New babies can make keeping a tidy house very challenging. Especially if there’s a choice between having some sleep and cleaning up.
Psychotherapist Ginny Lindsay is the founder of counselling service From 2 to 3, a program that helps couples adjust to their changed lifestyle when children come along.
Ginny says the politics of keeping the house clean is one of the most common issues that couples face.
Listen to Ginny Lindsay on Feed Play Love:
Why do we disagree so much?
“Nobody really loves the endless, relentless thing about cleaning. We have to understand it’s like dealing with taxes – it’s unavoidable. You have to do it at some point. So how do you negotiate that?”
Ginny says a lot of the stress around cleaning comes from people’s personal perspective.
“It goes back to family of origin, what did my mother do and what did my father do? And the push for our partner to follow what we know to be right, despite the fact they’ve had a different upbringing. Nobody is right or wrong, we have different ways of viewing this and it’s important to think that you are making your own family unit now.”
The conflict over the housework can also arise from personal preferences.
“For some people, cleaning is hugely stress-relieving and then there is the balance of going too far that way … it can put pressure on yourself and your partner and it can be an endless source of conflict,” says Ginny.
“Some people will just do something because their partner has asked them to, but for others, they will refuse to do it. And that behaviour is usually indicative of something else going on.”
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How can we get others to pull their weight?
Ginny describes this delicate process as a “dance”.
“We need to find the harmony in the house on this issue because otherwise, it is a point of tension.”
Communication is key here.
“Start by having a conversation about what you expect of each other and what level of cleanliness you are happy with,” Ginny says.
“Be mindful of the need to create an adult sanctuary amongst the chaos of the rest of the house. This is important. Everyone needs an adult place that you can go to that is free of clutter and kids’ toys.”
Be up front about each other’s strengths and weaknesses
“Is one of you good at cooking and the other one less than great at cleaning up? Then you can work on an easy compromise that one person owns the cleaning and the other does the cooking,” says Ginny.
“You do need to negotiate and when you do, it’s important to ask yourselves what is realistic in terms of the hours we are working.”
Ginny also recommends making a list of all the jobs that need to be done and putting it on the fridge, so it’s visible.
“It makes it like a contract, a bit of an agreement. So that holds you accountable if you don’t adhere to it. And you hold yourself to it. So if you don’t hold up your end of the bargain, then you can take responsibility for it and say something like, ‘I stuffed up’ or, ‘I won’t be able to do it tomorrow, but so you know, it will happen,'” says Ginny.