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O

For Me

03.07.2017 / OTHER

One of the greatest shifts in my marriage, possibly in my adulthood as a whole, has also been one of the smallest shifts. It has slipped by unnoticed in the mundane tasks of laundry cycles and dish duty, a simple phrase that has ever so slightly changed the energy in our home:

I’m doing this for me.

I used to have a bit of a martyr complex.

I’d spend my Saturday mornings waking up early with a baby, feeding and rocking and shushing, then get to work cleaning the house while Ken (deservingly) slept in. I’d put Bee on my hip and we’d de-clutter the entryway, sift through the junk mail, return 800 pairs of shoes to their proper homes, all while I’d run the subconscious script in my head that I’m doing this for my family, these lucky creatures.

And then, after an hour or so, the resentment would set in. I don’t know where it came from, it would just arrive, and suddenly I’d be fluffing throw pillows loudly and with fury (Did you know it is possible to fluff throw pillows with fury?). I would resent that Ken was sleeping while I was tidying. I would resent that Bee had so many baby toys. I would resent that the people I lived with were not naturally organized, not naturally tidy, that I would forever be spending my days moving things around, returning keys to the hook, shoes to the cabinet, detergent to the shelf.

You can imagine, then, how lovely it was for Ken to wake up on these mornings – a sour wife in a spotless kitchen.

I no longer let the script run on those nameless Saturdays. I’ve shifted it slightly, and the shift has left seismic waves in my life:

I’m doing this for me.

It has taken me many years to discover that the purpose of marriage is not to change your spouse into someone more palatable, more convenient for you, someone who never fails to return his own keys to the entryway hook.

But oh, how I’d tried.

The honest truth is this: the sweet, crazed people in my home could care less where the keys hang. Ken hates shower mold but doesn’t mind a cluttered desk. Bee makes her bed with the precision of a navy seal, but leaves artwork strewn about the house like confetti in the wind.

I cannot handle a cluttered surface but am forever failing to use the grease splatter screen on bacon days.

Et tu, Brute?

So when I spend my mornings de-cluttering the house, I’m speaking my own love language here. There is nothing remotely martyr-ish about it, no resentment necessary.

I’m doing this for me.

I hear women speak often of self care, of how vital it is to rest in this season of our lives. I agree wholeheartedly, and if you’ll give me a quiet afternoon with a short stack of books and a tall glass of Chardonnay, I am a changed woman.

But I also agree that many areas of self care are so easily overlooked, are so easily placed into the martyrdom category. We mix self care in with others care and we confuse servanthood with sainthood.

We fail to see that when we’re caring for our families, we’re also caring for ourselves.

I once witnessed the most glorious argument between my friend and her husband over a toaster. Every morning, he’d pull out the toaster from the bottom cabinet to make breakfast before heading into the office. Every morning, he’d leave it out on the counter, and every morning, she’d have to put it away.

“Have to,” she’d say.

She argued that he should put the toaster back where it belongs before he leaves the house.
He argued that if they’d just make space for the toaster on the counter, he wouldn’t have to get it out every morning, and she wouldn’t have to put it away.
She argued that there wasn’t enough countertop space for the toaster to stay out.
He argued that if she’d move her artisan candle collection to the dining nook, there’d be plenty of space.

(Never bring up a woman’s artisan candle collection in the heat of the moment.)

The crux of the matter was simple: the toaster was an eyesore, and the candles were not. She could choose form over function, but she’d need to recognize that it was her choice. She’d need to own it.

She’d need to say, simply: I’m doing this for me.

It was never a Her vs. Him argument. It was simply a Candles vs. Toaster argument.

(Candles won, obv.)

Last weekend, after a busy season of planes and plans, of sickness and schedules, Ken offered me an afternoon to myself. I’d had high hopes to crack the spine on a new library read, to take a nap, maybe catch up on my emails, perhaps sneak in a walk and some quiet dinner prep?

But the house had grown messy in our busyness, and my love for order won out. There was laundry to catch up on, paperwork to sift through, a kitchen to clean. Ken came home to a spotless house, and a not-at-all sour wife.

Thank you, he said.

No thanks necessary, I said. I did it for me.

Finally, it was the truth.

 

p.s. For those curious about my outfit in these photos, my friend Carly just launched her apparel collection – handmade in Guatemala from seams and dreams. You’ll love. I’m wearing this and this!

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  • This resonated with me so much. I’ve been there, angrily fluffing pillows or throwing saucepans into the cupboard, while my boyfriend sits on his computer. But I’m need to remember I’m doing it for me because I like a tidy, organised house, and that I’m not doing it for him. But I know he’s grateful, regardless.

    Thank you for this.

    • Ha, I’ve been there with the saucepans!!! Here’s to growth and learning. ;)

  • So needed this…I’ve NEVER thought of it this way and it makes perfect sense. I did it for me. Thank you!!

    • I needed the reminder as well! So much re-learning over here. ;) Grace to you!

  • Wow! So so so powerful! Reframing is such important and I’ve done it often but never in this context. I can hear the glass shattering!

  • Jackie

    WOW, did I need to hear this today! I always feel like I’m the one who cleans the kitchen (I can’t stand dishes being left in the sink and crumb-y counters). But then I always feel resentful while cleaning because, why am I always the one to clean up the mess! I’m going to start using your mantra for myself. Thanks for this post!

  • I really needed this this morning…..thank you from the bottom of my organized heart :)

  • Julie

    So needed to be reminded of this. I hope it helps me change the way I talk to myself :)!

  • You are so articulate to put this into words, and so courageous for being honest about how you were perhaps not being the ‘best’ wife you could be in the past where this is concerned. I really admire you for that, and for the latter particularly.

    I love that the shift you went through has made you happier, and your marriage better. I’m not sure I’ve made that shift yet (or indeed even want to), because in my head I’m thinking “I do this for us, I do this for us”. It’s better than “I do this for you”, though, and I’m pleased with that much! haha!

    I suppose the saving grace for me is that I know my boyfriend feels the same way as me – it’s something we’ve talked about a lot. I guess in that regard, we’re very lucky that order in our home and ‘acts of service’ to our home and one another are very important to us both.

    We don’t keep count of what one another has done (or hasn’t done), and agree that if we feel we’re doing 50% of everything, we’re probably doing more like 30% without realising… So, we both aim to be 100% responsible for cleanliness/order/chores, knowing that it means we’ll probably end up pulling equal weight overall. But if that’s not the case all the time – for whatever reason – (work commitments, tiredness etc), we’re both cool with it because we’re both on the same page.

    Not sure where I’m going with this comment other than I wanted to share that with you ! :) I just love to see how different couples see this kind of thing, and what they do to make the wellbeing of their marriage the priority. :)

    Flora
    http://www.theeverchange.com

    • Flora

      Was reading through the comments and came across another Flora! There aren’t many of us- hi!

    • oh i LOVE this, flora – thank you for sharing with me! i LOVE how self aware you both are that you’re probably more at like 30%. i’ve always felt similarly — i’m doing far less than i realize — so it’s been a treat to stop keeping count entirely, ha. ;)

  • This post was everything to me today! How many times have I washed dishes so angrily, slamming them into the dish rack, that my partner comes in the kitchen and asks if everything is okay? But you’re right–it is for me! Thank you for reminding me to breathe and be conscious of my motivation.

  • So perfect E! What a great reframe. XXOO

  • Kitty

    I loved this. I have been married 32 years and never thought of it this way! Thank you.

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