A friend of mine wrote to me recently. She had reached the end of her rope. Taking care of her home had gotten to be too much for her to handle. Her husband didn't seem to want to help, even when she worked outside of the home and came home exhausted every night. Her children were more than willing to let her work all day and then spend her weekends cleaning up after them.
As she typed, she whined ... and I'm not putting her down for this. We have all been there at some time or other.
I just wanted for us to see 'ourselves' in her words.
"I work all day."
"I have to do it all on the weekends."
"My house is always messy when I get home."
"No one seems to care."
"I hate feeling like I'm the 'Bad Cop'."
"Their dad lets them get away with everything!"
"I just want some help from time to time, and a little recognition for what I do would be nice!"
"I have yet to figure out how to clean the messes of 6 people every day and be happy about it."
What was I to reply to her? What could I say to her that would REALLY help in the long run, both for her alone, and for her darling family?
You might be surprised.
Here's what I wrote back to her:
"My dear and darling friend ...
You touched on so many solutions to the problems that are causing you such grief. Somehow you may have missed the answers that you were typing out.
Let's see ... here are the problems you typed out for us:
You are a Payroll SHE.
You try to do everything on the weekends.
You don't like to come home to a messy house after a long day at work.
You don't want to be the 'bad cop' of the family.
You'd really like some recognition for what you do manage to do.
You'd love for everyone to pitch in and help.
Now ... what are the solutions you can bring, have brought, or what's a different way of looking at the problems?
Payroll SHE: lots of people are payroll SHEs. You are in great company. The title 'Payroll SHE' can conjure up images of perfectionism, however. Solution: You really CAN'T do it all.
Weekends: If it's not done during the week, why should it be done during the weekend? Solution: Just wash up what dishes are in the sink - not on the counter - not on the stove. I know. It drives you crazy to see dishes undone. WHY does it drive you crazy? This is a choice you made, I guess. You let the dishes rule your emotions.
Messy house after work: Yep. They get that way. My house is the messiest between 3 pm and 7 pm. That's just life here on the homestead. People are coming home from school. People are coming home from work. People are shedding their 'out in the world' stuff for the 'I'm at home' stuff. It's transitional, and can be taken care of in about 15 to 30 minutes. Everyone takes care of his or her stuff, you too. Let go of wanting to wave that magic wand and everything scurries off to be where it belongs. Ain't gonna happen, girl. Set some rules in place and DO NOT WAIVER FROM THEM.
'Bad Cop': Well, someone has to be the 'Bad Cop', I guess.
Number One: The most important step you can take right now is to sit down with yourself and set yourself some rules. Not rules that say, 'if so-and-so won't pick up her stuff, then I'm going to throw it all away.' These are rules for YOU. Rule #1: Decide what is most important in YOUR life. Rule #2: Decide to make positive choices for YOURSELF. Rule #3: What doesn't matter, doesn't matter. And don't let it matter!!
Number Two: You said: "I have yet to figure out how to clean the messes of 6 people every day and be happy about it." You are SO RIGHT about that. There's no way to feel happy when you feel like you are a slave to everyone else. Why do you allow yourself to feel that way? You have already made up your mind that things aren't going to get any better unless YOU are the one to take that shovel in your hand and clean up all the @!#@!. I know that it's easier said than done, but you have to turn your head around. I have the feeling that your children do not see that cleaning up after themselves can be fun and rewarding, because they see you all stressed out whenever you are doing the cleaning up and picking up. Why should they want to look and feel like that? If YOU get all worked up about housekeeping, then THEY will get all worked up about housekeeping. Know what I mean?
Recognition: It can be slow in coming. I've been with Fly Lady since the beginning, and maybe once a year I hear something positive from the family members. I cherish those moments and they take me through the rest of the 364 days of the year.
Help from the Family Members: Why should they help you when you do it for them? Stop doing what they can very well do for themselves. If they are old enough to do laundry - let them do laundry. If they are old enough to clean up their rooms - let them do it. Yada Yada Yada.
You are stressing out too much about what 'should be'. It's driving you right into the ground, and ruining your health and your relationships. I'd hate to lose your friendship over this, but you already have the tools you need to change your life around, especially since you've been with Fly Lady for eight years. All you have to do is use them, and use them consistently.
I've never met you, but I love you, and I want to see you succeed. If you want it badly enough, you can do it. My advice for right now is to lower your own expectations and raise the bar on what you expect from everyone else."
I let that sink in for a bit. She, and a few other of my friends, wrote back to whine just a bit more. "How do you stop feeling so stressed about it all? I just can't get any help!"
I wrote again:
"It took me a few years to realize that Fly Lady was really teaching us to Love Ourselves First. I found myself in your shoes so many, many times. It finally dawned one day as I was pulling up the bath mat from the tub after my shower so that it could dry (which no one else ever seemed to do) that I was pulling up that bath mat for ME – because I didn’t want it to get all smelly and moldy. That’s when it finally clicked.
I do my Routines for ME – because they make my life easier.
I make my bed for ME – because I love to feel pampered when I crawl between the sheets at night after a long day.
I wash the dishes 3 times a day for ME – because I like the look of a clean kitchen.
I keep the counters in the kitchen cleared off for ME – because I really like to find things when I need them!
I do it all for ME – because I love ME."
For years we have been trained to take care of others first. We always believed that if we did, then they'd turn around and take care of us. It doesn't work that way.
Once we begin to put a priority on ourselves, THAT'S WHEN others begin to notice!
What about it? Are you ready to re-focus your attitude and make yourself a priority? Are you ready to check all that whining and turn it into winning? You know you are!