“You said you’d clean up the garage, and that was two weeks ago!”
Clearly, my wife was angry about it. The thing was that I had just been so busy with work that I hadn’t the time (or gumption) to take care of the garage.
“You also said you’d take care of cleaning the bathrooms.”
True, but again, I had so much on my plate that I didn’t have time to do that either.
“I need you to help me out here. I can’t do it alone.”
It’s Not Helping Out, It’s Taking Responsibility And Doing Your Part
I learned the hard way. My wife and I have been married for over 14 years, and only recently have I really learned that my role in the house wasn’t to “help out,” or do “favors” for my wife, but to take responsibility and contribute in doing my part.
When a friend asks for some help, that’s helping out. When you have no obligation to contribute, but do so out of kindness or love with no expectation of returns.
In a marriage or as a parent, the idea of helping out doesn’t apply. If your husband or wife needs more help in keeping the house clean, then it’s your responsibility to make sure the support is there when they need it.
If the kids are giving momma a hard time, it’s your responsibility to step in and be the other parent.
I Used To Leave It All Up To Her
For many years, I’d left a lot of things up to my wife.
For some reason, I thought that just as long as I worked hard at my 9 to 5 job, and brought home the money, I was taking care of my responsibilities.
Anything else that needed to be done around the house, I saw as “helping out” and in some cases, optional work.
She Wasn’t Happy
As you can imagine, this kind of thinking leaves your spouse feeling like they’re shouldering the burden. They feel like they are the only one that is doing anything around the house, and they’re actually right in a sense.
I would argue that it’s not that they’re actually doing everything, but by merely “helping out,” you’re leaving the responsibility solely on your spouse for the daily upkeep and maintenance of the family, which is not fair.
Consistency Counts In Taking Responsibility And Doing Your Part
So I would wash the dishes once or twice a week. I’d make dinner a couple nights too. I’d occasionally clean up the house or tend to the kid’s needs.
I thought I was doing a really good job of “helping out,” which I would have been if this had been for a friend.
The fact of the matter is that I didn’t see it as doing my part in the relationship.
I would wonder why she’d get so mad at me if I didn’t get to something when I said I would. I would get mad at her if she kept reminding me that I still hadn’t done what I said I’d do, even if it was months later.
I felt like it was so unfair that she would ask so much of me, even though I was “doing my part” and going to work every day to make money for our family and still “helping out around the house.”
Responsibility Doesn’t Stop With Being The Breadwinner
Being the breadwinner just means that you have a time commitment to both your job and your family. It does not mean that your job comes before family. It also doesn’t mean that your only responsibility is to keep the roof over your heads and food in the fridge.
Granted, having a job, making money and keeping it rolling in is extremely important, but I learned that it’s just being responsible, not exceptional. Working hard at work and expecting your spouse to pick up the slack at home is both unfair and unreasonable.
I make just as much of a mess around the house as the kids, if not more, and I had somehow thought that the mess would clean itself up, or I’d just “help out later” and pick up.
Doing What You Should Be Doing Doesn’t Earn Points In A Marriage
It’s human nature to see a reward after doing something extra. We’re taught that if we do the extra credit on a quiz or test, we’ll get the reward of a higher mark. When you do something for someone else, it’s a common decency that they “reward you” for helping out (like those moving day pizza parties).
In your home and in your relationship with your spouse and kids, there are no rewards for doing your part.
In fact, if your spouse is extra nice or does something extra for you, it’s out of love, and not because you deserve it.
When the sink’s full of dirty dishes, stepping in and taking 20 minutes to clean them is just your responsibility. When you go the extra mile of cleaning the whole kitchen, oven and all, it’s not doing anyone favors, it’s just being responsible and doing what needs to be done.
No spouse in their right mind should ever feel like they owe you something just for doing your part in the relationship.
It’s Not Just Doing Your Part, It’s Taking Responsibility
Doing your part is being responsible. When we think of doing what needs to be done in the house as “helping out,” what we’re really internalizing is that the work we’re doing isn’t our responsibility, and by default, your spouse owes you something for the extra effort.
Obviously, reading this it’s clear how wrong it is to think this way, but so many people do. Even my wife has used the phrase, “I need you to help me out around the house.”
She doesn’t actually mean that it’s 100% her responsibility and she needs outside help, she’s really saying that I need to get my sh**t together and become more responsible and do my part to keep things together.
Change Your Way Of Thinking
In the end, it all boils down to your way of thinking.
When you see those dirty dishes piling up, it’s not your spouse’s fault for ignoring them, it’s your responsibility to step in and get it done.
Likewise, when it’s 3:00 AM and the baby is up for the fourth time and your spouse is dead tired because they can’t sleep, do your part and step in. Stay up with the child so your spouse can sleep, even if you have to go to work at 7:30 AM. The child is as much your responsibility as it is your spouses.
Stop thinking that doing things for your family and around your house is doing anyone any favors. You’re not “helping out”. You’re merely “doing your part” in the relationship and being responsible.