By Lois Volta
There’s no right or wrong way to run a household, so balance in the home means something different for everyone. We all come from our own places, have our own intimate, ingrained domestic habits, and generally don’t like being told what to do. Disagreement within the home can threaten our sense of autonomy, personal space and conceptions of fairness. If you bear the brunt of the mental and physical load of the home, it’s natural to be upset. In asking our partners or housemates to engage in domesticity, we can expect a vulnerable and sometimes volatile experience.
Start by defining what a balanced home looks like for you and deciding if it is worth fighting for.
You should never ask for “help” around the house; this perpetuates the perception that you are the manager of the home, and that you should be given help and support as opposed to shared responsibility and teamwork. Rather, ask that your partners, housemates and children live mindfully and respectfully. This is a new mindset, which requires you to be respectful and understanding of others, their differences, past experiences and domestic inadequacies. Can you love a person who’s never touched a laundry basket? This is not a lesson in passivity toward or complicity in domestic inequality, but a grand reveal of radical acceptance, compassion and patience through which real change may occur.
Let’s respect the historically and socially-gendered pressures within the home. In an environment of mutual respect, we leave the argument and enter into a conversation. Healthy communication is a sign of a balanced home, and for this, your self-respect is required. If those in your home aren’t respecting you enough to have a constructive and open conversation about domesticity and shared labor, why are you living with them? If children are involved, are you a role model of cooperative collaboration and self-respect?
For me, gender equality, sustainability, kindness and beauty are worth fighting for. My family doesn’t always appreciate it. I figure it out as I go and I know that I’m not always right—I’ve come to peace with this. I also feel loved just as I am, confrontational ideals and all. It’s worth the hard conversations and interpersonal fights to show my children that they can experience domestic gender equality firsthand, that washing and folding napkins and rags is far better than using products that end up in a landfill, and that having a good attitude makes everything easier for everyone.
Life takes work and cooperation. The byproduct of living is mess. Accept the mess and roll up your sleeves, especially if you have taken for granted the domestic labor that makes your life better.
Balance is more likely when we are open to learning from each other. I try to teach without teaching, lead by example, and scream into a pillow when the house is trashed instead of venting my anger on others, thus compromising my role as patient, loving mother. I find it meaningful and necessary to be open with my family about how I balance my personal and work lives so they understand that I am not, nor should be, willing to shoulder the second-shift of housework on my own.
Yes, I can do most of the housework better, faster and more easily than they because I have a lifetime of practice. If it’s not cherished and respected, this feels like a curse. I absolutely love it when my husband or kids ask me for advice on how to do something around the house. It shows me that they are willing to learn and hold their share of the weight even if they don’t know how. It feels good to see in them the recognition that skills within the home are valuable and worth learning how to do well. There is an art to all of it, and I hit my 10,000 hours years ago.
Everyone can develop domestic awareness; it is most heartfelt when we come to it of our own accord, not because we are being told to engage or, conversely, to “ease-up.” Truth is, the more I look for domestic awareness, the more I find it in the quality of love and respect we have for each other and ourselves.
When I follow everyone around with a dustpan, letting loose a broad scream for help, I am not respecting myself. In caring for others without conditions or expectations, I am being respectful. I feel loved when this way of being is seen and appreciated. Ultimately, I want to know that it is safe to enjoy showing my love to others through service without my efforts being devalued and seen as trivial. I value the work that we all bring to the table.
These are the concepts that I tackle to find a deeper understanding of domestic balance (it’s not just about divvying up the chores). The more I place love in my home, the more the home gives back to me and the people within. It becomes a place worthy of being taken care of. The work is internal, and I am enough to spark change in the hearts of those with whom I have relationships.
It’s not easy, but that’s okay; we are all in this together. Balance will make an appearance now and then to remind you that it’s going to be just fine.
Lois volta is a home consultant, musician and the founder of Volta Naturals. loisvolta.com