Some may need to clean up their acts

“How was Thanksgiving?” I asked as Tanya and I started our coaching session.

“We had a wonderful time with family and friends,” she said. “We had 19 people over for dinner, and then played a game of football in the park.”

“No one napped after the turkey dinner?” I asked, smiling.

“Some of the men took naps while we cleaned up,” Tanya said and paused. “I feel bad about saying this because it sounds like I’m not grateful.”

“Go on,” I encouraged, sensing irritation in her voice.

“I don’t mind shopping, preparing and decorating for family celebrations,” she said. “I don’t even mind cleaning up. What I DO mind is when I feel it’s expected for me and the other women to clean up the dishes and watch the men and boys sit around talking, laughing ... and napping, as though they somehow expect that the women should clean up after them.”

“I can see how that would be irritating,” I said. “Tell me what it feels like when this happens.”

“It feels unfair and wrong,” Tanya said. “There seems to be a belief that cleaning up is ‘women’s work.’ It’s an unspoken thing that it’s OK for the men to NOT help, and that’s what gets me. If I sat there and watched others clean up after me, I would feel inclined to help, and I think the other women would, too. I feel selfish and ungrateful to even think about this, especially when I know how very blessed I am.”

“Does Dave or anyone else in your family offer to help?” I asked.

“Dave is a great husband, but he rarely offers to help,” she said. “As for the family, the girls help and the boys don’t. This dynamic alone will perpetuate the problem. If my sons think it’s OK to let the women do the work, then this pattern will continue with their wives and daughters.”

“How would you like it to be?” I asked.

“I would like to see it be more equal before and after the event,” Tanya said. “Both Dave and I work full time, so it’s not like I am the Happy Homemaker and this is my job. I’d go even further than that, however. I’d want the expectations to be the same. That is, the men and boys are expected to get up and help too. I may not change it with the older generations, but it’s important to change it for my kids. Both the boys and the girls need to have equal expectations about helping.”

“What can you do to make this happen?”

“First I’ll talk to Dave to let him know how I’m feeling,” Tanya said. “Then I’ll suggest a family meeting to discuss expectations, not only for holiday meals, but year-round.”

“That sounds like a great plan,” I said. “Will Dave be open to these ideas?”

“I think he’ll be open,” Tanya said. “He’ll probably be embarrassed, but this has been going on for generations and needs to be addressed.”

“I’m still very grateful this holiday season,” Tanya continued. “But I’ll be even more grateful if I know I’m making a difference with my kids and the expectations they carry forward into their families in the future.”

Coaching challenge: What are the dynamics in your family regarding household duties?

If something seems unequal, take time to discuss your feelings and expectations with others to gain clarity and understanding between you.


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