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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Support/ideas please...

I work full time, have 5yo and 2yo DDs and am 7 months pregnant with number three. My DH runs a small farm which consumes much of his time and energy and, honestly, means there's a lot more and dirtier laundry/floor than the average family. Which is nearly all left for me. I'm trying to avoid getting started on the topic of his leaving his laundry on the floor and dirty dishes on the table for me to deal with when I come home from a 12 hour day away from home.

Because my main concern right now is that my cumulative level of stress and exhaustion is making me a poor parent to my 5yo in particular. The 2yo is little enough I have a lot more patience with her. My expectations are higher, maybe too high, for my older child. I want my children to be kind, empathetic, helpful, nurturing human beings and I'm not seeing that in her at all. And I know it's my fault because the only way to teach that sort of thing to kids is to model it consistently and I haven't been doing very well with that. I'm constantly chiding her for one thing or another, and can't seem to come up with purposeful activities for her that she wants to do and don't add to my stress level (that is, make a lot of mess or require constant help). I try to ask her to help with household chores in age-appropriate ways and it seems like she always refuses, not only that but she says things like 'I'm just going to sit here and watch you work Mama' which make me want to scream and I have no idea where she gets.

To be frank this third pregnancy was a surprise and I've had ambivalent feelings about it from the start.... I know I'll love this child and taking care of a newborn doesn't really worry me, it's a stage I enjoy and feel confident about. But I'm worried it's going to get even harder for me to parent my other two appropriately. I hate feeling angry towards my child so often, that there are so few times we can be enjoying being together as a family and I'm not so tired and mad about the piles of laundry, the filthy floors and dishes everywhere. Perhaps having a nursing baby will help in a way as I'll be forced to sit down and be with my children. But the work will still have to get done too, and I'm getting worn down as is. I'm hoping to reduce the hours I'm working after the baby comes but haven't quite worked this out yet. That will also, of course, affect us financially so there will be a trade off for some of the (few) conveniences we use now to make life easier.

How can I change my perspective and be happy with my kids and spouse while I get the housework done still? I have physical and emotional limits. This is too much.
 

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Have you told your dh flatout that the current situation is absolutely unacceptable?

And I mean for both of you. There is no excuse for your husband not to be able to get clothes into a hamper* and no excuse for him not to get his yucky shoes off before he gets into the house**. However, running a farm by himself is also an unacceptable situation. I feel like the two of you really needed to talk some things through before you got to the point of him being a farmer and you working a job that has you out of the house 12 hours a day.

Frankly, until the real source of your stress and exhaustion is sorted out, you're going to find yourself taking it out on your kid. You might be able to help that a bit by being sure to spend time away from the chores. Like go into the kid's room, tell yourself plainly that you are NOT going to clean up in there and don't even need to *see* the mess let alone deal with it, close the door and play. There's laundry? Is it your husband's? Then whatever, he's an adult, he'll figure out how to get himself some clothes***. The floor in the living room looks like giants fingerpainted with mud? Then whatever, that's out there, you're in here and in here there's no mess.


*make sure whatever you're using for a hamper doesn't have a lid, by the way, hamper+lid=table
** maybe slippers and a tray right by the front door would help? Also a really heavy duty mat outside the house and a regular mat inside
*** he's got work-only clothes, right? He's not mucking out stalls in the same jeans he'd wear to the movies?
 

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Someone needs to tell your dh to "man-up" or some other cheesy macho line that seems to work on men. You're 7 months pregnant and out of the house 12 hours a day. So your working 24 hours a day and doing double duty for 12. You should not be responsible for his mess. I'm sure you want to nest. Let him clean after himself and his kids. Let you nest or rest. Does he have a brother or a guy friend that can tell him to get out of the dark ages and give you the respect you deserve. Sometimes it's easier for men to hear that stuff from a guy.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
I hear you ladies.... That would be the 'easy' solution, yet I haven't been able to make it happen.

Believe me, I've begged/whined/nagged/cajoled/bribed/complained and nagged some more. I've bought a door mat and shoe rack and laundry baskets (no lids!) and tried to figure out solutions to make it easy. I gave him his very own laundry basket right inside the door so he could literally strip into it right there. I suspect it started with being a nearly only child and having a stay at home mom his whole life... ;-)

Part of the problem is our current housing being tiny and inadequate, there is no enclosed foyer or mud room for taking off boots, so just inside the door is where they end up - and dirt migrates, despite mats and near daily sweeping or vacuuming. (And coming from a farm, it's not just 'dirt'...) We have hope of a better housing situation, maybe by the end of next year. It was supposed to happen last year and didn't for reasons we had no control over (bureaucracy). But for now - I have children playing on the floor, it has to be dealt with. If I just didn't do it, eventually he would but not nearly as soon as I think necessary! So.... My standards are higher, and I haven't figured out how to change anyone else's.

Our hope is that the farm can soon support our family and I can stop working and be the stay at home, homeschooling mom and farm wife I would be happy to be. It's just... No one knows when exactly 'soon' will happen and we have to survive until then. Timing in life is never perfect. The farming thing is something we certainly talked about before jumping into, and I was and remain well aware that for most start-ups like ours, unless you inherit land or a fortune, having outside income for the initial years is the only way it's going to work. We thought we were on the verge of me being able to stop working when our second child was born, and then a lease non-renewal changed everything, we had to move the whole farm to a new property and have been dependent on my job for housing since.

It's not a great situation at present and sometimes I just want/need to complain about it! But I know that doesn't really fix anything.... I do hope someday we have more in the way of community, both for support and role models for us all, it's been a lacking point in our lives due to moves and work and illness. I think that would make a big difference in everyone's happiness. But for now... It's mostly just us, and I want us to be happy where we are. The girls don't care that we live in a miniscule house or how dirty the floor is, they care when Mama and Papa are arguing! Yes, they care that Mama is too tired to play or read to them sometimes... I think for their sake I just need to put up a better front sometimes and teach them to be grateful for what we do have - more adequate shelter and food than many people in the world. Each other. For the most part, our health. Happiness is up to us, right?
 

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I don't think you can change hubby. You just can't. If anyone here has had their husband go from a messy person to a clean one because they asked in a short period of time, I would be all ears. I have never seen it.

What you can change is you. You need to carve out time to relax - I would try to work a few less hours a week or hire someone to do some cleaning. If neither is possible, do you have a close friend or family member who could come in and help? Alternately, your hubby must have some free hours - can you say something like "I will take the kids for the next 3 hours (and then go somewhere!) if you agree to do the laundry.

I might also move into "crisis mode" housekeeping, which looks like this:

-laundry does not have to be folded
-food can go on paper plates
-food must be healthy, but it must also be fast to prepare
-do not always break out the messy toys when asked. Painting is fun - but set up and clean up can take forever, for an activity that often lasts 10 minutes. Blech. I frequently used to bring my kids to a parent and tot center: they could paint and use lego there to their hearts content, and I was not left with a horrid clean up job.

As per the 5 year old helping with chores, I would insist she help you put away her own messes before starting a new activity. You gotta know (sadly) that no 5 year old is at all capable of lightening your work load. You can and should make her clean up after herself - lay the foundation for the future and teach her to be responsible for herself - but this will require a lot of guidance from you and is borderline a job in itself.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Kathymuggle, I would like to give you a hug right now...... You understand! I know you do! I used to read and try to do Fly Lady and she basically promised if you did all the dishes and shined the sink no one would put another dirty dish in it, they would be inspired by the shininess and want to keep it that way too! Nope.....they are inspired to fill it again, and spill some coffee grounds on the counter for good measure. At least three times a day.

So yeah.... Not only do I want to be happy myself but I want the kids to learn to pick up after themselves and not take after someone else (ahem) and yes, that is more work sometimes than just doing it myself... We do all know that on some level. I also want to not be embarrassed for others to see my home. (And our home is so tiny that any guest basically sees the whole thing, there is no 'keeping the mess in the kids' room'.) Part of this is nesting for sure, last time I was mopping twice a day by the end...

But you're right, there may be some ways I can try to lighten the load with strategic choices about what the kids play with and what we eat. I don't know if I could personally go for paper plates but I have certainly heard others swear by it for short-term relief.

Thanks for the ideas..... I'm also going to be waiting with eager ears to hear from someone who has successfully converted their husband to tidiness!!
 

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Kathymuggle actually reminded me of something I'd do when my dd was 2. Painting is actually really great for crisis mode housekeeping--IF it's washable paints and done in the bathtub. Put kids (yes, naked), paints, brushes, in the tub explain that they can paint but you aren't going to be saving the pictures, let them go to town while you do the bathroom cleaning (and drink some tea, and just sit) then turn on the water and give them a bath. End result, clean kids, clean bathroom, and they got to do a craft-type activity without adding to your stress.

Thanks for clarifying about the work situation. Having things fall through like that has got to be adding to your stress.

Do you have a covered porch, garage, ability to set up a pop up canvas structure, even a plastic tote bin just anything to create a spot where farm-mud boots and clothes could be put outside the house?

Oh, and kids who won't pick up toys for love nor money will often ADORE spraying things and wiping them with a cloth. Maybe see if they'd be up for "skating" around on washcloths on the floor? It won't be mopped as much as you'd love, but it'd reduce the mud especially if you keep trading out their cloths for new ones. And for your mopping, if you haven't already look into one of the systems that have the cleaning stuff onboard (like http://www.zoro.com/libman-spray-mo...Maf_ePRoVkCie25Y2w8LYaAvB78P8HAQ&gclsrc=aw.ds) most of them have a sort of plasic velcro bottom so they work with any old wash cloth, hand towel, etc. It makes mopping as easy as sweeping.
 

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I sympathize very much with your situation! When I get stressed, my older child's shortcomings are very hard to take and always seem to be attacks against me personally; I get really upset about how he obviously doesn't love me and I've obviously failed to raise a good kid. :frown: Sometimes it helps to make sure I'm telling him clearly when his choices are what's bothering me (rather than my just coincidentally being in a bad mood) : "I don't like sweeping the floor. It hurts my pregnant tummy. I feel mad that I'm cleaning up the dirt all by myself after three other people helped make the floor dirty. I think we should take turns sweeping."

Sometimes, kids want to "watch you work" because they feel like they can't do the job well enough for you. If there's any possibility of that, give your 5-year-old a turn to do a job and be totally positive about how she does it, commenting only on the parts she did right. When it's your turn next day, you can get the parts she missed. When she's watching you work, narrate about what you are doing, especially any parts that are not obvious: "I start from the top of the sink because the worst germs are around the drain; after I clean around the drain, I put the germy cloth in the laundry and put out a clean cloth on the hook by the sink."

I certainly won't claim to have converted anyone's husband to tidiness, but I have been happily unmarried for 21 years to a man who used to be a slob and pack-rat but has improved quite a bit! (Not only was he an only child with an at-home mom, but they had a housekeeper doing all of the major cleaning, and his mom is a pack-rat herself.) What success I have had comes mostly from patient application of a strategy my aunt taught me when I was first thinking about living with my boyfriend but mentioned my concern about his messy-clutter tendencies. It worked on my uncle! And now that my partner has reformed, we're working together using the same strategy to train our son out of making so much mess. Here are the steps:

1. Choose ONE, SMALL area of the house to start. My aunt's was the coffee table: "It really bothers me when the coffee table is cluttered with stuff, because it's the first thing I see when I come home. We can keep magazines there, but your socks don't belong on the coffee table, right?" Reach agreement about what things can and can't be left in the area. When you see things there that don't belong, say, "You left your guitar picks on the coffee table. Please put them away." Focus your efforts on this one area. Whenever you have a moment, dust and arrange it so it looks really nice. Occasionally comment on how glad you are to come home to a clean coffee table.

2. Once your first area is consistently under pretty good control, widen that area: "I feel embarrassed that our living room often looks messy and dirty. I'd like it to be a nicer place so that I feel more relaxed here. I know you like to take off your socks as soon as you come in; how about putting them in this basket so they aren't so visible and you can easily pick them up on laundry day?" Start with your feelings, but instead of ranting, quickly move on to potential practical solutions to particular parts of the problem. Most messy people have a hard time thinking of specific habits that will neaten things up.

3. Repeat. Every time you reach the point where the tidy zone is routinely kept up to at least 80% of your standard (nothing's perfect...), find an area just outside that zone that needs improvement.

4. Accept that this person may need a place where being messy is okay. Talk about it in terms of his having a place for his free-time activity, whatever that is: "When your origami is on the dining table, I worry about it getting damaged if something spills. Let's make an origami corner in the bedroom. You could use this table with drawers...." Then you leave that space alone, FOREVER. Resist the urge to expand the neatness zone to the entire house; work up to it being the whole house except for his little space. If the space is spilling over: "Your extra origami paper is blocking the heat vent. Please move it into the origami corner."

My aunt eventually abandoned #4 and, after moving to a house where my uncle's "den" in a separate room was just a desk in their bedroom, tried to get him to keep the desk tidy AND have the family computer on it. They wound up divorced, and of course that wasn't the only reason, but it must have contributed a lot to the feelings he expressed as, "She doesn't let me be creative," and, "She acts like the house is hers instead of ours." With that in mind, I have let my partner keep his den--and over the years, he's been keeping it much more neat and tidy! :thumb

One other thing: Is it possible that his laundry and dishes that are lying around when you come home are, in his mind, not for you to pick up but for him to pick up "later"? Could you perhaps get him (possibly together with the 5-year-old) to set a time of day when he goes around the whole house picking up stuff? I know it's dispiriting to come home to a mess, but if you know it'll get picked up at 7:30, maybe that will help.

Good luck!!
 
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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Thank you, SecondtimeMama and EnviroBecca for your ideas and encouragement. Maybe I started this thread on the wrong note but we're getting something good going now!

You may be right that DD feels she can't do a job well enough sometimes - though there are lots of little things she *can* do well that are in fact helpful: when I fold a load of towels I ask her to find and fold all the washcloths, if it's clothing, either sort it into piles by person or find all the socks and underwear and fold them. And yesterday she (her idea) got her little sister all dressed all by herself! I just wish she would consistently be willing to do these little sorts of things... But I do need to be sure to clarify (to myself and her) when I'm feeling upset because of my own stress / bad mood versus when she's really choosing something unacceptable.

And yes, if asked DH would say he was going to clean up his snack / throw out his garbage / put away his dirty clothes - he just hadn't yet. Trouble is I know it can sit there for days and I can't stand it! I don't understand what's so hard about using a laundry basket! Like, it's three feet away from where his clothes landed. Ah, married life.... No, he's not perfect, but I don't know anyone who does have a perfect spouse. And having an acquaintance (a mother...) not much older than I who was recently widowed, and knowing others who are divorcing.... I try to be grateful we're in this together.
 

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Consistency is great, but you're less likely to get there by focusing on what isn't being done than by praising what has been done. My experience with both my partner and my son has been that when I speak very positively about how nicely they did some one-time thing, they are more likely to do it again soon or do something else like it.

I understand how "I'm going to do it later" can go on for day after infuriating day!! That's why I suggested having a set time when he gets it done, and you agree not to complain about it and not to do it yourself (and resent it) until after that time. If he does clean up at that time, it'll make things more bearable for you, right?

When we were first living together, I was upset that he would take off his clothes next to the bed at night and then leave them until he was doing laundry, which might be as long as 10 days. I mentioned it a couple of times, to little effect. Then I started leaving my clothes on the floor, too, but the next time we were awake in the room together, I would pick them up (only *my* clothes) and put them in the laundry bag. When he saw me doing this, it reminded him to do it, too. Maybe something like that would work for you?
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Update : perhaps complaining to strangers helps. :) (well, if it keeps me from complaining to my family so much and also results in some brainstorming of actual solutions....)

Or perhaps the combination of trying to change my perspective to be actively on the lookout for ways my family members *are* helping and compliment them on it, as well as attempting to strategically change the ways I ask for help.

It's only been a week, but I've been seeing my older daughter doing so much to help her little sister, and helping with some housework too. The other night she washed most of the dishes after dinner (voluntarily!!) and actually did a great job! And my husband has done some dishes too. Actually I think seeing him doing things has helped inspire my daughter to help too. I'm trying to make requests by listing what needs to be done, and asking who is going to take each job before we... (fill in the blank). For example, after dinner, 'someone needs to wash the dishes, someone needs to hang the laundry, and someone needs to pick up toys before any stories or movies tonight.... I should probably do the laundry because it's my work clothes and they need to be hung right, what job do you each want?'

Perhaps we're all feeling the nesting bug of the new baby coming, but I hope these are routines we can keep.

Thanks again for the ideas....
 
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