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.
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!
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.