Watch out, this could be a long one…
Normally when Joe and I have a project going we work together. I love painting side-by-side, he needs a helping hand to hold the crown moulding, and spending a few hours browsing our local Lowe's or Home Depot together is time we enjoy together! But this project is DIFFERENT.
It all started when we realized the bathroom is really too small for both of us to fit in at the same time, particularly while swinging a hammer. Only one of us could work at a time, and that one often needed to be Joe. Heavy lifting? Joe. Electrical work? Joe. New plumbing? Joe. Even if previous projects had similar aspects that were just Joe I would sit nearby and we'd chat and dream up new house ideas or something. Well, there isn't even any room to sit and chat now so I might as well make myself useful somewhere else. You know what's really useful to a guy working hard on home renovation? A hot meal! You know what has to be done after a hot meal? Dishes! And how about all those clothes that get grimy and sweaty from his construction? Laundry! And what does a guy want after working in a dirty, cramped space? A clean house to relax in! So my part of the bathroom renovation has been to settle into an even-more-domestic-than-usual role.
Let's talk domesticity. My mom had us do some chores around the house growing up, but mostly she bore the brunt of housework. I didn't touch a load of laundry until I went to college - not to sort, wash, dry, fold, or put away. The laundry fairy did it, and she sure was amazing at her job! Same with the dishes fairy (even though that fairy tried hard to convince us she didn't exist). We had to mow the lawn and occasionally sweep or vacuum, and I enjoyed helping with dinner, though it certainly wasn't required. I absolutely loved and admired all the hard work my mom did for our family, and I was very gratefully I didn't have to do it myself! Instead, I worked on playing piano, working my way through our library, practicing for softball or swimming, getting up to my elbows in an art project, and spending many long and creative hours with my sisters and friends playing games/making forts/taking pictures. All the mundane things my mom did allowed me the freedom to do much COOLER and more FUN things - because that's a mom's job!
Well crap. Now I am a mom. Now that is my job. There is SO MUCH laundry, cooking, and cleaning to be done I find it difficult to catch a significant chunk of time for my own pursuits. I have a little time here (quiet time in the afternoon, if Ethan's asleep) and a little time there (bedtime, if it doesn't require me to get out of my seat every 5 minutes for a glass of water or a lecture about saying in bed), but mostly my time is dedicated to "mom's jobs." At the beginning of our marriage this wasn't a thing. Chores and cooking were light and were divided pretty evenly, but of course when kids enter the picture marriages and roles get turned on their head. The more kids I had, the more you I got up on your head, and now I feel like I am in a nearly complete headstand - I'm fine, everything's ok, but it's quite an adjustment to being right-side-up! And it's not an adjustment that came easily, believe you me. If you read my blog, you believe me already. No, no, it's taken 7 years and 4 children for me to become a decent housekeeper. Let's examine that, shall we?
I hate keeping house. I love having my house kept, but doing it is such a drag! Trouble is I don't want Joe to do it. Don't get me wrong, he's a handy guy with a broom or some windex and it's his house too so he should help out, but I feel terribly guilty if he has to clean, it feels like I've been failing at my job. I stay home, home IS my job. This became a big issue when we lived in Thornton because A) I was nearly always pregnant, which means always exhausted and sleepy, B) we moved at an incredibly slow pace on home projects due to a severe lack of time and funds, and keeping the house neat around construction is a whole different ball of wax, and C) I was just plain not as good at keeping house. I did not want to accept that it all fell on me, I wanted a magical solution to appear where I could get the house clean and cute and de-cluttered and still take a nap. Plus, Joe worked super-long hours so I figured if the house was a mess he'd only see it about 2 hours a day. NOW, though, times have changed. Oh, the times have changed SO MUCH for the better and Joe is home SO MUCH… which means the house needs to be clean and STAY clean because Joe is actually here to see it! Yipes! This is a big deal because Domestic Support is one of Joe's top 5 needs, as outlined in "His Needs, Her Needs" by Willard F. Harley, Jr.
I absolutely love relationship books. I love trying to learn how to make my relationship better before something happens to make it get worse, like a little 72-hour Relationship Kit when an unexpected storm blow in. Luckily, I was reading "His Needs, Her Needs" after our big issue and a storm blew in. I re-read my old posts just last week because I was looking for the one about re-doing our bathroom and I got sucked in with memories… and I hadn't really remembered (though I did as clear as day once I read it) that Joe confessed to his pregnant-with-his-third-child wife that he didn't feel like they were in love anymore, and then his pregnant & hormonal wife did not panic - because this book was that dang good! After re-reading that post I knew I had to re-read the book, and this time to do it WITH Joe (who is now VERY much in love with me, thankyouverymmuch). So we were reading it together, trying to decide which of the 10 emotional needs we rate as most important to us individually - there's "admiration, affection, conversation, domestic support, family commitment, financial support, honesty and openness, physical attractiveness, recreational companionship, and sexual fulfillment" (Harley, Jr. "His Needs, Her Needs," 2004. Page 18). To get a better idea of what some of those categories comprise we were reading their summaries in the index, so I read domestic support - we vaguely thought it was probably not important, only rated with people who were superficial. Joe even declared, "Pshhhht!" when I came to the topic, like he was *so above that.* He's a man of the present, not the past - he cooks REALLY well, he takes the kids and goes grocery shopping, if he desperately needs a shirt ironed he does it himself - but as we read the description it was like reading our own personal history!
"Newlyweds commonly wash dishes together, make the bed together, and divide many household tasks… At this point in marriage, neither of them would identify domestic support as an important emotional need. But the time bomb is ticking. When does the need for domestic support explode? When the children arrive! Children create huge needs - both a greater need for income and greater domestic responsibilities" (Harley, Jr. "His Needs, Her Needs," 2004. Page 192-193).
"Domestic Support includes cooking meals, washing and ironing clothes, cleaning house, and child care. If you feel very fulfilled when your spouse does these things, and very annoyed (that's Joe!) when they are not done, you have the need for domestic support" (Harley, Jr. "His Needs, Her Needs," 2004. Page 192)
We laughed out loud and immediately ranked Domestic Support right up there in his top 5! He and I both agreed that we feel more in love now than we were when we lived in Thornton, and we both credit "the job change that saved our marriage." I am more able and willing to provide the things he needs (like domestic support) when he is able to give me things that I need (like family commitment). Bonus on the financial support, his increased salary has made our lives 1,000 times easier. This hasn't made me like housework, but it has given me much more of a purpose in doing it. I always knew Joe (and I) would rather live in a clean house than a dirty one, but I'd also rather have a pedicure and a extra-long nap at least once a week, and that's just not always in the stars. But when I'm doing it specifically for my spouse so he feels fulfilled rather than annoyed, and I know that my spouse is working equally hard to keep me happy in my own personal areas, well... it's a good thing. I'll clean to that!
So while Joe works on the bathroom I work on the house because His Need is to be taken care of, Her Need is to have him around, and the House Needs two fulfilled people to get it put back together. More on that progress tomorrow...
Meanwhile, I highly recommend the book! Fix existing problems, avoid future problems, and meanwhile get your fix of an interesting and enlightening read.