Sunday, February 06, 2011

On Strike

I decided this morning that I am going on strike.

I'd like to be able to tell you that I snapped, but it wasn't anything as deliciously dramatic as all that. It was more like a sudden, quiet crumble. I simply reached my limit and have had enough.

I share this with great trepidation, realizing that I am probably exposing my own failure to properly train my children (for it's mostly them that I am striking against), but if that is part of the problem, then I need to get it out there.

I'm tired, mentally and physically tired, of nagging and repeating myself and feeling like I'm talking to the walls. I've asked, pleaded, gently reminded, joked, demanded, threatened and yelled. I've sat them down, I've let them hear me crying my eyes out in the bathroom, I've dug in my heels and refused to rescue them. I've printed out charts, drawn up schedules, made and remade rules. I've tried positive reinforcement, lavished them with praise for a job well done. I've tried negative reinforcement, taking away privileges for jobs left undone.

I am known to be a poor housekeeper. There are many reasons for this, some my fault, some not. I tend not to see mess and clutter until it reaches out and demands my attention. I have had to train myself to look harder and more often. I am very easily distracted and have huge problems with staying on task. I am a perfectionist. And I am staggeringly lazy. Don't get me wrong, I love a clean house and the satisfaction of a job well done. But I hate doing something that seems so futile, that will be "undone" so quickly and need to be redone over and over with nothing to show for it.

Housekeeping frustrates the heck out of me! For all those reasons and more!

I have been praying and thinking a lot about the deeper, more spiritual aspect of all of this. For I do believe there is a spiritual connection here. Being a full-time stay-at-home mom is my calling. This is what God has asked me to do, there's no question in my mind about that. But I am not good at it. I am not suited for it nor am I naturally gifted in the areas needed for it. And I have come to learn that this is no accident.

For some reason, God put this square peg in a round hole. I don't think it was because He wanted to frustrate and torture me for the rest of my life. First of all, He planned, for whatever reason, for my children to have me as their mother, teacher and guide as part of their process of someday becoming a Godly woman and man. He planned the same for me in lending them to me (just as He did by lending me my husband).

Secondly, He planned for all this friction, as I squirm and writhe and sometimes kick and flail, to wear off some of my rough me-shaped edges so I can become smoother and more God-shaped. This is how I view my marriage, as well. Sometimes certain flaws require a hatchet-chop, others more of a fine-grit sanding. But it all serves the purpose of making me more like Him.

I know this is true even of my housekeeping woes, but I have always had a hard time seeing exactly what God is trying to teach me. Patience? Service? Selflessness? Yes, yes, yes, they all make sense. Gentleness? Self-control? Joy? Of course. But what do these look like in terms of keeping my house clean? After 16 years, I still haven't been able to make that connection.

But while I am working on that end of things, something still has to change on the practical end. I have trained my children (and even my husband, to a lesser degree) to take me for granted and, even, to ignore me. I still don't see exactly how I've done it, but it must be my fault because I can't see any other way it could have happened. I tell the children to put something away but then I don't follow up because I'm too tired/distracted/frustrated/busy take your pick. They know nothing will happen to them if they don't do it right away or even do it at all because Mom will be running around frantically, trying to put out other fires to notice or care.

And don't tell me about new rules or new chore charts. I've made the rules. But then I've forgotten them. Or got frustrated with them because I didn't think they were working and became convinced I could think of a better way. I've made up chore charts (the latest was Zone Cleaning: one Zone for every day of the week). But then I started a new diet that made me dizzy three days in a row or mid-terms came up or someone came to visit/got sick/got injured and the whole system fell apart.

Let's not even talk about homeschooling. I am terrified that this has been the worst decision I have ever made and that Man-Cub is going to have to repeat 4th grade because of his mother's ineptitude and he'll never, ever forgive me.

I am not trying to put the blame on her because she and her brother are equally complicit, but last night, Redheaded Snippet wanted her BFF to sleep over. I said, as I always do, "Fine, as long as you get the place tidied up first." And she, as she always does, agreed. And, as she always does, she did about half of what needed to be done and I didn't notice it until too late--after said BFF was already in the house.

I came downstairs this morning to find the entire downstairs had been left a mess! Used paper towels and pizza crusts all over the island (one even on the floor, courtesy of the dog), toys all over the place, dirty clothes left strewn all over the floors of three rooms, more laundry pawed through in the laundry room (from RS looking for something to wear for field hockey this morning), empty soda bottles and dirty dishes on the counters and crumbs all over the desk and floor. And dirty, smelly, greasy dishes left piled in the sink.

That was when it all crumbled, when I peered into the sink. Dishes in the sink is probably by biggest pet peeve! I cannot stand having to reach into a sink full of slimy, cold, stagnant water to clear dishes out so I can wash them! Nothing irritates me more! And my family knows this and that is what did it.

I have asked thousands of times, in every way I can imagine doing it, for them not to put dishes in the sink! I've refused to wash them, letting them get moldy and unbelievably smelly (that usually drives me crazy before it gets to them)! I've made concessions: allowing them to pile them sky high on the counters rather than put them in the sink, releasing them from having to load the dishwasher in exchange for not putting dishes in the sink! I've compromised in every way I can think of and they have done nothing to meet me half way. They ignore me and persist in putting them in the sink. How many times do I have to ask for something before being heard? Why don't they care how it makes me feel? They can't not know; I've told them over and over it makes me feel like they don't love me.

So I am on strike. I don't know what else to do. I can only hope that going without the services I usually provide will get their attention. I am still working out my terms, but here's what I've got so far:

Starting today, I will no longer:
-clean up after anyone else be it dishes, laundry, trash, toys or otherwise. If you caused the mess, you clean it up.

-clean up after the dog if the mess she has made is because of someone else's irresponsibility.

-cook or prepare food other than what is absolutely necessary (for example, Man-Cub still needs assistance with the stove and with knives). I will be buying lots of easily prepared foods this week so no one will have to go hungry.

-wash towels or the children's laundry. I will do The Viking's laundry for work as he has never abused this service and being well-groomed is an essential part of what he does for this family.

-remind the children to finish homework, go to bed, get moving or hurry up. They will not be leaving the house until they are prepared and if they are late, they will have to deal with the consequences. If they are making me late, they will be fined.

-drive the children anywhere but to school, the doctor's office, the hospital, or church.

That's all I have right now. I'm not sure how to go about handling the computer and tv. Part of me wants to ban them completely for the week and part of me wants to just go Lord of the Flies on them and leave them alone to see how they fare making their own choices.

And for myself, I'm curious to see how this week goes. What will I learn? Will I cave? Will I be able to hold out for seven days? Will The Viking completely lose patience with me? Will the children even care?

It's going to be a long, scary week...


Becka said...

Two pieces of encouragement:

1. Sometimes strikes work.

2. I am a reformed messy. a serious one. The "call CPS to remove the children" kind. When I first decided to reform I made a list of every pile of garbage in my house and then i went out and bought a small garbage can to place where every pile of trash was. I have no idea where I got that idea, but I bought 27 small cans. I even had cans on my dining table and on my counters.

I am not suggesting that you buy 27 garbage cans. I just want to encourage you that sometime, it will hit you. You will find that "it" thing that will help. And you will find a happy medium.

Pippajo said...

Thank you!

1. I'm sure hoping this one does. If not, I'm doomed.

2. 27 trash cans, LOL! That does get me thinking, though...whatever works!

Daria said...

I'm TELLING you, regular beatings until moral improves. Seriously though, I personally feel a ban on the electronics would be more helpful. All I really have to go on is my childhood, and I remember the TV, which was all we had then, being so strictly regulated that it was truly a reward when I got to watch some. And it made me find other ways to amuse myself which I feel is just better for ones character all around anyway. BUT if they are left to melt their brains to their own taste, they will certainly NOT notice anything else around them, i.e. any mess or other things that need to be done.

Becka said...

Thought I should add that I no longer have that many trash cans. After a while, I grew into the habit of throwing things away instead of leaving them laying around. Now I look like a normal person. My housekeeping looks like a normal person too! But- I do credit those trash cans from saving me from my messy insanity. I tried flylady, some mom system, and many others. Those trashcans were the one thing that turned me around.

Oh, but those various systems I tried did help. I picked up a couple of things from each system that I liked and I the out the rest.

For example, if my house needs a days work, I lace up my tennies and treat it like a real job.
And I do not allow dishes in my sink. I forgot to address that part of your post. I did WAY WORSE than go on strike with that! I tossed the dishes on the floor and broke them, in one gigantic hissy fit because I too HATE HATE HATE putting my hands in cold slimy who knows what's under there water! My hissy fit scared my family into thinking I had a mental illness, and for the most part, I control that area of my housekeeping by sheer fear!

I am not as psycho as I sound. Promise.

Pippajo said...

Becka, I hope you ARE as psycho as you sound! I like it! And it makes me feel like I'm not the only one!

Still laughing...

Amy said...

Next time they leave dirty dishes in the sink, put them in their bed. And refuse to change the bed. They can sleep on the floor unless they want to strip the bed, wash the sheets, and remake it. If you find the dirty sheets in the laundry, you will do something nasty with them. Like put them back on the bed.

Daria said...

I think your friend may be on to something here. You may need to instill sheer fear to get any of this to sink in. Fear can be a good motivator and it isn't always a bad thing either. BALANCE! everything must be in balance, and obviously your children don't fear you nearly enough.

Pippajo said...

Amy, the only problem with that plan, which I otherwise like very much, is that very often those dishes would be in MY bed! And then they would be moved to the floor in MY room! And then those sheets would be on the bed and then on the floor and then in the laundry for a looooooooong time!

You see my difficulty, don't you?