Doing Something For Someone Else

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For as long as I can remember I have found little satisfaction in cleaning the house. It is a job that involves a lot of hard work, very little appreciation, and with children who manage to undo what you spent hours doing in just 20 minutes, it has also been very discouraging. It’s a job that unless you announce that you cleaned around the toilet with an old toothbrush to get the “grime” not one soul is going to know about your sacrifice of digging into the yellow that has been left behind. It’s a job involving rubber gloves; a symbol of clean that sends shivers up my spine.

Now, this doesn’t mean my house looks like a pig sty…it doesn’t…but it also doesn’t look like something out of House Beautiful either. It looks like a family lives here only with a bass drum sitting in one corner of the living room and a set of bagpipes in the other.Our house looks like it is lived in by people of many ages with many different interests which is exactly who we are. Unfortunately, I am married to a man whose ideal life would be an immaculate house with a garage so clean that you could eat off the floor but he knows THATS never going to happen.

Because I am a stay at home mom, B expects some sort of order to this place we call home. Our ideas of clean are different. He does surface cleaning so that the house looks presentable, while when I clean, I go for the deep cleaning…hence the toothbrush mentioned above. This has led to problems over the years with both of us feeling resentful especially me when you tack on all the other things I do like shopping, paying bills, taking kids to the doctor and psychologist once a week, ferrying kids to lessons, gardening and a host of other things that appear out of no where and have to be done THAT day. I h.ated feeling like everyone’s maid and it showed.

But two months ago, after listening to B talk in therapy about the chaos he experienced as a child and how much his disorganized, dirty, and unkept house affected his psyche; I decided to try approaching cleaning with a new state of mind. Instead of cleaning out of an “I HAVE to do this” attitude, I decided to try and think about how happy B would be. I realized that for B, order and cleanliness makes him feel content, reduces his stress and makes him feel like he is loved. So I started trying to clean with him in mind knowing he would feel better about life if his life at home was organized and tidy. So while I am basically doing the same amount of work, with a new attitude it doesn’t seem quite so much like a thankless task or like complete drudgery. And I have noticed that this change has lightened B’s mood and he is now telling me on a daily basis how much he appreciates what I am doing.

Doing chores that I dislike really doesn’t provide a huge sense of accomplishment for me. But I have discovered that by doing something for someone else out of love elevates what I am doing to a new level. Knowing that B is comforted by a sense of order in our home is allowing me to put a positive spin on things that are more important to him than they are to me and to do them with a attitude that wasn’t there before. While I used to operate like that when we were first married, if I am honest, it has been a long time since I did things solely to please my husband just because he needed things a certain way for his own comfort. I am discovering to my own delight that doing something for someone just because you love them brings me immense satisfaction and I am reaping the benefits because of my change in attitude.  Just don’t ask me to put on the yellow gloves.

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