How do you motivate your stay-at-home wife to do more cleaning?
This hub was written in response to a question by Nefarious_Misery, who wrote:
I understand we have four children, and I am in no way expecting an immaculate house, but there has to be SOME effort. It seems to me that she just sits on the couch all day.
The house isn't clean enough for ANYBODY.
I understand that raising 4 children is a chore in itself
I have bailed her out and cleaned the house myself only to have it return to a raging mess a week later
I have asked
even threatened to leave
We set up cleaning schedules, assign chores, but she never sticks with it.
I work two jobs to keep us in the black (for the most part) I don't have time to sleep let alone clean the house.
P.S. I would LOVE to stay home and take care of the house/kids rather than work 80+ hours a week.
First, some questions:
- Was she a good housekeeper before she had children? If not, it's extremely unlikely that she will improve now that she does.
- How old are the children? If any of them are under the age of three, I would honestly be more surprised if she did manage to keep a consistently neat house. If several of them are under the age of three, you should probably kiss your dream of a neat home goodbye for at least a few more years and focus instead on making sure that it doesn't get messy enough to actually become a health hazard.
- You say you think she just sits on the couch all day. With four children to look after, I think that's highly unlikely, but if she really does just sit on the couch all day, have you considered the possibility that she may be suffering from undiagnosed depression (possibly post-partum?) or other mental health issues? I think it would be worthwhile at the very least to sit down and have a serious conversation with her about the possibility of that, and preferably to talk to a doctor or therapist.
If the two of you decide together that it's not depression, but a simpler problem such as feeling overwhelmed, try breaking the issue down into smaller steps.
Write down a list of five simple, concrete tasks that you would like to have done every day in order to make the house more livable and sit down with her and your children (if they are old enough) to decide who will be in charge of doing them. For example, loading, running, and unloading the dishwasher, or picking up the toys on the living room floor and putting them away before bed are fairly easy, quick tasks that can nevertheless make a substantial difference in the appearance of the house.
I also recommend FlyLady as someone with a gift for breaking down housework into simple, doable pieces. "You can do anything for 15 minutes a day," she reminds her readers, and her website contains tons of free information, a support forum, and more. Encourage your wife to sign up for her mailing list and join her support forum and you may soon find the CHAOS (Can't Have Anyone Over Syndrome) dramatically reduced.
Finally, you mentioned that you yourself work "80+ hours a week" and "don't have enough time to sleep, let alone clean the house." This raised a few red flags for me, as someone whose marriage barely survived a similar situation.
A book that really helped me and my husband sort through our problems is The Five Love Languages, by Gary Chapman. Chapman believes that people have five primary methods of expressing love to each other and that different people value different methods more highly than others. When two people's love languages aren't compatible, it can lead to misunderstandings and hurt feelings.
Chapman's five love languages are:
- Quality Time
- Words of Affirmation
- Physical Touch
- Acts of Service
From your comments in the question, it sounds to me like you may place a high value on Acts of Service - you take pride in your role as provider for your family and seem to regard your wife's poor housekeeping as not holding up her side of the deal, as it were. If your wife places a higher value on a different love language, however, she may not recognize that you regard your hard work as an expression of love for her and your children.
If her primary love language happens to be Quality Time, she may be struggling especially hard to reconcile her emotions. This was the case in my family. As much as I appreciated on an intellectual level how hard my husband was working to support me and our daughter, I felt emotionally abandoned as a result of him working 80-110 hours a week, and the resulting rift in our marriage took years to fully repair. It's very common for men to become so focused on providing financially for their families that they overlook the importance of spending time with their families, and this can be a critical mistake with a spouse who values Quality Time.
Your wife may also be hurting emotionally if she values Gifts, Physical Touch, or Words of Affirmation and you are not providing these. Feelings of emotional abandonment could be contributing to feelings of being depressed or overwhelmed, which in turn can kill the motivation and will to perform even basic tasks.
Since money seems to be a real issue for your family, I suggest sitting down and talking with your wife about some ways you can stay financially afloat while meeting her emotional needs as well. Could your wife get a job so she can help your family's financial situation? Though it's more common for men, feeling financially dependent on a spouse and/or unable to contribute to relieving the family's financial problems can also lead to depression and feelings of helplessness in women.
If it's important to both of you that she stays home with the children (and/or if her potential income would be insufficient to cover the child care expenses that would result if she got a job out of the house), are there any home-based businesses she could try? You've obviously already discovered HubPages, which can be a great source of second income, but there are many other ways to make money with no job, and many small business opportunities that are appropriate for stay-at-home moms. WAHM.com is a great resource for moms who want to work at home.
Getting a job either in or outside the home will probably not improve your wife's housekeeping (in fact it may make it worse), but it should help relieve some of the pressure on you and enable you and your wife to form a productive partnership to deal jointly with financial, housework, and childcare duties, instead of continuing to split them unevenly and in a way that seems to be unsatisfactory to both of you.
If getting a job of any sort is not an option, are there any expenses you could cut back to allow you to spend more time at home? Are there any other ways you can find to meet her emotional needs and start the journey towards turning your marriage back into a happy one?
I don't mean to suggest that her emotional needs are the only ones that matter - they obviously aren't - but you are here on HubPages asking for advice on how to improve your marriage and she isn't, so without hearing her side of the story, I don't feel informed enough to offer specific advice for her. Also, as Gary Chapman points out in his books, most people do a better job of meeting the emotional needs of their spouses when their own are met, so by helping your wife feel more loved, appreciated, and supported, you are likely to find that she starts to do a better job of meeting your needs as well.