FAMILY MATTERS by Sumeha Khalid
How to Avoid Being a Harried Housewife
Each of us has our set of responsibilities - whether we are at work or at school or at home. We have to get our work done by the end of the day. Of course, office deadlines can be postponed a little. We can come home and relax. However, if one is a housewife (or a househusband for that matter) it is difficult to pack up for the day. There is always something more to be done. The dinner has to be cooked. Dishes have to be washed. Children have to be helped with their homework. There is so much to do.
We cannot neglect a housewife's labor of love. Her day starts in the morning and ends only with bedtime. Talk about long working hours! Naturally, the housewives of the world become irritable and tired by the end of the day. Are you an overworked bundle of nerves as you try to be superwoman who manages everything without anyone's help? If you are, you need help!
A woman who pursues no career outside her home but is a full-time homemaker is often referred to as a mere housewife. The mere is used to convey the sense that hers is an easy, unimportant and less taxing role. But in fact, it is no less daunting and demanding than other more glorifying roles!
Actually, it is not just one but a variety of roles that the homemaker has to fill gracefully - mistress, mother, cook, nurse... She is expected to be proficient in so many different occupations and sometimes these responsibilities give rise to a condition that can be referred to as the Harried Housewife Syndrome (HHS).
A harried housewife, take on everything that comes along and even asks for more. She is a self-sacrificing martyr. She agrees with her husband's criticism and accepts all her children's demands. Right from pampering her man with bed tea to planning, at the end of the day, the next day's breakfast and meals, she tackles unending chores single-handedly. In between the slogging, she will rush to buy the groceries, bring her child from school, visit the dentist or doctor and so on...
Mrs. Khan, a young housewife, is a typical victim of HHS. Since her husband, a businessman, is rarely at home, the lady carries the entire burden of running the home on her shoulders. She not only carries out multifarious tasks but also attends to minor chores connected with her husband's business. These include answering phone calls, playing host to business associates and customers and so on.
Too Willing to Slog
When advised to get the assistance of a domestic help, Mrs. Khan dismissed the suggestion by saying, "I feel like doing some work or the other the whole day. I just can't remain without work for even a minute."
Thus, she overtaxes herself and the damage this has caused to her personality and well-being comes out through her occasional admission of exhaustion, the tantrums she occasionally throws and minor illnesses. Psychologists call this kind of letting out anguish through laments and complaints, the harried housewife game. Women whose husbands work abroad, in the Gulf countries, on ships in the army, etc. have to play multifarious roles and this group is most likely to suffer from HHS.
A harried housewife becomes so burdened doing the things she doesn't want to do that she has neither the time nor energy for the things that are more important. For example, she may be thinking of going to the physician for a pressure check-up or she may want to put a piece of jewellery into the bank locker but she is so involved in the routine chores that these important tasks never get done.
Moreover, because she herself does everything without assistance from others, there will be an accumulation of things to be done. Hence, she won't be able to do justice to the work she does and she feels disappointed.
Remember, when you don't like your way of life, it is a perpetually gloomy existence. Because of your dull, uninteresting existence, you have created a situation where nothing good can happen. A bleak lifestyle ultimately leads to mental depression.
Steps to keep away HHS
Norman Vincent Peale, author of The Power of Positive Thinking, recommends the policy of one thing at a time. He says, "If life is crowding you, if pressures are mounting inside you and tensions are leaving you high-strung and irritable, memorise the phrase - this one thing I do. As you perfect the technique of doing only one thing at a time, you will find that much of your tension has been eased away."
You can fill each of your roles in succession during the week but you must refuse to play two or more of them simultaneously. For example, when there is an occasion being celebrated at home you can either play cook or housemaid but not both. An important point to remember is you must make children help. You must train them to assist you.
You must reserve some time every day for doing things that serve as sources of satisfaction. Spend time on hobbies, friends or other interests. Norman Vincent Peale suggests, "Take a vacation from tension when you can... build little islands of peace into your day... allow yourself enough time for the jobs you have to do."
You must be assertive and able to say, "Only this far I can go, no farther." Learn to say "no" to a demanding husband and children. Take the case of Salma, a harried housewife and mother of two. She began to feel that her life was falling apart because she laboured hard with daily chores and child care from early morning to midnight. She felt constantly fatigued and depressed. This fatigue and depression were due to the fact that she did not recognise that she had any rights at all in her own home - to read the paper, play music or rest. Once she learnt to stand up for her rights, her sense of fatigue lessened and she began to enjoy things more. According to psychologists, those who do not assert themselves suffer from the sad consequences of their unassertiveness - lack of personal growth, mental anguish and psychosomatic symptoms that range from fatigue and migraine to ulcers."
Turn the tedious chores of housekeeping into creative family experiences. For example, while washing the dishes start a discussion on some lively subject and quietly thrust a dish to be wiped into the hand of each member present.
So, while the animated discussion is going on, even before you know what is happening, all of you would have finished washing and drying. You would have had a wonderful time too!
Arise awake! Those of you afflicted with HHS, don't stoically wallow in it. Change your approach to housewifery with a vengeance by following sane steps. You will then make homemaking a tension-free and satisfying vocation.
I think Louisa May Alcott summed up the key to a truly successful life beautifully. She said: "Have regular hours for work and play; make each day both useful and pleasant, and prove that you understand the worth of time by employing it well. Then youth will be delightful, old age will bring few regrets, and life will become a beautiful success."
Housework need not take up all of one's day. Some shortcuts here, a few quick tricks there, and the housewife can end up with a lot of free time on her hands. Here are some tips for the harried housewife.
*Club jobs together
A lot of time gets wasted in doing just one chore at a time. Ever heard of multi-tasking? I don't mean that one should vacuum with one hand, iron with the other, and take calls at the same time. However, one can save time by doing the day's cooking at one go, or by washing the basin while brushing one's teeth.
*Get the kids to help out
Sharing the workload is a good idea. One may be slaving away trying to turn a house into a home. However, messy children or an untidy spouse can put one's efforts to naught. One should not have to pick up after the rest of the family. In fact, they should be made to help out in the house.
*Don't try to be Superwoman
A lot of housewives make the mistake of imagining themselves as superwomen. Homemakers must not trick themselves into believing that they are blessed with super powers. The idea is to not take on more than one can chew. One should space out the work, take breaks, and not try to do too much at a time.
*Stick to a schedule
Time management is very important when it comes to housework. A routine always helps us stay on track. Working some breaks into the schedule is recommended. Dividing the day's work into bite-sized chores is also a smart way to go.
*Reduce your errands
Phoning for home delivery is a good option. Nowadays, even the running around and long lines that are associated with paying bills can be done away with. One can arrange for the bills to be paid directly through the bank.
*Don't leave chores pending
Sometimes there is the temptation to leave a chore pending. However, this may end up taking up more time. For example, it is always easy to clean the table after a meal. But when we come back to it even an hour later, wiping off the hardened remnants of the last meal becomes more difficult.
Technology is supposed to make life easier for us. Thus, a vacuum cleaner is an improvement over the broom and a dishwasher cuts down on the time spent washing dishes. We must look out for technology that adds comfort to our lives.
*Get some time to yourself
A housewife may spend much of her time at home. However, this does not mean that she gets time to herself. Just as the office-goer needs the occasional break from office work, housewives need breaks from housework. Setting aside some leisure time is a must. This would give one the chance to pursue one's hobbies or spend quality time with the family.
These are some tips that experienced housewives swear by. Time management is the main thing. In fact, by effectively managing her time, even the most harassed housewife can get all the housework out of the way before most of the day is done.