Dear Home-Ec 101,
I just found your site and love it! So I thought I would ask about something I need advice on. I have 12 year old twins, a 14 year old son, and a 16 year old daughter. My house is in a constant mess and I’m the only one who cleans at all, how would you handle this? I have laundry piled up, they act like the washer and dryer aren’t there. Nobody knows what the dishwasher is for and there’s always nasty dishes in the sink, I went on strike but all that happened were bigger piles of laundry, dirtier bathrooms, and a disgusting kitchen and then I gave in and cleaned that up. My husband works and I stay home with the kids but I want a life, too. I’m not the maid, my husband is the worst of them all and he comes from a more “traditional” family and thinks that I should be the one to do it all!
Unappreciated in Union City
Oh boy, situations like this are difficult because it’s actually a multi-faceted problem. It’s not just about the workload, it’s about feelings of resentment and a lack of respect, there’s frustration, and that feeling of not being appreciated. It’s not a fun place to be and in all honesty you’ve got a bit of a struggle ahead of you. You’re in charge of turning four children into responsible adults and that’s not an easy task. Heck just take a look around at what’s going on in society and there are plenty of examples where we (this is the general, America as a whole) have not done this.
The issues between you and your husband need a third party that he respects, whether that’s a counselor or perhaps a priest or a pastor, if you attend church. Your job as a parent is extra hard if he’s undermining your efforts.
I have friends who will tell stories of their mothers throwing their clothes out on the lawn after they weren’t taken care of appropriately. While I laugh at the image and I totally get the temptation, I’m not sure I have that in me and I’m not saying it’s something you should do. I’m only saying you aren’t alone in that feeling of complete frustration.
It’s time to get all of the kids in the same room at the same time with no distractions. But before you do this, be prepared. Know what you expect from each child so it can be spelled out plainly have a list something like:
- bedrooms clean
- dishes done
- trash taken out
Each kid has something he or she values over which you still have some control: whether it’s their cell-phone, access to the Internet, driving privileges, access to friends etc. Remind them of this. Heck, some counselors suggest writing up a contract of responsibilities and privileges.
If you click the yellow sticky note in the upper-right of Home-Ec101.com, you’ll land on a page with a printable weekly chore chart. By all means feel free to rearrange the days to fit your schedule and needs, just know that these chores, if done on a weekly / daily basis as outlined will keep your house reasonably clean.
Assign the chores to the children and give each child a thorough, hands-on demonstration of how the chore is performed so expectations are clear. Keep repeating said hands-on demonstration / chore inspection until the child -and I don’t care if they are teens, they are still children- can do the chore to meet your expectations. Yes, I know this is so much easier for me to say than for you to do. It is likely that it will take a lot of effort and close monitoring on your part until the new normal is well-established. As of right now, they know that if they stall and ignore you long enough you’ll do it for them. That part has to change and it’s going to take time.
Hang in there and seek help from a qualified professional if you aren’t making headway. Because you are right, it’s not just your job. Everyone who lives in a household should be making some contribution toward maintaining reasonable living conditions.
Submit your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.