Q: I am a stay-at-home mom of three and think I'm going crazy. I have a 14-year-old son, a 6-year-old daughter and a 21-month-old son. I can't keep up with all the things that are expected of me. I am supposed to be the perfect mom and have a clean house and, after all is said and done, be ready to be there for my husband. After dealing with kids and the house all day, the last thing I want to do is listen to my husband tell me how I never have time for him.
I am caught up in a terrible web that I don't know how to get out of. My husband does nothing to help out, because he doesn't feel he has to because he works all day to support the house. So everything falls on me—cleaning, laundry, landscaping, maintenance, kids, meals...I can go on forever on everything I have to take care of. I am drowning and can't find a life preserver! I'm just wondering if there is any advice out there to help me keep my sanity?
Vicki: Who says you're "supposed to be the perfect mom and have a clean house and be ready to be there for your husband"? Are those your husband's expectations? Or your family's? Or your own?
As a chronic and slightly pathological overachiever, I think that I should be the best mother/wife/writer/home decorator/driver/yogi/grocery shopper. Someone said to me once, "Instead of setting your goal at being 'the best,' how about thinking about being 'good enough?'" I actually say that out loud some days when I'm totally screwing it all up: "Good enough. Good enough. Good-freaking-enough."
Now, if it's your husband telling you need to be perfect and do it all, I have a few suggestions:
1. Go away for four or five days with some kind of "emergency" and see how he deals.
2. Prove to him that you both have full-time jobs. Keep a diary of everything you do for an entire week. Then, price it out. (A nanny costs $500 a week; a cleaning lady costs $80 a week; laundry service costs ___ a week; a landscaping service costs ___ a week; etc.) Total it: the job you do is worth ___ a month. Use this rationale to either:
(A) Convince him that he needs to chip in. Then, give him a his weekly jobs: Clean the bathrooms, make dinner on Saturday night, get cars washed. Or, give him a list of everything you do and tell him he has to pick three things to take off your plate.
(B) Convince him that you need to hire a cleaning lady or a landscaper or someone to take some jobs off of your to-do list.
3. If he won't agree to any of these things, let yourself off the hook. Do only what you have to do. Let go of what you don't—the yard, dusting—whatever you can. Go through the KFC drive-through every Wednesday. Pizza, Friday. I sometimes think that the reason my husband expects me to do things is because I always just do them. I take care of everything, without him having to ask, without us having to negotiate. I just do it. Maybe the answer is to not "just do it." Ignore the weeds. Don't automatically call to have the dripping pipe fixed. And then, when he says, "the toilet's still dripping," you say: "Yeah, can you please call the plumber tomorrow from work? Here's the number."