The Month of Aoife
(It’s pronounced EE-fah)
I, Aoife Alta McGlashen, of sound mind and body (ok, make that “tired, fed up, unappreciated and maybe a tad spiteful”) have decided that I'm going on strike.
I'm not telling anyone who lives here.
As of tomorrow and every day afterwards, for as long as it takes, I'm going to do one less thing around here and see how long it takes anyone to notice.
Like tomorrow, I'm not cooking.
Then the next day, maybe I won't restock the toilet paper in the bathroom cupboards.
Then the next day, perhaps I won't load, unload or run the dishwasher.
Oh, I'm going to keep sweeping and dusting and wiping the f*cking crumbs up off the counter because otherwise it will drive me insane.
But at some point, they'll need clean clothes. Although mine will always be clean and put away, perhaps I can stop doing THEIR laundry on a gradual basis. Like maybe, first stop washing towels... and then socks... and then underwear. Then just fly by the seat of my pants from there.
To be honest, I could quit one thing a day for a month and still have lots of sh*t to do around here.
So let’s see how it goes.
Ok. So... Day One of the strike is complete and so far, so good. Granted, I was busy as balls and the only cooking I did was for the dog (we have to make her food for her because she's an old dog now and it's cheaper than buying the expensive stuff at the vet. Moreover, I wouldn't forgive myself if all she ate was crap). Of course, there are leftovers in the fridge, so Cedric was able to fix himself a plate of supper. Patrick and Kelan generally fend for themselves anyway, so not a huge adjustment. Tomorrow will be more of a challenge because I don't even intend to thaw anything in the freezer, but bring it on! I also tricked them into picking up and putting away their own laundry (yes, it's high time!) I guess they're not used to me saying things like "hey be a peach (Patrick)/plum (Kelan) and take that stuff on up to your room please?" Tomorrow... I will start to let the towels pile up. We'll see what happens.
A little bit more challenging today, but I’m being strong. I don’t know how many times I walked past a pile of Patrick’s garbage and scattered items of clothing downstairs, but I resisted the urge to pick them up. This was not easy! But it led me to inform both boys, this time with conviction, “if your dirty clothes aren’t in the hamper, they aren’t getting washed”. This gives me some form of control and hopefully sends some kind of message. Time will tell.
Patrick asked last night what supper would be for this evening - I said, “whatever you want”. He said, “how about corn on the cob?” I said “great! I’ll pick it up and you can cook it!” I thought his eyes might pop out of his head. Sure enough, when he got home from work, I’d taken the liberty of shucking it, but it was up to him to boil it and watch over it between tidying up the basement and dumping his clothes in the hamper. Kelan of course had other plans. Cedric said, “So, what’s for supper?” I said, “Pat made corn on the cob and I think there are leftovers in the fridge if you want more. I’m going biking so I’ll eat later.”
I am realizing how easy I have made it for them and how I have done them a tremendous disservice. This lessens my guilt about backing away as I continue to back away. If something happened to me tomorrow, my spirit would not sleep if they could not boil water.
Still not cooking.
Have compromised and will continue to only do the laundry in the hamper.
Can’t quite bring myself to NOT stock the toilet paper in each bathroom, but I did leave a full package outside the boys’ bathroom. We’ll see how long it takes to go from there to the bathroom cupboard.
Hey, I haven’t swept today either, but soon I’ll feel a crumb on my feet and I’ll grab the broom.
There is a certain feeling of freedom that comes from choosing NOT to replace the towel on the empty rack, in choosing NOT to pick up the dirty clothes on the floor, in choosing NOT to empty the dishwasher, and in choosing NOT to move that package of toilet paper that was purposely left by the bathroom door YESTERDAY (yup, still there). I was irritated earlier when I noticed crumbs on the counter, but then I realized: I put them there. So I rather giddily wiped them up.
Now, the downside to choosing NOT to cook doesn't necessarily mean fewer dirty dishes, but it does mean fewer leftovers to choose from. Case in point: today I had carrots and a banana Popsicle for lunch. (Ok, I was also too lazy to make myself a salad, but still...) Anyway, it's early yet. And I really don't think they've noticed.
But I have. And I'm not turning back now.
Oh, Cedric emptied the dishwasher, but I had to ask him to do it. Not quite what I had in mind - I’m still managing this project. Last night when he said he’d take care of supper, he meant, “Let’s go out to eat”. Sure, I didn’t have to cook and there were no dirty dishes, but again, it’s not the same. Kids seem to be adapting - although the package of toilet paper is still standing outside the bathroom door. I suppose they know it’s there in the event they have to do the butt clench squat across the bathroom floor if/when they notice the empty toilet paper roll...
I also caved a bit tonight. I put a lasagna in the oven for the boys. It’s Friday after all and I do like to take care of them sometimes - I just don’t like it to be expected. Tomorrow will be a different story.
I didn’t cook supper, but I did bring home something already prepared from the grocery store that I thought might be of interest to the boys - a giant Dagwood sandwich. Of course, considering they didn’t get up until almost suppertime, I guess they’re not particularly hungry for what the rest of us call “supper”. Cedric is not home and I had defrosted leftovers (shipwreck stew and it was delish. Their loss). Sure, I swept, did laundry, etc. etc. I didn’t go above and beyond but I didn’t slouch either.
This morning I remembered a comment my ex-sperm donor made several years ago when I told him that I needed him to do more around the house: “what? You’re too good to do it?” There’s no negotiating with that. He was basically saying that it was my job, not his, and I’d better get down off my high horse.
Small wonder things didn’t work out.
But that comment has stayed with me through the years. It’s not because I’m “too good” for housework that I often find myself frustrated. It’s because NONE OF US are too good for it - and we all ought to be able to pitch in. It’s not one person’s project - it’s a team effort.
At least, it ought to be.
The saga continues.
One full week since I “went on strike”. And it’s still a work in progress. And a gradual one at that. If I quit everything all at once, I’ll go stark raving ape sh*t. But if I continue to go bit by bit, they might gradually pull up their socks... or at least find their own socks.
Case in point... Cedric’s first two questions this morning were “do you know where my bicycle helmet is?” followed by “did you take my banana?” (The helmet was right where he’d left it... and he’d dropped the banana last night in the driveway... and run over it. But I digress). I love him, but sweet gentle Jes*s.
Anyway, as to the boys, I think it’s sinking in. Patrick must have realized we’re getting short on towels because he started to clean up his room and dumped a few into the hamper. Similarly, Kelan just keeps keeping to himself... but he did thank me for the Dagwood sandwich - “it was good!”
I know its baby steps and I will try not to lose my sh*t.
The day started with such promise. I came home from a run and Cedric was cleaning out the fridge. Then he cleaned the kitchen. Then he cleaned up his sh*t in the living room. Plus he smoked ribs on the barbeque. It was too good to be true. Then, just before supper, he turned to me and said "and you can clean the bathroom." I don't think he meant it the way it came out of his mouth. I sure hope not. But I was THISCLOSE to losing it. “Oh, indeed I CAN clean the bathroom. Indeed, I f*cking DO clean it every g*dd*mn day.” But I didn't say that. I rolled my eyes, took a deep breath and said, “Excuse me?” He said, “Well I meant...”
I said, "Well, I think I know what you meant; so yes I can clean the bathroom, and you can sweep the floor".
But I'll be g*dd*mned if he thinks we’re even-Steven because he did a few things for today that I do all the f*cking time.
Cedric must sense that I am not quite myself. I had a meeting after work hours and when I came home, not only was he reheating yesterday's leftovers, he was bringing the clothes in off the line. Suspiciously, I asked, "what are you doing?” He said, "Look, the last thing you need when you get home is to deal with laundry and make supper". I jumped up and gave him the biggest koala hug. I think he liked it. He did the dishes too.
And... Patrick cleaned out his car and put it all in the hamper. I also found a bra... a nice one. I asked him if he wore it to the beach....
Was a good day. I decided to resume cooking a few meals a week as I can't rely on take out or frozen food as a staple without investing in a new wardrobe. Slowly but surely, it's quite possible that the man folk are gradually doing a little bit more. I won't hold my breath, but I'm not as tightly wound as I was 10 days ago. Nothing miraculous has occurred. But nothing horrible either.
Do I still have to remind them to pick up after themselves? Yes. But not as often. Alternatively, maybe I am more resigned. Either way, I have a little bit more time on my hands. Case in point: yesterday I got down on my hands and knees to scrub the living room floor. Then today, I did the same in the kitchen. And let's face it: no one else was going to! But sometimes it's just nice to see some progress or admire a finished product - especially when it's not a routine monotonous one like folding laundry or washing dishes. I don't want to do it again tomorrow.
A busy day for sure - very productive personally and to some extent professionally. And with regard to my "contract", I only had to remind Patrick once to pick up his stuff downstairs and tidy up his room. And he didn't roll his eyes or anything. It's weird but not unwelcome. Kelan came home from Dartmouth and emptied his clothes directly into the hamper. His room could use some attention, but I'll remind him tomorrow. Cedric says he's going to clean the basement before Monday and that's without any prompting on my part, so fingers crossed. Granted, he said that in June, but hope springs eternal.
Had to laugh at Saoirse last night. Kelan stayed with her this week and she said, "He shaved his beard and left all his hair in the sink. Gross. So I called him a pig and reminded him that Mom doesn't live here. Same for his use of towels. He can use the same one more than once." His sister has a way with words.
There is no DAY 13. Not because it didn't happen or because 13 is a scary number, but because with all of the excitement of a good friend's marathon, I was too pooped to post. Sure, I did all the usual crap (dusted, swept, did dishes, made supper, did laundry, etc.), but I also sat out on the deck for close to two hours and read my book, played with my phone, and tried not to fall asleep.
Today... I slept in. It was fabulous. Then I got up and rushed around thinking about all the stuff I could have been done had I just gotten up earlier. Then I had the place to myself for the day. Just the pooch and me. I did take note that Kelan cleaned his room. Therefore, that's a check mark. But because I had so much time to myself, I ended up planning meals for the week. Which is fine, I suppose. It's September and it will make the first couple of evenings of the workweek run a little bit smoother - at least for me if no one else. And I had the time to do it so I guess that was a choice. So when I see anyone sitting down scratching their nuts tomorrow, I'll have to remember that I made a choice today that actually helps everyone - whether they know it or not.
Had a moment when I wondered "how the f*ck do these people not feel these crumbs under their feet?" as I grabbed the broom and started to sweep. Then as I was slicing an apple for a salad, I set aside some slices for Pat to dip in peanut butter when he got home from work. It's a double-edged sword. I struggle with doing something because "know one else will do it" and doing something because it makes me feel good to be thoughtful.
I went away for the day and when I returned, the dog had been fed, the kitchen and bathroom tidied up, and the dishwasher emptied.
It's dawning on me that in my absence, sh*t will be done. Not necessarily to my standard or satisfaction, but it will be done.
My mere BEING HERE impedes their independence and ability. I'm the author of my own demise just by being present. I allow them to take me for granted.
So I've got to rework this structure...
So, expanding on yesterday’s thought, it’s becoming clearer that the problem isn’t THEM; it’s ME. I mean, it’s still them, but only insofar as I let them and their behaviours (or lack there of) get to me. And I have to acknowledge and own that I helped create this situation. So although my “strike” may be having somewhat of an impact on them (although I’m sure they barely notice or care), it’s having a huge impact on me. So I have to either leave the house more (which I really ought to do anyway) or care less (which I really also ought to do anyway) or both. That’s the challenge. They’ll make do in my absence and fend for themselves; they’re more than capable. But I guess another question is: am I ready for them not to need me (if they even see it as needing me)? And am I willing to let go of the things I end up doing just because I want them done and can’t trust they’ll be done if I don’t do them?
Jes*s, what a f*cking conundrum.
Supper was basically ready (leftovers from over a week ago that I had frozen - very handy if I do say so myself), but nobody else seemed to be ready to eat, so I took the dog for a walk out back... and when I returned, Cedric was sweeping the floor. I asked if I’d walked into the wrong house. He said, “Well I thought you’d want to do this before we sit down to eat and I’m hungry so I figured this might get your ass to the table quicker”.
He’s not wrong.
And I’ll take it.
Uneventful day. Nothing new in terms of the testicle-bearers of the household embracing housework with any gusto, but funny enough, they’re not adding to it either. As comes with age, they each tend to do their own thing and then return to the nest for rest and replenishment. I’m sure they know that fairies don’t magically perform the tasks that result in clean underwear or fresh milk in the fridge, but there is the odd occasion where they contribute to the groceries... for themselves, but still, I’m trying to focus on the unseen benefit. As always, one day at a time.
Tough day to bitch about my family.
Received the horrible news that my close friend’s first grandchild arrived into this world stillborn early this morning. I can’t begin to fathom the family’s grief. I have so many questions, for which I know there are no answers. Suffice it to say, life is oftentimes not fair and so full of sadness and pain. So I won’t whine about my partner and offspring today. Moreover, I’ll try to keep that in mind tomorrow. Today is for reaching out and telling people, what they mean to me. I am blessed beyond measure and I don’t want to take that for granted. Life is fragile. Petty grievances and annoyances that take up too much time and space can wait.
As I cleaned the bathrooms yesterday, I had many thoughts... most of them centred on penises. And not in a good way.
It’s pretty basic when I go to pee: I sit, I pee, I wipe, and I flush.
Guys don’t have to do that much. I always thought it’s more along the lines of “ready, aim, fire”. In addition, they have a target: the bowl.
So why, why, why dear lord do my bathrooms perpetually smell of piss? I know it’s not mine!
What is so difficult about aiming that g*dd*mn thing? They know where it’s located. Their hands find it quite easily when they’re bored or need to make a decision. There have been many times out on a run where I’ve WISHED I had a penis, just so I could use it to pee quickly and then keep going. Why do they not recognize or appreciate or steer this blessed gift they’ve been given? And it’s a gift in so many ways - they are paid more, their opinions count more, they get to impregnate people and, let’s face it, they have the easy part when it comes to pregnancy and parenthood, but I digress...
Really, all I mean to convey is that if at all possible and whenever possible: they should use the f*cking thing for good... and aim the mother f*cker into the bowl when they piss.
I just can’t help myself sometimes.
Last night around 9pm, I wandered back into the kitchen because the dog needed to be let outside and, of course, the supper dishes were still on the counter and on the stove. I must have sworn aloud because Cedric, from the living room said, “what’s up?” I said “oh nothing. I’ll just take care of the dog... and the dishes and the leftovers just like I took care of brunch and supper and two loads of laundry and the floors and all of that in spite of having gone for a bike ride and exercised downstairs and gone for a walk, and cleared off the deck and maybe took 20 mins for myself to read part of my book today. But that’s all right. I’ll let her out and then back in and then so help me I will plant my ass in that chair and I am off duty the rest of the night.” He walked calmly towards the sink and said, “Sorry you feel that way”. I’ll tell you this: that did not instill calm in me whatsoever. Because no matter what, I’m the assh*le in this scenario for speaking my truth as my frustration boiled over.
So... late yesterday afternoon, Cedric told me we needed to talk. And then he went on to say that due to my most recent rant, message received. It is clear that I do the bulk of the work that keeps this house running and that he and the boys need to step up.
I almost pinched myself. Or fainted. Or both.
Because I can’t keep repeating myself. We need to approach this as a team. On that point, we are singing from the same hymn sheet.
Family meeting may take place tonight. Maybe that’s why he brought me home a six-pack of coolers and a box of wine.
Alas, the much-touted "family meeting" has yet to occur. Granted, we all seem to be on different schedules and it's hard to have a meeting with only 3 out of 4 (the boys must think there is a fire cap on the number of people who can be in the house at any given time, for reasons other than sleep). And of course, I don't want to be the one to schedule the meeting, set the agenda and then chair it. I will if I must, but it can also wait another day or two - what's the rush at this point?
And that's what I told myself as I lay upstairs reading my book earlier to avoid cleaning up the supper dishes... only to return 90 mins later and see that everyone else must have had the same idea.
Was up early taking care of business so I decided to send a group text to get the ball rolling on the “big family meeting”. My first response came from Pat - “why do we have to do this? I know what it’s about - cleaning our rooms and the basement and taking care of garbage, “which of course begs the question: if you already know what you need to be doing, then why aren’t you doing it?
The next message came from Cedric “I am free at 7.” To which I replied, “No you’re not, you said you and I were going out for supper?” “Ah sh*t.”
Naturally, Kelan is still in bed.
So obviously, I’ll be talking to everyone separately. You know, like a boss. Like I’ve been doing all along. Like a crazy person, doing the same thing repeatedly, expecting a different result.
Ok, so the family meeting didn’t take place BUT I did have the opportunity to sit with Patrick for a one on one conversation that I feel went very well. Granted, I know the proof will be in the proverbial pudding, but when Cedric and I came home from supper last night, I was pleasantly surprised to find Patrick cleaning his room. I don’t know how long this will last, but I did feel that sitting at the table, just the two of us, with no heated emotion or hard feelings, actually was beneficial for both of us. We could be honest about our perceptions and our feelings. He even said, “Yes Mom, I know you do a lot around here. But I don’t want to be at a meeting where you talk at me and call me out for things I did or didn’t do. Just tell me when it’s bugging you and I promise to try not to roll my eyes.”
From his lips to God’s ears.
I guess I can’t complain. I got out first thing this morning and got my long run in... I came home and had the house to myself (Patrick was away and Kelan was still in bed).... I could do what I want. Therefore, I walked the dog, dusted the furniture, swept the floors, did the laundry, prepped a meal, worked my arms and abs, vacuumed the basement, scrubbed some stains out of the carpet, and then walked to the store to do a little Christmas shopping. I felt productive and proud. I know it's not right up there with "family meeting", but I also reminded myself that I've often had a lot of success with Kelan just by speaking my concerns. "Hey, I need for you to tidy that up." "Ok". "Hey, make sure you put that in the garbage/dishwasher/hamper/compost" "Ok". "Hey, I love you, I'm proud of you, be safe" "thanks".
I even enjoyed a delicious supper, co-cooked by Cedric and myself (he barbequed pork loin; I steamed rice and veggies).
Bottom line: it's not always doom and gloom. Some days, I create and manage my own workload. Some days, I resent that if I didn't do it, it wouldn't be done. It's a double-edged sword. But on a day like today, I wasn't pissed off. I was tired, but I was keeping the machine well oiled and functioning.
Maybe it's the wine talking, but today, it'll do. We'll call it a win.
Another quiet Sunday without children (ok, adult children) around. Of course, with them not here, there’s nothing to fight or be cranky about. But it means no hugs or idle conversation either. I’m not saying they’re the root of my frustration. Oh no. There were plenty of times today that I hoped Cedric might disappear for a little while too. Not because I was cross, but because I kind of like having everything exactly the way I leave it.
Obviously, I have some control issues.
Two bathrooms, two sinks, and evidence that two males shaved their faces and heads this morning. And I don’t know what irked me more - that one tried to clean it up but only gave it a half-assed effort or that one clearly gave no f*cks at all and made zero effort to clean it up.
And really, for the ten seconds combined that it took me to turn on both faucets and swirl around a cloth, is it worth being pissy? Well... was it worth leaving behind?
I’m not even angry. I too have very few f*cks left to give. I have to manage them and budget accordingly.
Today was a full day but not a particularly productive day. Well, except for eating. I ate all day. I was like a bottomless pit! And I guess because I was so busy eating (and working, I must admit, just not very hard), I didn’t seem to find the time to sweep or cook or do dishes or do laundry. Not intentionally, it just rather worked out that way. But good news! All that stuff will likely still be there for me to do tomorrow. Call it a hunch.
So here we are - one full month of my "strike". As it turns out, I'm not much of a revolutionary. I'm all talk and too much of a control freak to let go. I want the people I live with to pitch in and provide a team effort, but I have no patience to wait for them to step up and I therefore perpetuate my own frustration.
Some time ago, I remember lamenting to my gynaecologist that at my age, I shouldn't have to worry about my period, suffer from cramps, have my hormones all funky, still get zits, etc. I tried to encourage her to just remove my uterus (half jokingly, half not) because I was tired of having to take pills or depend on science to regulate my cycle. She said, "You're right: you shouldn't have to. But here you are. And if you don't want to experience these symptoms, trials, and tribulations, you have to rely on what's available, and that's science. We can't remove a perfectly good uterus just because it's proving to be inconvenient."
So no, I know I don't HAVE to put up with my family's lack of... contribution. I don't HAVE to continuously pick up the slack and run this train. But I also don't HAVE to freak out when they fail to step up. Through all of the bitching and swearing, I make a conscious choice to keep doing this sh*t. Because I feel no one else will... or perhaps more poignantly, no one will do it the way I want it done.
But there is hope.
I know now that I can talk to the kids and Cedric (and that I'll have to do it repeatedly) without losing my sh*t. And maybe there will even be results on occasion. But I'm going to have to keep repeating myself. Because if I don't, they will revert back to default setting (doing nothing) and I will gradually end up doing it all and letting it all build up and eventually freak out again.
Therefore, I have to make it work for me.
Because the science isn't there yet - and because I don't want them surgically removed. Not yet anyway.
About the Creator
Ms. Carroll is a 40-something year-old veteran public servant and mother of three adult children. She and her partner Hal live in Amherst NS with a sweet, anxiety-ridden rescue dog. Shelley loves running, red wine, and laughter.
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