DEAR SANDRA – The Advice Column

October 16, 2002

Dear Sandra,

I’m just about ready to go crazy. I’m working my butt off to hold down a job, I have a small school-aged son that needs time, love, and attention, and a husband who thinks a major contribution to the household duties is to use a coaster for his glass. He has no understanding of what I am trying to do for myself by going to school, and my son shouldn’t have to suffer because I’m too busy to be a proper mom and spend evenings playing, studying, reading with him. My house is a disaster, and I feel like I’m making things worse instead of improving my lot. I don’t what to do, and I’m about to throw in the towel educationally.

Tired and Overextended

Dear Tired and Overextended:

Your problem is one that most women with the responsibility of a family face. Throughout time women have traditionally been assigned to housework and childrearing chores. In today’s society this tradition still stands as rigidly as ever, regardless if a woman works or stays at home. I remember before I was married and had children I used to wonder what my mother, a housewife, did all day alone in the house. I assumed she must have just sat around all day lifelessly watching soaps and eating bon-bons. I never realized how much time and effort went into maintaining a house and raising children until I was required to do it myself.

Most men seem to have a knack for being able to block mess out of their line of vision, whereas most women can spot a millimeter size spaghetti sauce stain on red wall from a mile away. We see what needs to be done; they need to be told what needs to be done. It frustrates us because if we can see our house is messy, why can’t they? In the book Somebody Has To Do It by Penney Kome, a study by Ed Bader of Toronto area couples showed that housework emerged as the number-one problem in relationships, causing more squabbles than sexual differences, in-laws or money problems. After a long day of outside employment, school work or housework and child care women are emotionally and physically drained and it’s easy to see why these same women get angry when their husbands ask why they have no clean socks in their drawer or why they have to eat macaroni and cheese for supper.

On top of trying to keep track of our own lives, women are also expected to keep a detailed database in their minds of their families lives. At a moments notice we are expected bring up information about our families clothing sizes, birthdays, doctor’s appointments, phone numbers and where their shoes and clothes that they misplaced are located. No wonder that we forget to take our birth control pills or bathe ourselves some days.

Even if you are lucky enough to have a man who is willing to help with the housework he is very unlikely to admit doing it to his male counterparts. This is because society has labelled men who “help out around the house” as whipped or feminine. They also see housework as something that they detest so they feel justified in not doing it. Well, I can’t really vouch for all women, but I can probably vouch for 99.9% of woman by saying we don’t like to do it either. I can think of a million other ways I would like to spend my evenings instead of making the kids lunches, picking up carelessly discarded clothing, doing laundry, and scrubbing toilets. These are not my hobbies, yet I spend a considerable amount of my free time doing them.

I have found that talking to your husband and asking for help does not work. What does seem to work is making a list; then they know exactly what to do and can not say that you never asked them to do that. I keep mine on the fridge and then all our friends and family can see what he has or hasn’t accomplished, if you date the list it seems to motivate them more to step away from the T.V. and start striking off chores from the list. If that doesn’t work, go on strike. Don’t wash his clothes, don’t make his meals, let the bathroom get dirty, don’t pay the cable bill, and don’t buy groceries. This not only seems to work for husbands, but older children as well. Nothing is more embarrassing for them than having to go to school in dirty clothes and taking a mustard sandwich for lunch. Once they start to realize exactly how much you do and how much work it is to do this all by themselves, they may be a little more willing to help knowing that you could again refuse to do everything for them. It might also help to express how important your education is to your husband and children by doing it in terms of money. Most of the time when you go to school, you end up being able to find a better paying job. As in my case when I am completely done school, I will probably make more than my husband. This thought keeps him in a fantasy world, where he believes that once I finish school I will be able to support him and he can golf all day.

As for your children, as I have said before, children do not need our full undivided attention. Quality is more important than quantity when you spend time with your children. So much pressure is put on mothers to raise perfectly well adjusted children, yet fathers do not face as much pressure. They don’t spend their days worrying if they have spent enough time with their children and if they are showing enough (and the right kind of) love to them. Ask your husband to take your child to hockey or ball games, arcades or to the park for a while, this will give you time to concentrate on your school work and it will give them a chance to bond doing something they both like.

I would not recommend giving up your schoolwork. You deserve to be able to accomplish something important for yourself. You will only be a full-time mother for part of your life, what will you do with yourself when your children leave home? What if you become widowed or divorced? Your priorities do not have to be your family all the time. Right now, let your education come first. Forget about having the perfect house, marriage, children and life; no one has ever achieved this and no one ever will.


This column is for entertainment only. Sandra is not a professional counsellor, but is an AU student who would like to give personal advice about school and life to her peers. Please forward your questions to Sandra care of

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