My problem is the somewhat “uneven” distribution of household chores. I find myself spending an upwards of four or more hours a day before and after work cleaning up after my sister’s children, taking care of her dogs, and trying to get as much yard work done as possible. Every morning before work I clean up after my nephews’ breakfast, walk the three dogs, water the yard and perform a number of other daily household chores. My sister never seems to be able to clean up after herself or her children. I understand that she is a single mother who has recently gone through a lot, and that can be a tremendous struggle in and of itself, but more often then not she has her friend come over and help her watch the kids or hang out with her as she watches me mop the floors or sweep up Cheerios her children leave around the house. I think that during the time she has another set of eyes on her children, she could at least bother with sharing some of the household’s burdens. It’s a sensitive matter because, every time I even try to mention it, she becomes upset and shouts that I’m calling her a bad mother.
My two brothers are always “offering” to help me out more, but, when push comes to shove, they never seem to be able to make it. On days when they’ve promised and failed to show up because “something came up,” I’ll often see that they’ve posted photos of themselves on Facebook of themselves relaxing at some lake or out with friends. A lot of the work I need help with requires heavy lifting and, strong as I may be, I’m not physically able to do it on my own and really could use their help. They both have good-paying jobs and the means and time to help, but they never seem to make the time. I mean, for shit’s sake, my one brother works in landscaping and has easy access to lawnmowers, hedge trimmers, and all of the other tools I need to use to get the outside in order. I’ve been using an old rusted push mower for months now because we don’t have an automatic one at the house.
My parents are old and not in the best of health, so I know they won’t be able to help out — nor should they be expected to when they have five able-bodied children, two of whom live at home and two of whom live within a few minutes’ drive.
To make matters worse, my oldest brother, “Kevin,” stops around the house frequently to go jogging through the neighborhood, do laundry, or even just “borrow” food. I’ve begged him to take the larger of the three dogs running with him but he never has. I walk the larger of the three dogs twice a day, about two miles around the track each time and then I have to come back and walk the two smaller dogs. Rinse lather repeat twice a day every day. I pay for all of the dogs’ medical and daily expenses, and I’m the only one who walks the dogs even though they aren’t even mine! To make things even MORE irritating, often when Kevin comes over he jokes about how “neglected” the dogs and the house are. I do everything in my power and beyond to make sure these dogs are well taken care of! Even when I’m worn out from work, mopping, dusting, taking out the trash, mowing the lawn, changing the cat box (oh yeah, there are two cats involved here), sorting my nephews’ toys, and sweeping the floors, those dogs get walked and played with. I’m a big animal rights activist and I would never sit by and let the dogs or cats go unattended to. I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night thinking the animals were left wanting. I know he’s only joking, but it still hurts. He gets to spend all of his free time doing what he enjoys and spending time with his girlfriend, but I can’t even find the time to see my boyfriend or practice my creative endeavors like music — which I went to college for.
I don’t make much money where I am now and I’m still willing to shell out as much as needed for cleaning supplies, dog supplies, and anything else. A few weeks ago I read something Kevin posted on Facebook about how “ridiculous” his parents home is, and I broke out in tears. It’s one thing to share a private joke with family, it’s another to post it on the internet for the world to see, and none of it was true anyway. My mother called him and tried to talk to him about it and he even left me a voicemail later with a half-hearted apology, but he and my other brother have yet to show up to help me with even some of the chores. Am I being taken advantage of here or am I being self-absorbed and jealous over my siblings’ freedom? What can I do to to elevate some of the strain? — “Tired of being Cinderella”
You are being taken advantage of, and you are 100% responsible for enabling that. You have made it beyond easy for everyone to take advantage of you. I don’t even understand why you are living at home. You say it’s to save money, but are you even saving anything at all when you spend so much on dog food and vet bills and cleaning supplies and “anything else” needed around the house? Move out already!! My God, the hours you spend cleaning up after everyone else could be spent at a second job if you really need the money that bad. Or you could, you know, have a life — you could hang out with your boyfriend, play music, and still stop by your parents’ home a couple times a week to help out in a much more manageable way.
Once your siblings see that you will no longer be doing everything, they will have no choice but to step up and help out. Your sister, especially, will have to take responsibility for her kids and her dogs. And all of you together — including your parents! — will have to discuss a way to divide household chores in a way that works for the seven of you. Maybe one brother does yard work, maybe you do some grocery shopping and cook a dinner for your parents once a week. Maybe you get your parents to hire cleaners once a week or twice a month! Can they afford that? If not, maybe among five children, you all can pitch in $25 a month to at least have the place deep-cleaned once every few weeks.
The point is, with four siblings, you should not be shouldering all the burden of caring for aging parents, and you sure as shit shouldn’t be shouldering the burden of caring for your sister’s dogs and her kids. What the hell is up with that? Get a backbone and say no to this! I get that you’re an animal rights person and all that, but what about YOUR rights? What about YOUR needs? You’re putting yourself last on the list of priorities and no one else but you is going to fight to move you closer to the top of your own list. As long as you take advantage of yourself, so will everyone else.
It’s time to set some boundaries, and the only way I see that happening is if you move out. It’s also time for your parents to step up and ask for help from someone other than you. Just because they’re old and in not-so-great health doesn’t mean they can’t call up one of your brothers and ask if he can come mow the lawn or trim the hedges. Also, maybe it’s time for them to think about downsizing. They obviously can’t maintain the upkeep of such a large house and yard, and neither can the rest of you, so why are they living there? Time to sell 80% of everything and move into a two-bedroom apartment or even an assisted living facility.
These are all things your family should be discussing. These are proactive steps toward maintaining independence and healthy boundaries among your family members. But, see, everyone else apparently feels fine with the status quo — the one in which you’re the only person doing anything — so no one else is going to bring it up. You have to. And no one is going to listen to you unless you move out and stop doing everything for everyone. Once your parents and siblings realize that shit has to be done and you’re not around to constantly do it, they will be much more open to creating a plan that works for everyone. Including you.
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at [email protected].