What did you do all day?

Responsibility is defined as the state or fact of being responsible, answerable, or accountable for something within one’s power, control, or management. When you have children you become responsible for not only their well-being but every facet of their life. This often times causes you to lose focus on your needs, your partner’s needs, and even your dog’s needs if you have one. Did you feed the dog today?

A lot of us were brought up with the idea that when a man has a family his responsibility is to go to work and make sure the family’s basic needs of food, water, and shelter are met. The mother, in turn, takes care of the home and the kids’ immediate needs like lunch, baths, and cleaning. Stay with me, I promise it’s not going to be a male chauvinist rant. I agree that these roles should be defined but I don’t think that responsibility falls solely on the father or solely on the mother. And I also don’t agree these roles are gender specific.

The home needs to operate like a government and just like the world, what governs one country well may not be fit for another country. Discuss with your spouse how you want the house to function. Do you want a democracy where everyone gets a voice? Would you rather have a dictatorship whereas one person is the head of the family? Or do you like anarchy? To each his own really. The main thing is that you and your spouse are on the same page.

Our family runs as a democracy but of course, the kids’ electoral college votes are like North Dakota and Alaska, much less influential. We try to come to agreements on all major decisions and talk things out like adults should. But what about day to day activities like who does laundry or dishes? Who has to stay up with Moo when she refuses to go to sleep? These are problematic at times and I am sure they are with most couples.

Currently, I go to work four days out of the week and work 12-hour shifts. My wife has just launched a direct sales business and has become increasingly busy. Now that we have blurred the lines of the traditional roles it has become difficult to call each other out for not doing chores or whose turn it is to change a shitty diaper. Both of us are busy during the day and both of us are exhausted by the time night falls.

We tried to define responsibilities for ourselves like I’ll clean the kitchen and do the dishes and she does the laundry. This didn’t last long. The laundry piled up as quick as the dishes in the sink. Now don’t get the wrong idea, we are not living in squaller. Our house is kept fairly clean and we do laundry and the dishes but we don’t get upset as much as we used to when there is a plate left in the sink or the hamper starts to swell. I think we realize that spending time with each other and our kids come first and we’ll get to the chores in a moment. This took me a long time realize. It’s not that I necessarily wanted a sparkly clean home and food on the table when I got home from work, I just got frustrated tripping over toys coming through the door. What I wasn’t realizing is that not only was my wife taking care of the kids by feeding them, playing with them and cleaning up after them but she was doing this all while running her business.

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So I would get caught up in the fact that the kids had taken all the toys out of the bins and miss the fact that the living room had been vacuumed, the dishes were done and the laundry was put away, something I hate doing.

After actively trying to be more conscious of what my wife has done our relationship has increased in strength. I thank her for sweeping up the dog hair or making dinner. It is important to notice the little things in every aspect of life. It may not seem significant but a thank you can go a long way.

We have even developed a chore chart for Peanut to get her to lend a hand. Plus, why should you have to clean up their mess? Like my mother said to me as a child “Your legs broken?” Peanut enjoys her chores, and when she does them all, she gets a prize at the end of the week.

In our house it is no longer a question of roles and responsibilities anymore more but “how can I contribute?”

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