It’s been an interesting couple of days. I’ve been posting some questions and essays on Facebook to promote my Build Better Boundaries class and what I’ve found out is that there are an awful lot of you who are doing an awful lot. Let me rephrase that: there are an awful lot of you doing an awful lot for a household of individuals who are capable of doing more than they are. There are many of you who are doing a whole lot for people, grown and growing, who would do well to learn that they, too, can help care for themselves and for the sacred space that you all call home. There are some of you who are doing everything for everybody.
Is this you? Is this your tribe? Are these your people, the people who are doing it all? I have to ask you why you are doing it. And really, to be fair, I shouldn’t ask because I used to be in that tribe, and sometimes I become a temporary resident. I dip in and out of tribal membership (in when I’m not paying attention and out when I am). So, if you prefer, rather than asking you why you do it, I can provide you with a list of possible answers that you can choose from (see how I did that, taking your job and making it mine – it’s like an onion people, layers).
So here are my most commonly used reasons (excuses) for doing everything for everybody. I don’t have time to explain it. I shouldn’t have to ask. I want them to have fun. A good Mom (wife, partner, spouse, roommate) would just do this and have no problem with that. Good people serve other people (oh that’s a good one). If I’m the one who has a problem with the mess, I should clean it up (a little truth ringing in that one for me even still). I like to be busy. It feels good to get things done. I feel like I’m in control when I get things done. It’s easier for me to just go ahead and do it. She/He/They won’t do a good job. I guess I HAVE to be the one to do it (does it need doing?). Someone has to take care of things around here (nobody does if you always do..). I’m the only one who cares about this stuff…
I could continue, but I’m starting to get on my nerves. My teeth are clenching and I’m starting to itch, because that mess up there, that’s a whole lot of b.s. Almost none of it is even remotely true, at least it’s not true for me. The really clever reasons have some grain of truth in them that has been perverted beyond reality.
What these reasons are good for is feeding my resentment, feeding the little hostile ember I carry inside sometimes that urges me to do all the stuff and be mad at everyone who’s not helping. It’s so ugly. I used to time myself folding laundry because if I did it for more than 10 minutes, I became furious (have I mentioned how much I hate laundry?). I use all of those thoughts to get annoyed when doing a task I don’t care for, which usually causes my domestic team to scatter. They can feel me coming (I’m not always verbal, but I’m far from quiet when angry), so they run and hide; heck, I would too. Then the real magic happens because THEN I prove myself right. They’re all gone, doing whatever they want and I’m left cleaning up by myself, being the only one responsible enough to do the dirty work, the worst way to be right. And that proof, my result, just stokes the hostility fire so that ember doesn’t extinguish itself. Congratulations! I just won a shitty outlook and a chest full of smoke for doing all of the housework!
It doesn’t have to be this way. Furthermore, I don’t want it to be this way. I don’t want to teach my children that mothers are responsible for every domestic task. I don’t want to fold everyone’s underwear instead of playing my guitar. I don’t want clean up all of the toothpaste instead of writing. I don’t want to reinforce gender stereotypes that make me sick and tired and angry. So I’ve had to draw some lines. I’ve had to put some boundaries in place. I’ve had to say No to new things and I’ve had to draw lines where I failed to in the past by delegating (even if they don’t do as good a job, which they don’t). I’ve had to lower some of my standards in exchange for help and time for myself. I’ve had to stop acting like the Better Homes and Gardens inspection team is going to show up any minute. I’ve had to get real and honest about what I think a good Mom is (because when I do that, laundry doesn’t show up on the list, but teaching self-care and shared responsibility does). I’ve had to remember that my actions are lessons for myself and for my children and that I am the best one to disrupt those ancient patterns of domestic drudgery. THAT is the work I’d like to do, so I can be free, so you can be free, so everyone can be free of being the only one who cares about this stuff.
Why are you doing it all? Would you like to stop? I can help.