Who Runs the Home?

When I returned to work 5 years ago I sat the family down for a team meeting. Jake was finishing 11th grade, Isabelle Kindergarten and John, while still working was busy applying to and preparing to start college full time in the fall. For the previous 17 years I had been fully in charge of our home. They all helped in some way but for the most part I was in charge of getting things done. It was my full time job and made sense for me to do almost everything. I had Jake help me with tasks more because I wanted him to know how to cook, clean, do laundry, etc when he was older than because I needed the help. Frankly most of the time it was easier to do things myself than to have one of my kids or husband do it.blog cleaning

However, I was going back to work full time in a week and things were going to have to change. Homemaking would no longer be my full-time job and that meant it was becoming everyone’s part-time job. They all understood and agreed to help. In the coming weeks and months my husband was the only one who really shared any enthusiasm for the new responsibilities. And even then it was a challenge for all of us. We had long established habits. And after so many years I was the only one who knew what needed to be done and when. Making it hard for them to know how to help. Plus, it was hard for me to let go of control, letting people do things their way and at their standards rather than mine.

Eventually we settled into a routine where I lowered my standards, closed my eyes to messes I didn’t have time to address and just focused on the things most important to me, Laundry and the kitchen.

Over the past 5 years we have slowly developed a happy medium. Things still aren’t managed the way I would like but our house is comfortable and on occasion even downright clean. I no longer feel like everything homemaking is my responsibility as John has stepped up significantly. And as I get used to the routine of work in my life I am also finding joy in spending time in my home again, taking a little extra time here and there to sweep the patio or wipe down the kitchen cabinets. Not priority items on a day to day basis at our house but things that when I have a few extra minutes give me joy as I make our home a more comfortable place to be.

This summer I have been working more than usual and my husband has been working less. Although I very purposely try to avoid treating John like my maid and giving him a list of things to do while I work, there were a few days that as I left for work I asked if he might do the laundry or clean up the kitchen knowing my underwear supply was getting low or if I came home to a messy kitchen I might lose it. It isn’t that he was sitting around doing nothing all day but sometimes he missed the tasks that were most important to me.

I have to confess that this summer as he has done all the cooking and then with the addition of me giving a little direction on household chores I feel like I have gotten a little taste of what he had all those years working full time. Putting in a days work and coming home to dinner ready, the house picked up and being able to just sit and relax. It is amazing. I know it is temporary but I am enjoying my peak into this lifestyle immensely. I feel loved, cared for and refreshed to return to work the next day. Leaving amessy house to go to work knowing it will still be a mess when you return quickly becomes overwhelming and it is easy to see why people work long hours. Sometimes I don’t want to go home when I know the work waiting for me!blog messy house

A couple weeks after I started dropping little to-do suggestions on him as I walked out the door we had a chance to go out for dinner and I asked himabout it. I was worried about him being resentful of my suggestions but he admitted he loved it. He was willing to help but said he just didn’t always know what needed to be done and when. I realized that although he has always been willing to help that I have never quit overseeing the whole process and managing our little 3-ring circus. So he needed my direction.

We decided to name me the COO of our home as I over see the daily operations and assign tasks. The summer has run quite smoothly with this arrangement. I am a very gracious and benevolent leader. 🙂

It is an every changing work in progress as this fall John is back to school while still working and won’t be home several days a week to do the laundry, grocery shopping and maintain the kitchen. We will go back to a team effort but knowing I can ask for specific help and he is ready to do whatever job I pass on to him should make this next transition go smoother than previous transitions. Future family team meetings won’t be me announcing how overwhelmed I am by all that needs to be done. Instead we will look over the coming week, pass out assignments and together we can create a home where we all feel loved, cared for and refreshed to go back out into the world.

5 years in we are still learning how to do this 2 parent working thing but we are doing it together.

Family Team Work

There are some things about being a working woman and what is happening in todays culture that I love. However…

I have noticed that a lot of the working mom/working woman/woman success stories lately have been focused on women becoming CEOs, world leaders, top entrepruners. We can’t just go to work, we must go and run up to the top of the ladder in whatever field we aspire to.  And I get that there are more men than women in roles like that in this country and the desire to see the field even out a little more. But we don’t all want that. And sometimes I feel like I am failing woman kind because I just want to make enough money to support my family and then go home and clean my own house, take my daughter school shopping, go on a walk with my husband and relax. I would rather have less money and position than work 60 hours a week. Is that wrong? Sometimes it feels like it is.

Have you noticed how men are being praised and raised up as heros for doing the work women used to do all the time without any praise? Suddenly a man who stays home is a hero. But a woman staying home is not fulfilling her potential. Where was my hero ribbon when I was the one at home helping my husband be a success? How is what the men are doing now different from what I was doing then? Why do I feel like as women begin to dominate the work force the men are still winning this game? They were the heros when the norm was that they work and we stay home because they made the money. Now they are the heros for staying home doing the work we used to do while we make the money. Am I the only one that sees the problem here? It isn’t what we are doing, it is how we are valuing ourselves and how we are letting other people value us.

I just want to go to work, do my best, go home and enjoy my family. I want to appreciate my husband for the work he does around the house just as he appreciates the work I do around the house. Neither of us could do it alone. The task of working and managing a life is overwhelming. Nobody is an island. He couldn’t have been successful if I hadn’t been supporting him all those years, I cannot be successful without his help and he couldn’t be changing careers in his 40’s without me. Life is a team sport and it takes both men and women working together at all levels of success to get the win. I know there are single women out there that have to go it alone but even then you gather a team around you. Kids to help around the house, friends, neighbors, childcare workers. Sometimes you accept a lifestyle that isn’t as fancy so you can have sanity. Why is success only defined as money and status? If I abandon my family to achieve the top spot in my company am I really successful?

Let’s start talking about families working together doing simple day to day activities and calling them a success. Today I am working from home. My husband is sleeping after working a night shift. In a few minutes I am going to take out meat for the dinner John will likely make when he gets up. I will probably bring Izzy’s friend home this afternoon on my way to pick up toilet paper which we are completely out of and then encourage her to do her laundry tonight after dinner. I might try to clean the bathrooms which have been neglected lately. I might work more tonight. But, I also might just plop on the couch with a glass of wine and the family and watch the Olympics.

What does success look like at your house tonight?

Dumping the Summer Bucket List

Back in May I made a summer bucket list. Knowing how full our life is I didn’t crowd it with unrealistic expectations but things I truly felt could be accomplished this summer. Things like strawberry picking, hunting down waterfalls on the north shore while at the cabin, a 5K, and a list of books I would like to read. It is August now and I was reviewing the list last weekend and realized I hadn’t done any of them and with school around the corner I didn’t see them getting done. Missed strawberry picking season, have visited 2 of the 7 waterfalls on my list and am less than half way through one of the 5 books I intended to read this summer. (I did read one not on my list.) And we won’t talk about my completely inconsistent running schedule. If you can even call it a schedule.

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I was organizing several other lists that were floating around regarding work and goals last weekend. Putting them in notebooks, updating the plans, etc. My summer bucket list kept moving from pile to pile as I worked my way around. Finally it was the only sheet of paper left and I had to admit I would not be accomplishing this list in the next month. Rather than save it I decided to abandon my summer bucket list all together and move on. Sometimes you have to embrace the reality instead of trying to create the dream.

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It isn’t that I haven’t done anything this summer but what I thought the summer would look like in May, what I always think the summer will look like in May, is not how it turned out.

In May I always think I am going to structure my work schedule to be home a little more. When I am not working we (as some happy little family) are going to be exploring the beauty of nature, going to the cabin, taking long runs and reading good books while lounging on the patio.

The reality is that John and my work schedules dictate our life more than we want to admit. Our pre-teen daughter would rather not hang with us as she has discovered her and her friends are old enough now to walk to each other’s homes or hang out at the park. So the squad, as I like to call them, pretty much goes from home to park to next home all day every day. They all end up in our living room at some point most days. We love it but it isn’t really family time. And in the small condo I find myself hiding in my bedroom rather than lounging on the patio. Since she walks around 3-5 miles every day with friends she doesn’t really think she needs to go on additional runs with me.

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So what did we do this summer? Not much really. Only a couple trips up to the cabin but they were relaxing and fun. We discovered Isabelle comes alive at 10pm and if we can stay awake for it we learn all about her day, her life, her friends, her thoughts. We successfully balanced work, family, friends, and marriage. Something that I don’t know I would have said of previous summers since returning to work. It has looked a little less organized than I would have liked but we are getting there. And it didn’t have as many adventures as I dreamed of but our day to day life is full of excitement and fun and joy. What more do we need?

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I can pretty much guarantee you next May I will create another summer bucket list and dream of a summer that looks more like my responsibility free childhood summers than a working mom summer. And we probably won’t get everything done on that list either. But we will still have fun, be happy and enjoy another glorious Minnesota summer. Just like we are doing this summer.

Three more weeks until school starts. My current list involves school shopping, the state fair, a trip to the cabin and a plenty of space for whatever comes our way between now and then.

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