Tuesday, May 28, 2013

If the Relief Society Weren't so Matriarchal....

....I might have planned my life to be a working mom.

Oh hey!  I'm Janelle, Benjamin's wife.  I'm guest-posting today, sharing my perspective on his most recent blog post.

Okay, before you all have a heart attack, yes, stay-at-home moms work.  I know.  I'm one of them.  You know what I mean by "working mom": a mom who goes out to work at an office-type setting every day.  A 9-5er.

Before I explain myself, I need to give a disclaimer/warning on this post: there are some skeletons in this particular closet.  The doors are opening, reluctantly.

Skeleton #1: I have ADHD.  No really.  I know.  It's shocking, right?  You never would have guessed.  I also suffer from depression, though not a severe form.  I was diagnosed with both at the age of 21.  I spent my school years floundering without direction, and succeeding only because my patient mother kept at me, much to both of our chagrin at the time.  I'm a two-time college dropout, due to a lack of self-motivation. As an ADHDer, I thrive best under pressure and with routine and structure.  It's hard to come by those things from within.

Skeleton #2: I'm also a really terrible housekeeper.  Seriously.  I don't offer to host playdates very often because the house is never clean.  I rarely even invite people over for dinner anymore, which is actually a bummer.  I get easily overwhelmed, and when I have too much to do, I just sit and do none of it.  Kind-of like when you're going on a trip, and you start your laundry at 10:00 the night before, and then pack an hour before you're ready to pull out of the driveway.  You don't do that?  Well, I do.

Skeleton #3: (deep breath) My name is Janelle, and I'm addicted to the computer.  I don't say it lightly, though it sounds like I'm making light.  My friends often tease that I'm the first to respond to emails because I'm always on the computer.  I don't think they realize just how much I actually am on the computer during the day.  I'm on Facebook, email, forums, playing logic games, etc.  All. Day. Long.  It's really hard for me to say this out loud, because it's definitely skeletal, and not something I'm proud of.  The best days are when I have a LOT to do (see structure under #1), and I don't have opportunities to be on the computer.

Okay, now that I've laid all that out (and am apparently a really lame person), let's tie it all together.

I can create chore charts and checklists for myself -- and I have -- that work well.  For about four months at a time.  I'll be honest.  When it comes to housework, I have little motivation with regard to accountability.  I know that it's disappointing to Benjamin (and to myself, yes) when the house is a mess, but I also know that he's not going to fire me for it.  At least, he hasn't yet.  I trust that he'll always forgive me, and for that reason, I don't try quite as hard.  Also, though I can plan out our days, and schedule activities, etc., true structure is lacking in at-home parenting.  I find myself, much as in school, floundering without direction or motivation.

Before Bug was born, I was a working woman.  I enjoyed that I could come home at the end of a workday, and tick off specific things that I accomplished that day.  If I was frustrated or fed up, there was usually a specific and identifiable cause I could address or ignore.

Each time Benjamin has spent extended time at home with our girls, he has made a specific effort at housework.  While I attended Girls Camp two years in a row a few years back, he cleaned the bathrooms, vacuumed, and cleaned the kitchen while I was gone (he worked during the day and had Bug with a babysitter, but he had her in the evenings and still managed to do these things).  This week, he cleaned the garage (which involved removing everything from it, sorting, rearranging, etc.), weeded a garden bed then planted it, started digging a trench behind the garage to promote better drainage, fed our girls, took walks with them, bathed them, played games with them, and even managed to strategically get a nap in while they both napped.

If I were the breadwinner in my family, I see several changes that might happen:

(1) Housekeeping would be less of an issue.  Benjamin is much more self-driven than I am.  He notices the messes more (in fairness, maybe he'd begin to notice it less as he spent more everyday time in it).

(2) Ben works better with specific ages than I do.  He understands better than I do the best ways to talk to Bug on her level, and to help her understand things a little more long-term.  He understands child psychology better than I do.  Part of that is study, but I think part of it is just a spiritual gift.

(3) Our girls would have more active days.  Instead of playing solo or watching TV most of the day (which happens when I'm on the computer all day long), they'd go out more.  Maybe it would be outside in the yard.  Maybe it would be the park.  Maybe it would be museums or the zoo.  But they would have more active childhoods.

(4) I would miss my girls.  I did miss them this week.  I think, though, that if I were in a position where being gone all day was a regular occurrence, as opposed to a sudden week out of nowhere, I would get used to it.  There would still be a little pull on my heart, but I'd acclimate.

(5) I'd spend more quality time with my family.  This seems counter-intuitive, but let me explain.  If I had a "real" job where I was already on the computer most of the day, it's not that big of a deal to have Facebook running in the background.  When I got home at the end of the workday, I'd be less likely to hop on the computer right away, and more likely to actually spend time with Benjamin and the girls.  Currently, Ben and I chat on Google Talk throughout the day.  Not all day everyday, but often.  Knowing that he would be on the computer far less than I am, I wouldn't be chatting with him nearly as much, which would result in more real conversations in the evenings.

(6) Weekends would be better.  Benjamin can't do huge home improvement projects with the girls hanging on, but he can do smaller ones.  Currently, in any given month, Ben is gone one Saturday camping, working around the house 2-3 others, and we spend family time together (hiking, playing, whatever) one weekend, though it may be only half a day.  If Ben weren't working on a series of small home improvement projects every weekend (because he was able to accomplish some of them during the week), we could have weekend that were filled more with fun and family than with work.

(7) Our garden would be happier.  He would weed it.

(8) I would be happier.  I can't say this definitively, but it's a possibility.  With so many perks (see above) of improved family home life, and the opportunity to have structure, routine, and specificity, I think I would thrive better, and be more satisfied with my life in general.  Again, I would miss my girls, but I think it's something I would adjust to.

So when Ben says, "So if Janelle ever finds a job that provides an equal or better living than mine, you'll find me at home with the girls," he's not booting me out of the house just because he wants to stay.  This is actually a topic we've discussed at length in the past, and again this week.  It's an arrangement that would work for us, and work well.


  1. I really enjoyed these last 2 posts (since that is how our family is). Not that I wouldn't love to stay at home with the chicklets, but I joined the church when I was in grad school and Joe and I married right before I graduated with my MS degree. We've had the same conversation many times and if and when Joe finds a job that is better than mine, we can switch.

  2. As to Skeleton #2, this is a good reason to host playdates. Your invitees won't worry about making messes while playing. At the end, they can help clean up and make the house look nicer.

    1. Ha! I don't mind so much for the kids. It's the parents. If only they'd stay on the front porch step while I ushered their kid back out the door to them.

    2. I would think most parents are very understanding about messes, considering all things. I guess you could end by playing outside, especially in good weather and when there's snow.

    3. It wouldn't be a big deal or at all any kind of "skeleton" if it was just toy clutter. But it's not. It's toys and laundry and dirty dishes and mail and all kinds of clutter that I rarely see out and unkempt at other people's homes, let alone every time I go over. And it's not just a couple days' worth of mail (for example). You know those "infinite running" games that are popular right now, like Temple Run? I feel like my house is "infinite clutter." Lol.

      And you're right -- most parents probably would be understanding. It's just hard for me to accept that when I don't see the same types of messes at their houses. How can they be understanding when they have more kids than I do AND manage to keep their houses tidy?

      With regard to playdates, it's mostly an insecurity issue, I think. With regard to keeping my home orderly and clean, it's a bigger problem.

    4. We always hide all our clutter and crap in our bedroom when people come over! Our room is the worst disaster usually!

  3. One of my very best friends is a woman who right at the first of her marriage felt this very strong push to join the military and make it a career. She followed the prompting, while that path seemed strange to her at first -over the 17 years of marriage the reasons have become crystal clear and it was absolutely what the Lord had in mind for their family. Her husband has been the stay-at-home-dad for all these years and she's the "breadwinner." The judgments of various wards have been sometimes hard to bear and often frustrating, which is sad and unfortunate. While the whole "mom in the home" thing may apply for most, it doesn't apply to all. We shouldn't judge each others decisions.

    And for the record Janelle, I fight the same kind of computer addiction. My house is almost always a mess, and I'm not a fan of play dates either -but for other reasons.

  4. Every family is a world and only those living within those walls know what is BEST for theirs. I think both of you make an amazing team! What a loving couple!