Friday, December 31, 2010

Don't Be "That Guy"

A friend who's a stay-at-home mom recently noticed my son's checklist and began asking questions about our system. As I explained it, she got so interested that she began taking notes and went home full of plans to use our techniques to get her family more organized.

Things were going great - every time I saw her, she was excited about how well the new system was working, and how much easier life was now. And then, it all fell apart. What went wrong, you ask?

Her husband got back from his business trip.

That's right, it turned out that most of the clutter and mess in her house was coming not from her young daughter, but from her husband. Worse, it was much harder to change his bad habits than it had been to change her daughter's. For my first post on this blog, I thought I'd talk about how you really don't want to be "that guy."

Every couple has its own way of divvying up the housework, and I'm not here to tell you what's what. I'm sure there are couples who naturally fall into an equitable balance, or others where these roles are reversed, and the husband gets frustrated with the mess and clutter his wife leaves behind. But this story tends to get a lot of nods from the ladies I mention it to, so clearly there are a lot of us out there who aren't pulling our share of the load. So on behalf of men everywhere, let's work on that public image a little, eh?

There are a couple easy ways to undermine the systems we recommend at ChoresAndChecklists.
  1. Not putting forth a "united front" on discipline issues. If Mom won't let the kids eat breakfast until their chores are done, but Dad's a pushover, the lesson shifts from "Do your chores every morning" to "Ask Dad, not Mom!"
  2. Worse, if you're a big part of the problem and you're reluctant to change, the system just won't work. Eventually, your spouse will give up and the kids will learn that they're not really expected to do all those chores they had for a little while.
So it has to be a shared effort if it's going to work. But look at that last sentence - it's full of words like "work" and "effort" - where's the fun in that?

Well, it helps to keep your eyes on the payoff. Since we started working together to get our family organized, Lorin and I have noticed a bunch of pleasant dividends.
  1. When it's working well, we're happier with each other. Let's face it - it's hard to feel happy when you're overworked. It's even harder when that overwork falls disproportionately on one person.
  2. We've found that our kids like having a consistent, workable system. It's confusing when the rules change, and it's no fun getting yelled at for not doing your work. When they have a structure that makes it easier for them to meet our expectations, they are happier.
  3. There's more time for family fun when everybody's chipping in. I can remember feeling exhausted at the end of the day, going straight to bed after the dishes were done. But now, because the kids are contributing, we often have time to read books or play games together in the evenings.
  4. Maybe the best one of all: friends and strangers frequently compliment us on how mature, responsible and happy our kids seem. I know our systems are worth the effort, because I see the results in my kids every day - and so does everyone else they come in contact with.
So, guys (and gals), what's your experience with this issue? Have you worked through it and made it to the other side, or are you still struggling with it?

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