We all grumble about housework, but monotonous tasks have the ability to teach us an awful lot about ourselves.
For blogger Stephanie Tschoepe it was the washing-up.
Standing at her kitchen sink with a mountain of dirty dishes in front of her, Stephanie had a revelation.
In an article for Scary Mommy, Stephanie, a single mum with two little girls to put to bed and exhausted from her day at work, described the dishes as a “metaphor for my expectations.”
The badge of a good mum
Raised by a devoted stay-at-home mum, Stephanie had inherited her mother’s dedication to housework and tidiness, which had become “a badge of a good mum.”
But it was wearing her down.
“The dirty dishes are a metaphor for my expectations … I have very high expectations of myself and others … I struggle with perfectionism believing that I have to be perfect to earn love and acceptance,” Stephanie wrote.
In that moment, Stephanie realised she actually had a choice.
Stephanie could a) come home from work and get stuck into the dishes and wake to a tidy house; but it would leave her with no energy to read her girls a bedtime story.
Or, she could b) leave the dishes, and the worry about a tidy house (or anything else for that matter) and focus on herself.
She chose b) and asked herself three simple questions:
- What do I have the energy to do?
- What feels most important?
- What is my priority in this moment?
By clarifying her actual needs, as opposed to what she felt she “should” be doing, Stephanie began to feel lighter.
“I give myself permission to choose, to trust myself to do what’s right, to loosen my grip of control.”
In reality, this meant sometimes coming home and getting stuck into the housework, waking to a tidy house and feeling on top of things.
On other days it meant ignoring those exact tasks and spending time looking after herself; going to bed earlier, watching a TV show with her daughters, or just lying on the lounge.
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It’s a simple shift
The energy that springs from consciously “not” doing that thing you feel you “should” or because you’ve “always done it” can be transformative.
Not in a magical, unicorn, wake up and suddenly everything is OK way, but by giving energy back to yourself, you are creating an opportunity for change.
As Stephanie wrote, saying 'no' to the dishes delievered two significant results:
1. It gave her some respite from the endless list of tasks we're driven to do as parents.
2. She was rewarded with another day, full of beans (well, sort of!) where she could tick everything off her to-do list, without the exhaustion, isolation and resentment.
And that's a double-bonus, right?
Certainly for Stephanie the results were life changing.
“I give myself permission to leave the dirty dishes in the sink until I’m ready to face them … And those dirty dishes always get done. When my energy returns and I choose to face them, I feel so grateful that I took care of myself first, that I made myself and my girls a priority. When I give myself a choice instead of forcing it to get done through my exhaustion, I actually enjoy doing the dishes and appreciate having a clean kitchen so much more. My dirty dishes taught me to take care of myself first.”
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