I’ve stopped insisting that my guests “please excuse the mess” when they drop by my house. Instead, I’ve drawn a line in the sand with regards to how much mental, emotional, and physical labor I am willing to take responsibility for. I cannot parent, work from home, be the maid and chef, and entertain guests without feeling like a stressed-out crazy bitch.
So, I won’t.
My mental load needs decluttering, and I am starting with the unfair expectation that I can keep a tidy home.
My husband and I are not very traditional. We bought a house and had a baby before we got married, and we’ve never really thought much about whose role it is to take the garbage out. We just both do it. But gradually, with the same natural progression as the pull of gravity, the cleaning, cooking, shopping, and childcare seems to have fallen into my lap.
While my husband does help out, remembering, organizing, and delegating how all of the household tasks get done defaults to me, and I can see and feel the physical effects of what that can do to a person over time.
Take sleep, for example. My husband has the ability to just fall asleep when he is ready for bed. When I go to bed, there is a mandatory hour of staring at the ceiling and feeling like my chest is going to explode from the mounting pressure of everything I didn’t get to (the last load of laundry never got dried, dammit!), as well as the things I absolutely have to do the next day (I cannot forget to refill my son’s student lunch account!).
Since when was all of this my responsibility? My husband never said to me, “Honey, you do the ‘wife stuff,’ and I’ll do that “man stuff,’” yet, here we are. I’m spraying stain remover all over skid marks while sitting on hold with the phone company and mentally planning dinner before my oldest gets off the school bus. Meanwhile, my husband is casually wondering out loud about building his own smoker in the backyard for summer ribs. It’s freaking February.
So, I quit.
I handed the bills and checkbook to my husband and told him in no uncertain terms that he is in charge of the flow of finances from now on. Yes, I’m still in the loop on where our money goes, but I am not the person who has to think through each minor fiscal detail anymore. We sat down and went through each bill and I told him everything he needed to know like, the lady at the propane company will talk your ear off, so be careful because she’ll mark you down for a full tank instead of 100 gallons, which will double our bill. I showed him how I mark the calendar and how much money needs to go into savings each week. He couldn’t believe the amount of time it takes to get through financing our life for one month.
Wait until he finds out how much time I spend doing laundry.
I gathered my children and explained that going forward, it is their job to know where their toys are, not mine. I’ll no longer spend oodles of time tracking down their stuff when they are perfectly capable of doing it themselves. I gave them each a basket for downstairs where they must put their crap. They have to bring it all back to their room before bedtime. If a toy goes missing, tough luck.
Simplifying my daily tasks is an exhaustive effort up front, but it is paying off as time goes by. I’ve started including a bullet on my daily to-do list for self-care, which means I make sure that I get 30 minutes a day of uninterrupted time for just me. It felt selfish and ridiculous when I first adopted this new habit, but a couple of months into it, I am beginning to feel like my needs are just as important as everyone else’s around here. The time allocated for my self-care is no different than my kids’ basket meant for gathering toys and putting them back. I’m putting my own energy back into me.
My mental and emotional load is still huge, don’t get me wrong. But as I delegate some of the responsibilities to other people, I am beginning to feel a little bit less overwhelmed. My workload for my family should not overshadow my ability to be a healthy and happy person. That is where I draw the line.