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On the last track we discussed managing ambition. An effective method for managing ambition is creative compromise. We examined two types of creative compromise. The two types of creative compromise we examined were compromise for relationships and compromise for core values.
On this track... we will discuss compromise the workaholic male makes regarding housework. While some men pitch in gladly from the beginning, others must be nagged, wheedled, or at the very least reminded to take some responsibility. Either way, I find that workaholic clients who pick up some of the housework often find themselves more involved in their family life. As tools for equalizing housework, we will discuss strategies for avoiding housework and strategies for picking up housework. As you listen to this track, you might consider your workaholic client. Could playing this track in an upcoming session be productive?
#1 Strategies for Avoiding Housework
1. The first is passive resistance. When I asked one client how he responded to requests to do housework, he answered, “In one ear, and out the other.” Forms of passive resistance can include ignoring a request for help, being oblivious to children’s needs, or performing a request but doing it grumpily and grudgingly.
2. The second strategy commonly used by workaholic clients to avoid housework is incompetence. Even little children know this tactic—if the client breaks enough dishes, he won’t be asked to wash them anymore.
3. In addition to passive resistance and incompetent, a third strategy for avoiding housework is praise. Yes, praise. Praise at home may have the effect of keeping the work within the women’s domain. The unspoken message is, “You’re so good at it, you should do it.” Does your workaholic client use praise as a strategy for avoiding housework.
4. Different standards are also sometimes used by my workaholic clients. In these cases, men use different standards at home. These standards may be lower. I find clients don’t care as much if the clothes are clean or their kids take healthy lunches to school.
5. A fifth strategy for avoiding housework is denial. As you know, denial takes a variety of forms. I find that male workaholic clients tend to exaggerate their own contributions by comparing themselves to previous generations, attribute greater contributions of their wives to their wives’ personalities or preferences, and obscure who’s doing what by invoking rules and patterns that sound fair and equal but in practice are not.
#2 Strategies for Picking Up Housework
1. First, suggest clients have extended time alone with kids. This helps clients to see just what it takes to care for a child and run a home. In one extreme case, a client of mine, Tim, reported that when his wife had to leave home for six months for a work assignment, it transformed him. Tim was a surgeon in training who had to put in long hours. Tim stated, “Now I notice and take action when the family needs milk or diapers.”
2. Next, you might consider helping your client avoid criticism regarding his efforts by his family. I stated to Harold’s wife, “Let him complete tasks as he sees fit. Remind yourself that the end result is what matters—a happy baby, a reasonably clean floor. You may have to bite your tongue at first, but it’s worth it. That means no nagging, no directions, no micromanaging. If he is feeding the kids, it is up to him to cook, clean, and choose healthy alternatives. He’s an adult and if he decides to take them out instead of eat leftovers, that’s okay.”
3. Third, I suggest to my clients that they divide responsibilities based on interests and competencies. For example, if your client likes grocery shopping but hates cleaning, you might suggest that he arrange the responsibilities accordingly. Of course, sticking to the plan isn’t always easy. Would you agree that open lines of communication and a sense of respect are critical ingredients?
Harold also found a critical ingredient to dividing responsibilities is also a sense of humor. Harold stated, “The other day my wife said, “You know, the Board of Health called today and said that they were condemning the bathroom for unsanitary conditions, dear.’ I thought about that for awhile, then I cleaned the bathroom.” Think of your Harold. How might your workaholic client respond?
5. Finally, your client might consider getting a housekeeper or cleaning service. A weekly or biweekly blitz by an experienced cleaner can be productive, especially if your client’s spouse works also. I stated to Tim, the surgeon, “Remember that your time is valuable. If you and your wife don’t have time to engage in housework and be a family, you might consider a cleaning service.” Think of your Tim. Could your workaholic client benefit from a cleaning service or other strategies for picking up housework?
On this track... we discussed picking up housework. As tools for equalizing housework, we discussed strategies for avoiding housework and strategies for picking up housework.
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