Q: I feel like I'm a slave in my own house. My children are in their early 20s and still live at home. I work part-time and responsibility for the household falls on me. I clean, shop, cook, wash and iron. My children are good at certain chores, but they're still only those they've done since school. I'm hesitant to ask for more, as they all lead very busy lives.
A: I'm sure there are many female readers who wholeheartedly share your concern. While it's nice to have our children around for longer, it creates a set of problems our parents didn't face. Compounding the issue is the fact that more women work outside the home. The women's movement promised we'd be able to have it all, and it seems that's exactly what has happened. We're also doing it all, or at least, the greatest part of it. And by “all,” I'm referring not only to careers outside the home but also to household tasks. Studies show it doesn't matter if a woman works away from home; she still carries the primary responsibility for the home and does the greater share of housework, with men in blue-collar occupations helping slightly more than their white-collar counterparts.
is is what I suggest: Have a family council where everyone who lives in the house comes together. Without assuming a martyr's attitude, discuss the issue with your family members. Tell them you need help. Write down a list of all the chores that have to be done and then let each one take responsibility for some aspect of running the home. It isn't unfair that your children take a more active role than they did at school.
If all of you work and you are all adults, then it is only fair that the work be divided more or less equally. I say “more or less” because the fact of the matter is that you are the lynchpin and it will remain your function to keep an eye on all aspects of the household. But that doesn't mean you have to do all the work.
As women, we bear the awesome responsibility of not only caring for our homes but also for the atmosphere that reigns inside them. When we feel resentful, unhappy and tired, our attitude affects everyone around us.
It's much better to discuss this issue openly and then to accept, in a happy spirit, the help offered. Remember though, the members of your household may not do things in the same way as you would! Your challenge is to accept their efforts graciously. After all, the important thing is they are helping.