In Australia, we recently filled out a Census, profiling who we are and what our lifestyles ‘look’ like. There was one particular question that I answered about the amount of unpaid work that I performed in the household per week. Initially, I was modest with my response until I sat back and actually added up how many hours of work that I performed per week. I was quite astounded by the final figure. Partners also answered the question and quite honestly, the inequity which still exists is phenomenal. I happen to have a husband who (after many years of ‘training’) contributes a lot to the housework yet the disparity still remains.
It lead me to think about the reasons why women spend a ridiculous amount of time doing housework and running around after their family and I came up with some points that specifically relate to me. I thought it would be of interest to include my thoughts in my series about organisation as crying ‘time poor’ is the reason why many women refuse to take up a hobby or neglect a much loved hobby that gives them a lot of pleasure. It seems to be the catch cry of our time ‘Oh, I’m just SO busy’. But are we really?
These are MY thoughts . . . . perhaps you can relate to some of them?
- I’m having trouble moving on from the ‘needy’ stage. Everyone loves to be needed, but children (and men) do not stay babies forever. They have arms and legs, they can help. Even if it’s not perfect and hubby puts the toilet roll going under instead of over – it’s OK, isn’t it? We live around the corner from school – the kids can walk by themselves, they’ll be fine, won’t they? If they don’t get their project in on time, who is to blame? But will the teachers think poorly of me as a parent? Do I insist on doing it all to be a martyr so I will always have a bunch of people who make me feel needed?
- I am my own worst critic. Whose standard of perfectionism am I trying to measure up to? I’ve never reached that elusive ‘perfect’, so what am I looking for? Has anyone ever noticed whether I have dusted the skirting boards this week? Nobody is going to die if I let the dust bunnies play behind the couch for another day.
- Being ‘lazy’ is unacceptable. Isn’t that what we were always taught as children? So if I run around like a maniac, won’t people admire my work ethic? Doesn’t it feel good when people say ‘Wow, you’re amazing, I don’t know how you do it’?
- I can do it all and I will prove the doubters wrong. You know, perfect house, perfect family, perfect marriage, perfect career. Is my goal in life to play ‘Battle of the stubborns’? Why is it SO hard to accept an offer of help?
These are things that are so deeply engrained in who I am that I often travel through each day being motivated by unconscious fear. I’m still not sure what I am afraid of, yet my behaviour of running around trying to be everything to everyone still continues.
I have made a small amount of progress towards freeing myself from this existence and my papercraft hobby has played a huge part in this process, but I had to find TIME to devote to it first. How did I do it?
- I bumped myself up the priority list. After all, happy mummies make happy families. I let myself fall to the bottom of the list. Nobody was going to stop and feel sorry for me and put me to the top of the list, so it was up to me to do it for myself. I let go of the ‘mummy guilt’. Who made up that absurd concept in the first place? (It was a female author) I am important, I matter.
- I learned the hard way. I fell to pieces (a few times) and finally realised that life is far too short to be in a constant state of depression and anxiety. I had to take action and make the decision to create my own reality. Sometimes I do really well, sometimes I don’t do so well – but I am aware and connected to my own feelings.
- I changed the way I lived my life because it wasn’t working. I quit my full time, stressful job. I didn’t quit my career, I made it work for me. Not always possible for everyone – but don’t wait forever for it to work if it’s obviously not. I became a Stampin’ Up! demonstrator to supplement my casual income and this forced me to spend more time doing what I love. It might sound cliche, but it’s true.
- I lowered my standards and learned to not care so much. Strangely enough, no children or husband have been harmed in the process. Nobody dropped dead because their washing wasn’t lined up immaculately in their cupboard and toilet paper still works when it goes ‘under’ instead of ‘over’. And . . . they still love me just as much as before.
- I learned to accept help. This is a work in progress, I still haven’t perfected this one. If you have some spare dollars, hire an ironing lady, even if it’s only once or twice a year. If your mum/mother-in-law/neighbour offers to help – say YES. They offer help because they care about you, not because they think you’re not coping.
- I rediscovered spirituality, particularly Buddhist teachings. It talks to me. It speaks volumes. I get emails from this site every day into my Inbox and I read them over breakfast. It centres me, it reminds me of what is important.
- Finally, I took some lessons from my husband. I practised being a ‘bloke’. I pretended I couldn’t see mess, I sat and focused single minded on my hobby and I allowed ‘whatever’ to enter my vocabulary. It’s very liberating. The washing didn’t run away. A few times, it even found it’s way to the cupboard without me.
Yes, the housework is still here. Yes, life sometimes gets overwhelming. Yes, I still find myself in a filthy mood from time to time. The goal is balance. Papercrafting is part of my balance and if things aren’t working for me, they don’t work for my family. Having a hobby is an essential part of a healthy life balance. Remember, nobody is glad on their death bed that they worked more and played less!