My Family Care asks Georgina: How do you and your partner address the workload at home? Is the split even? Do you re-visit the conversation or does it end up a taboo subject?
Whenever I'm aked to contribute to this blog, I confess, I agree to do so slightly reluctantly. The topics seem to dovetail neatly to my own neuroses as a mother, wife, and woman; neurosis I am now so familiar with, I name and package for personal reference and amusement. The process of contributing an article feels very much like I am hanging each neurosis out to dry in a terrifyingly public forum, via the internet.
This topic is no different: the division of labour at home hits my casalinga syndrome with speed and force. Before I explain how, let me share what this syndrome is. In Italian, a 'casalinga' evokes thoughts of the ultimate home maker:
- Spotless house
- No ironing visible - it's all stashed out of sight
- Impeccably behaved and well rested kids
- Real-time dry cleaning collection schedules
- A full fridge
- Meals on the table with both Swiss precision and cordon bleu standards.
How I long for this. How much the thought of having the above brings a sense of personal satisfaction and achievement to me. I am increasingly conscious of my desire to be 'this' that a few years ago, I named 'this' my casalinga syndrome.
Where do chores fit in?
Alas, the rest of my life doesn't quite fit with my casalinga syndrome. I have an amazing and hands-on husband who travels extensively for work. I have a full-time, incredibly fascinating (to me) and fulfilling job that sees me out of the house between 7.30am and 7pm, Monday to Friday. I also have an award-worthy nanny who seems to pick up many of my casalinga responsibilities and the care of my children during the week.
So my casalinga syndrome gets pulled out on a daily basis: how can I feel like I am managing all of these things in the way that I want to, when I am also madly fitting all of this 'other stuff' in that makes it impossible for me to do so?
Sole domestic goddess
It, therefore, becomes a bit irrelevant for me to spend my time reflecting on how we break up the division of labour in our house. Yes, I can share this, but I doubt it would yield much insight or benefit to anyone who reads this. When I think about this topic, I immediately get drawn to my casalinga syndrome and its effects. The real question for me becomes how much I let anyone else contribute to the division of labour in my house.
The truth is, in my house, we all muddle in. Between our said nanny, my husband and I, we seem to have things running largely smoothly. BUT - and it's a big but - I feel uncomfortable about this. If I am being truthful, I would far prefer to be doing it all. It would appease my casalinga syndrome no end. And, most importantly, it doesn't stop me from wanting to do it all.
An example of my neurosis
Let me bring this to life with a real world example that has happened just this morning (when writing this article).
My husband and I arrived home from work last night to a fairly barren fridge and pantry. He announced that he was off to the supermarket this morning with our two year old son to do a shop. He's got a relatively empty morning, and there are few things Francesco (my son) likes more at the moment than the prospect of running around a supermarket with fluorescent lighting, trolley pushing and the opportunity for treats at the end of the exercise.
My immediate response was to shut down his offer, fight the opportunity to delegate, and to squash the idea with my intention of doing an online shop this afternoon - ironically, another task I am uncomfortable with delegating, as, heaven forbid, someone else at the keyboard might bring in a different range of household products whilst doing this shop online.
My jobs are my jobs
When I break this down, it's totally irrational. I know this, but my casalinga syndrome means that it's my first reaction as soon as someone offers to do one of 'my jobs'. There is an obvious/dull conclusion to make around my discomfort in delegating 'home stuff', making me a control freak. But, actually, it's more a sense of displacement.
If I am not doing all this stuff, does this make me a less perfect wife, mother and woman?
Delegation? Not in this house!
And therein lies the really interesting question, within the question, for me: how do we divide jobs at home when, actually, I don't really want to divide them?
I wish I could offer some pearls of wisdom as to the best way of handling this: delegation, scheduling, or outsourcing. If I could, I would probably be closer to being the perfect wife, mother and woman. Right now, laughing at myself, applying a sense of perspective and reminding myself to be 'good enough' at balancing it all, seems to work 'enough'. And I might have more to say on this, except my husband has just come home with the shopping and I feel like I need to unpack it into the fridge and cupboard for him.
It's clearly a work in progress.
Georgina Cavaliere, Leadership, Talent, and Organisational Change Specialist