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Ask Rene: Housework Help!

Hi Rene:

I’m engaged to a guy from Northern Ireland who was also in the Royal Air Force for 7 years. He’s told me that he & his brother were never allowed in the kitchen and I don’t think he did any housework or helped around the house.

I would like to get him to do more to help me around the house, but if I don’t ask him he won’t do it. And when I do ask him, he’ll take days before he does what I asked or he’ll half do the task and mumble or get upset.

When asked to do dishes, he doesn’t wash them properly and there is always hardened food or old grease on the bottom cause he only washes inside the dish. How do I get him to help out more by doing things the proper way, without being a nag and constantly having to ask him to help out?



Dear Houseproud

Like any good partnership, a marriage must be built on open and (mostly) honest communication. I think you’re smart to recognize that this will become a problem if not addressed – the question becomes how to best and most effectively tackle this issue. So from a woman who’s been married 17 years here are a few ideas.

EXPLAIN WHAT IT IS YOU WANT DONE: Time for a (soon-to-be) family powwow. If you both have jobs outside the home, it’s hardly fair that when you leave your first one, that you should have to come home and start the second.  So you’re going to have to go over what needs to be done. I know this sounds juvenile but you might even put together a chore chart because if he’s never helped out around the house, he truly may not know (more on that below). Take this opportunity to tell him WHY this is so important to you and the overall health of your relationship. You work too. You are tired when you get home, just like he is. A little bit of upkeep goes a long way and everyone is happier when the living environment is calm, clean and uncluttered. I would also suggest, if you can afford it, hiring someone to come in say once a month to do the deep cleaning, especially if you work outside the home.

TEACH HIM HOW TO DO IT: He may naturally gravitate to things like vacuuming and taking out the trash but still walk him through how to do the laundry (no detail is too minor, like separating lights from darks), how to fold and put away said laundry and how to load the dishwasher. Show him what you have learned over the years and what works about it.

ACCEPT THE WAY HE DECIDES TO DO IT: Once you have gone over the mechanics, it’s time to let the baby bird out of the nest to fly on his own. By that I mean you have to accept the way he decides to do things. The more he familiarizes himself with the chores, the more empowered he will be to take ownership. Heck he may even come up with his own shortcuts, perhaps even things you hadn’t thought of.  But it’s really not fair to stand over him and point out that you don’t dry the dishes or load the dishwasher that way. The only time you can and should speak up is if the dishes are not getting clean or there is immediate danger of someone contracting a food-borne illness. Otherwise, bite your tongue, pour yourself another glass of wine and leave him to his own devices.

Those are just a couple of ideas that you can implement right away. I do think open communication is the best place to start. Do it from a place of love in your heart and don’t forget to listen twice as much as you talk 🙂

Best to you!


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Combing the aisles at Target in search of the best deal on Cheerios, it hit Rene Syler like the stench of a dirty diaper on a hot summer’s day. Not only is perfection overrated its utterly impossible! Suddenly empowered, she figuratively donned her cape, scooped up another taco kit for dinner and Good Enough Mother was born.

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