleaning up after anybody else again. I'm too emancipated for that now. I think each person should take care of his/her own personal affairs and not act helpless. It means that both people have to show a certain amount of independence. Not one person should lean on the other one too much. It's easy once you've got it all behind you.

Tattie Weasle 26 May 2010 at 20:23  

It's the putting away of things after him like laundry and sald cream and just well everything really on that front... though sometimes I just have to do it or I'd go mad with the untidyness of it all! I'd say it's even scarier when you know you are the only girl....

Noble Savage 26 May 2010 at 20:23  

I definitely have a line. It used to get crossed on a regular basis too, until I hired a cleaner. Best decision we ever made, we hardly argue anymore. Still pisses me off I have to pay someone to do his bit but I couldn't take it anymore.

Glad you're reading The Price of Motherhood, it's an excellent book. It will make you angry and make you want to change the world though! I'm working on a review.

Expat mum 26 May 2010 at 20:36  

I have recently decided to leave everyone's socks (except mine and little guy's) in a heap on the dryer. Half the time there's never a pair, but the Ball & Chain and the Man-CHild started almost patting me on the head for mixing their socks up. Grrr. That'll teach them.
Funny, I was just contemplating today that I work all day doing stuff for the rest of the family. I have spent three hours today preparing to go on my girlie weekend - that is, getting clothes organised for the kids, making sure there's food around, getting the guest room ready for in-laws etc. I did three loads of laundry and not a single garment was mine. Excuse me, must walk the mutt before picking up little guy.

Knackered Mother 26 May 2010 at 21:39  

Brilliant comments, so many so familiar! When he starts a sentence with "Don't suppose you've seen..." it roughly translates as "I can't be arsed to even look for my keys/wallet/jacket so will ask you instead". x

hpretty 26 May 2010 at 21:49  

I fear i regularly step over the line just so i can play the matyr and give him the silent treatment. So childish. if it weren't for my mild ocd when it comes to tidying i would love to leave all his *hit where he flings it.

i love u really darling

Michelle 26 May 2010 at 22:44  

Very thought provocating. Think I might have to check out that book. I can not think of anythint instantly that I refuse to do - does that make me a doormat? I hope not, I think it just means I have an OK dh you tries to do his share too. Although he is signed off with depression at the moment and we had to have words Monday as I am still working and not 100% myself and 3 kids and the house alone is too much on top of work! How single parents do it I have no idea! Mich x

PantsWithNames 26 May 2010 at 23:31  

Just what I've been pondering today as I picked my way over a pair of discarded boxers and some shoes. Do not see why I have to tidy them up. At all. Makes me so cross.

He probably says that about fixing my computer and doing any form of DIY.

Mwa 27 May 2010 at 09:40  

Oh, I have many many lines like that. Probably too many for a SAHM. I do sometimes feel I don't pull my weight enough. But then again, the children are very well taken care of.

PantsWithNames 27 May 2010 at 09:53  

Been thinking about this overnight. The other thing that shows where my line is firmly drawn is unpacking his bags after we've been away. There was an interesting standoff when we moved back from Bosnia. He did actually ask when his bags in the middle of the room were going to be unpacked, and had pointed out to him fairly forcefully that the unpacking fairy does not exist.

But then again, I don't mind putting away his clean laundry so all of our lines are going to be looking pretty swirly!

Littlemummy 27 May 2010 at 10:14  

I don't sew buttons or holes. They aren't my clothes and if he wants to keep them in good order that's up to him.

Not that he's ever asked me to do it :)

I also hate picking up after him, but do ot because I hate the constant clutter.

London City Mum 27 May 2010 at 10:27  

Must admit, although I nag and moan and whine about many of the points above, I am very lucky to have a husband who pulls his weight and does an enormous amount around the house and with the kids.

Having said that, the wicked laundry fairy refuses to unball his socks for him when they get washed, and inside-out t-shirts stay that way: inside-out.

And a few items have mysteriously 'disappeared' over the years as they started to gather dust and were not put in their rightful places (eg shoes, shirts, naff memorabilia, etc).


Bush Mummy 27 May 2010 at 12:21  

Don't get me STARTED...

Ok, do.

Coming downstairs to total chaos when he is on Breakfast and Pack Lunch Making duty (I might as well have done it myself it takes so long to tidy up).

Hair. Everywhere. His I mean. Long thick dark hairs coat everything in our house. I might as well get a labrador.

Snoring. Every night. Normally when I've just nodded off after the baby has had me up.

Sorry I may have gone off the point a bit here. Just felt like a general rant.

BM x

nappy valley girl 27 May 2010 at 16:30  

I think I am quite lucky. We have a fairly even distribution of work in this house. I do take care of all the laundry and general maintenance and upkeep of Littleboys, but then again he does all DIY, car stuff, the whole family finances, any computer stuff and at least half the cooking.

I do think a lot of it is to do with who sets the example. My husband's father did a lot of the cooking and even things like sewing, so he thinks this is normal. All of us with boys need to get them involved at an early age, I reckon.....

Pig in the Kitchen 27 May 2010 at 22:26  

Ironing his shirts. Just can't do it. great post pottyM, I'm loving the strident voice :-)

Heather 28 May 2010 at 14:10  

My ex was horrible about this so I decided I wasn't doing it again with a new guy. My SO is much, much better about being responsible for himself but sometimes when he forgets stuff he starts to ask me why I didn't do it for him. I always answer, "Because I'm going to treat you like a grownup whether you like it or not!"

Muddling Along Mummy 28 May 2010 at 19:17  

So utterly utterly true - I earn exactly the same as Mr (in fact last year I earnt more than him) yet I am the one who organises what we eat, gets the house sorted, does the washing and ironing and does all the organising of what we're going to do

I have no idea how this happened but yes it also drives me mad

Potty Mummy 28 May 2010 at 20:34  

Ladies - and one gent - thanks for a fantastic comments box. I'm going to break my normal habit of replying to each comment individually this time because it's just gone 11.30pm here (and I took my eye off the ball and didn't check what was written until now, sorry), and bearing in mind I fell asleep on the sofa whilst my older son read me a story earlier, I think it's time for bed. Or it will be, when I've unstacked the dishwasher, hung up the damp laundry, moved the shoes to the side of the hall, and...

oh crap.

Nothing changes, huh?

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