Q: I need your help. My family and I live in a two bed, one bath (guess where the bathroom is) 800 sq. ft. two story town house. I am struggling to keep it clean with two little girls who idolize their dad (I do love him). His one main chore was taking out the trash. He is no longer doing it. I tried paying my 4-year-old in pennies to help me clean… that didn’t last long either. My 1-year-old helps pick up trash and puts away toys, but only for so long, which I can deal with seeing as she is only a year old. I clean and when I turn around, it is a mess again. I do have depression (it and many other mental issues run in my family) so there are days where I just have no energy to clean no matter how much coffee I drink. And that doesn’t help in my many battles with cleaning (meds help for a while, then they just stop and I am back to step one). My husband also has a sensitivity issue. So when I do manage to get the house in a good tidy order, he makes backhanded compliments like, “Hey, I can see the floor,” then I just want to swing something at him. Of course, he doesn’t realize that he said something mean, so when I glare at him, he looks confused. Anyways, I am to the point of getting rid of dang near everything except for basic kitchen items, electronics and limited amounts of clothes, toys and books, but I have a strong feeling that will do more harm than good. So any suggestions? Because I am at my wits’ end.
A: You’re dealing with a few issues here, so let’s break them down:
- Your depression
- Keeping up with things with two young children
- Your husband no longer doing his extremely small part of the housework
- Your husband’s “sensitivity issue”
First, taking care of a house when you’re depressed is hard. It’s extra hard because you lack the motivation and energy to get anything done. This is, unfortunately, a pretty common fact of depression, and it sucks. When you’re in a depressive episode, it may help to give priority to a few things: generally, dishes, laundry, and the occasional flat surface. If you can keep up with those, honestly, you’re doing pretty well. Don’t beat yourself up over what doesn’t get done when you’re in the midst of a depressive episode. Just do what you can, and try to do a little something every day when you’re in the higher energy point of the cycle.
Having your kids involved in the mix makes things more complicated, because while they can certainly help out to the best that their age and disposition allow, kids generate a lot of mess. I’d say that certain things, like putting their toys away, should be reinforced frequently enough so as to make it an expectation, and do what you can to enlist their help with other little tasks and chores when you can.
OK, your husband. I don’t know you or your marriage, but a couple of things jump out at me here. First, you had an agreement that he had one responsibility as far as the house is concerned, and that was taking out the trash. And he’s not doing that one task. Second, he says shitty backhanded things when you do accomplish something, which doesn’t exactly inspire you to do more. Third, your response when he says these things is to glare at him. Fortunately, all three of these problems have the same solution: Use your words. Talk to him. Explain how crappy it makes you feel when he says passive-aggressive things about the state of the house. Explain that those comments don’t exactly inspire you to keep up with the overwhelming amount of housework that two adults and two children create. Remind him that he committed to taking the trash out, and ask him to please honor that commitment. Talk to him about how your depression often makes things more difficult, and that during those times, you could use more support, not less.
You may find that a clear checklist of what you need to do might help keep you on track. Try these to start. Do what you can, when you can. Try to keep up on the laundry and dishes every day. That’ll make a huge difference. Good luck. You can do this, but you need some help. Don’t find a reason not to ask for it.
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