When I first started dating my husband, I often joined his family for dinner. I always jumped up after a meal to help clear the dishes, with his mom protesting, “Oh no, just leave them.” I took this to be a standard polite response and continued to do what I’d been taught was a good guest’s duty. Lo and behold, she REALLY didn’t want me to and finally said so, “If you get up, then I have to, and I really don’t want to.” It took me a long time to assimilate this attitude into my “be courteous at all costs” upbringing, but eventually I realized how uncomfortable — stressed out — I was making my future mother-in-law and stopped.
Then, I discovered the real reason she didn’t want my help. She was afraid I was going to chip her china, and she loved her china. Until that time, I wasn’t aware anyone could love dishes. It was the first time I’d ever seen anyone wash the backsides of the plates and in her words, “caress each piece”. This was probably the craziest thing I’d ever heard when I was 20.
Fast forward to present day. Whereas, I never ever ever caress my dishes, I’ve made peace with having to do them at all. A wise friend once suggested that I think of household chores as an integral part of keeping my home the respite I wanted it to be. Washing dishes was simply my contribution to the whole, instead of the dreaded chore that I’d been clanking through every day.
This important mindset reversal has worked for many of the other mundane tasks that households entail. My husband and I aren’t nearly as pissed off as we used to be about the chores we’ve divvied up. And pissed off always translates to more stress, a killer if it’s every single day. With the right music on, I can sometimes even be heard singing at the sink. Rarely… but you get the idea.