Unsolicited Advice is the column in which I dispense advice no one asked for to people who don’t even know who I am. Last week, I advised a young couple who were struggling to accept each other’s cleaning habits.
My advice was centered on husbands in general…don’t walk in the door disappointed. You set the tone in your home, so decide to put aside your complaints for at least a few minutes when you get home and just enjoy your castle and your queen. However, this deserves a companion piece centered on wives because it takes two to tango. So especially for our VIP readers (if you’d like to purchase VIP access use code KIRA at checkout for a discount), here is a bonus round of Unsolicited Advice.
Wives and mothers, I want to talk to you about nagging.
I only recently came to accept the fact that my Tupperware cabinet is never going to be organized. The Tupperware cabinet in the Davis household has come to represent a larger moral battle. Some time ago, I decided an organized Tupperware cabinet was an issue of character – were we the type to invite chaos and unorganized thinking? Were we the type of family whose issues were in danger of tumbling out of their precarious positions as soon as someone opened the door to our lives?
Or were we going to be the type of family who could compartmentalize our issues? Were the Davises going to be the type of parents who teach their children to rein-in chaos and to put a little work in now so that later their lives will be easier? If we could be the people who organized their Tupperware, we could be the kind of people other families would point to and say, “Why can’t we be more like them?” and isn’t that the only reason you even have a family these days? To rub it in?
I’ve bought drawer organizers and separators, I’ve worked for hours to carefully match each lid to each container, I’ve looked with adoring pride at the organized fruits of my labor only to see it melt away in the next dish cycle. It never made sense to me. I’m doing all the work! I’m making it easy for them! By simply taking a few extra seconds, they can put away the Tupperware in an organized manner that will make it so much easier for all of them next time they’re packing their lunch or putting away leftovers.
IT IS SO SIMPLE!
I caught myself fussing at my husband about this one day as I watched him carelessly throw a container into the cabinet I had just spent 2 hours cleaning. I was infuriated. “Why can’t you just take the time to put it away properly?” I shouted in frustration. “It’s such a small thing. I did all this work. Why can’t we just have a nice, organized cabinet?!” My husband -who almost never raises his voice- shouted back, “Why can’t you just accept that you’re never going to have an organized Tupperware cabinet?! It’s just not going to happen. Deal with it!”
And just like that, I realized…this wasn’t a battle over tidiness. The Tupperware drawer was my tiny courtroom. It was me making the case to the suburban world around me that I could be like the people here who seem to live pristine, perfectly organized, clean, tidy lives. Their homes are cleaner, they’re wealthier, they drive better cars, and there’s no evidence of their shortcomings spilling out of kitchen cabinets.
I realized the cabinet was about me, not about my family. I have failed in so many areas of my family life. If I could just get that Tupperware area fixed and tidy then maybe it would mean I could get other areas of my life fixed and tidy.
That was the moment I let go of the Tupperware dilemma, but more importantly, I learned to let go of my perceptions of what my family should be. I was nagging my family over something that I was turning into a sign of my parenting/wife skills. I had to learn to let go of that notion. It was hard. I didn’t want to do it. I felt justified in my irritation.
Ladies, the truth is that sometimes, when we’re “nagging” our kids and husbands about a certain recurring issue, what we’re actually doing is trying to justify our lives to other people. We have a tendency to make our families the living proof that we haven’t failed at life. It’s important to remember that our families are not our ticket to approval…they are simply our families. They are the people we love.
When we allow our outward, aesthetic issues to take up so much space in our brains, we unknowingly pass that tension onto our spouse and children. They become aware of themselves as failures in your eyes, even if they can’t verbalize it. It’s dangerous. We feel well-intentioned, but at the end of the day, it is rooted in selfishness.
You might not have a Tupperware issue, but you’ve got your own area of your home that you feel is an indictment against your family. I’m here to tell you that the Tupperware cabinet is never getting organized, and that’s okay. You can learn to accept it if you can allow yourself to just live in the discomfort of knowing you can’t have your way on everything. It gets easier. Trust me. Your husband and your children will thank you, and you can be released to enjoy them as people instead of symbols of how well you’re doing your life.
And that brings a sense of relief which cannot be measured.