I am a stay-at-home mom taking care of four young children. While two of them are in school for part of each day, I am home with a baby and a one year old all day. Cleaning is certainly part of my daily routine as is cooking, shopping, and laundry. I am very busy attending to my children and a house that demands constant care. My children are young and they make messes constantly. I am not in a position to afford cleaning help and I do my best to maintain my home. It is certainly not my top priority to keep the house meticulous; and to be honest, I don’t think it should be. I refuse to be slave to the house. I much prefer to spend my time playing with my kids than following their dirt trails with a mop. At the end of each day, when my children are asleep, I tidy up, put toys away, clean up sticky spills and so on. I do my best to keep the house neat and frankly, I’m tired of my husband’s complaints and criticism. My husband is accustomed to a mother who lived to clean. She spent every waking moment scrubbing, mopping, sweeping and dusting. She took tremendous pride in the cleanliness of her home, and my husband would very much like me to do the same. That, however, is impossible! A house that is meticulously clean does not give me tremendous joy. I do not feel that my pride should be based on the shine of my floor, but rather on the quality of the lives spent inside the home. My husband is always making comments as to the inadequacies of my cleaning, and I’m tired of being on the defensive all the time. As if taking care of our children full time with no help really needs defending! I’m really not sure how to handle this. Any good ideas?
A Tired Housewife
Somehow, unless you are a housewife, the appreciation of what goes into it goes unnoticed. It is very easy for a man to come home at the end of the day, when the kids are bathed and dinner was served and cleaned up, to imagine that everything just runs smoothly and easily. This is certainly not the case, as any housewife will tell you! Almost nothing goes smoothly, and the fact that anything gets done at all is a complete miracle. Children take up almost every moment, so the few available moments in between are crammed with a million errands. Having been a stay-at-home mom, and a working mom, I can tell you firsthand that being at home is surprisingly difficult. For the most part, you are overworked and underpaid! Keeping a home in tip top shape is a full time job in and of itself. Add children and other responsibilities into the mix, and it becomes a juggling act of mass proportions. So certainly, husbands should be far more appreciative and far less critical of their stay-at-home wives. That being said, there are several things I’d like to point out.
When a man comes home at the end of his day, he is both exhausted and stressed; it is of the utmost importance that he walks into a home that is calm and clean. You mentioned in your letter that you tidy up once the kids are asleep; perhaps the tidying can take place shortly before your husband arrives home. This is not to say that you need to scrub floors and vacuum prior to his arrival. Rather, put toys away and create an organized and neat facade. He will be far less inclined to kvetch if the mess is not in his face the minute he enters the door. Obviously, walking into clutter and tripping over toys is not the optimal way to be greeted after a long day at work. This is not to minimize that you have also had a long and tiring day, but for the sake of shalom bayis, we must occasionally overlook our personal feelings for those of our spouses.
It is very important to have cleaning help occasionally, especially with young children around! It is certainly a costly endeavor; however it is a necessity more than a luxury. Even having someone as seldom as once a month can substantially alleviate your labor. Paying someone to do the major backbreaking cleaning that you simply can’t physically do based on time constraints and exhaustion will allow you to maintain your home and keep it clean. Think about how much money we spend on things we can’t even account for that are far less important than this!
Lastly, always remember that open communication is the key to almost all ill feelings between husband and wife. Rather than allowing his comments to hurt you, bring you down and ultimately cause you to resent him, express to him the way it makes you feel. Explain to him just how hard you work, and that you are doing the best you can. Communicate to him how hurtful his criticisms are and how much you’d appreciate his compliments. Never assume that your position is obvious or that your feelings are known. You might be surprised to find out just how unaware your husband is of the way his words make you feel!