In this article on burnout, I’m talking about moms and the pressures they experience to be super achievers in the home. This pressure can lead to a syndrome I call mom burnout. Ok, I just made that up but I think it’s a real thing and let me explain why.
Your Worth Equals Your House
The expectations placed on women in the home is absurd. Most guys are not aware of this. It’s like an alternate universe they live in but can’t see. Guys, to most women, the home is not only a place to store dirty socks, underwear, and an entertain system; it’s a place that represent your self-worth. A home is something to be proud of and it must be kept Martha-Stewart clean or you’re failing as a homemaker.
Most industrialized culture teaches women that their worth is connected to having a clean, tidy, and fashionable home. The idea that women are supposed to be good housekeepers and love it all the time isn’t a bygone notion of the 40’s; it’s alive and well. Although men are contributing more over the years to parenting and household labor in the US at least, it is women who have their self-worth tide to the loveliness of their homes. Ask yourself how many cleaning ads feature men scrubbing the floor or doing laundry? How many men’s magazines feature articles on the perfectly organized closet? None!
Housework Hasn’t Gotten Easier With Time
Our home standards may have been more manageable when most women were stay at home moms, but the expectation haven’t eased up one bit since women have been consistently entering the workforce. Now moms work full-time, come home, and start their second shift with cleaning, cooking, and childcare. Yes, I hear dads complaining, but “I do my share of work too.” But men, our identities aren’t connected to these things. Very few men I know feel inadequate because they aren’t good hosts.
We might think that technology has come to the rescue but it hasn’t. We have more labor-saving devices than every: the intelligent dishwashers, smart washing machines, fridges that have the brain from Hal the computer in 2001 A Space Odyssey:
You: “Open the fridge door, Hal. I’m hungry.”
Hal 9000 Fridge: “I think you know what the problem is just as well as I do.”
You: “Please, stop calling me Dave. It’s Janet. I need to make dinner.”
Hal 9000 Fridge: “I’m sorry, Dave. I’m afraid I can’t do that.”
Unfortunately, the more household gadgets and gizmos we invent, the more our standards rise. Instead of laundry being a weekly task, it has become a daily task for some. Now we need to seek out and destroy dust in hidden places.
Julia Child and the Cooking Network have made us feel that meatloaf is beneath us. Make some Goddamn rosemary lemon basil lamb; you simpleton. Paradoxically, while many Americans are eating frozen dinners and fast foods, others are slaving away in the kitchen to make their kids eat brussel sprouts and Quinoa.
How To Stay Sane?
I have nothing against housework in and of itself. If you want to have a spotless home, knock yourself out. You should choose this standard rather than just mindlessly accepting. Ask yourself the cost of doing this amount of housework – is it robbing you of time to sleep, destress, relax, play with your kids, a hot bath, a well-deserved dinner out? In the end moms, need to ask what is a reasonable standard of house chores for themselves rather than having some ideal imposed upon them. See this post for a saner approach to house chores.
Try an experiment. Learn to let things go. Just let the damn kitchen be dirty for a few days. Please don’t vacuum the floor every day. It’s just going to get dirty again in a few hours or minutes if you have kids. Just take it easy for once and say screw it. You’ll never be on your deathbed lamenting, “Oh why didn’t I mop more? Why?”
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