I’m the “Queen of Cheap.”
I’m not talking about finding the best bargains, although I do love a good deal, or hoarding the first dollar I ever earned. I’m referring to the ability to put my own needs ahead of everyone else’s. While I often start out with good intentions, when push comes to shove, I almost always short-change myself.
It doesn’t seem to matter that I’m a “mature” 50-something woman who should know better, I still find myself falling back into old habits.
As I try to figure out when this self-deprecating behavior began, I honestly can’t remember a time when I didn’t jump at the chance to “help.” As a kid, my baby sister would yell “Debbbbbiiiiiieeee,” and minutes later I could be found doing whatever chore she didn’t feel like doing. My parents were baffled by my inability to say no to her, but I always shrugged it off as, “I’d rather do it myself than listen to her whine.” There was some truth in that statement, but what I really meant was, “I’d rather do it my way and avoid fighting with her.”
Things haven’t changed much since I was a kid; I’m still a bit of a control freak and like to do things “my” way. Even if it means staying up late to clean the house myself or run errands for others instead of tackling my own projects, I’ll be the one to volunteer to handle things. I also still shy away from confrontation. While no one likes to fight, I sometimes take it to extremes by doing everything in my power to keep people happy. I’d rather take the bullet or go without instead of disappointing my family.
I work a full-time day job, do freelance writing at night and yet still feel it’s necessary to do all the housework, laundry, shopping, and cooking. Until a few months ago, our grown daughter and boyfriend were still living at home. It wasn’t uncommon to find me making all the next day’s lunches and cleaning up the kitchen after everyone had gone to bed. I’d rather mumble under my breath about having to do everything myself than risk a fight.
I tend to take on more than I can handle, so I’m almost always running late. This is a constant source of frustration for me. Physically, I’m always exhausted; and emotionally, I’m rarely satisfied with the way I’ve handled things. I get mad at myself for not letting someone else do some work (even if it’s not the way I would do it), and then I get mad at them for not offering to help. I guess they need to work on their mindreading skills too.
I’ve always envied those women who have been strong enough (aka bitchy) to convince their partners and children to share in the household chores. The truth of the matter is, things get done half-assed because I don’t have the time or energy to do them right. I’m an intelligent woman and an excellent communicator at work; but when I step through my own front door, I turn into a mouse.
Don’t get me wrong, there are no guns being held to my head or unreasonable demands being made by my husband or anyone else. This situation is all on me. I do find great joy in taking care of my family, and when they offer to help, I usually say no. At that moment when I could turn things around, I feel bad for asking. Silly me goes into “Mama Bear” mode, putting their tired eyes or plans to play in front of my own. Of course, it doesn’t end there. Even on those occasions when they insist on taking over, I silently criticize what they’ve done. Yes, I have been guilty of reloading the dishwasher after my daughter left the room – what is wrong with me?!
Although I’ve been working hard to change some of these bad habits, my tendency to avoid conflict almost led to financial disaster for our family. Instead of sharing with my husband the heavy burden of debt we were facing, I thought I could fix everything by “robbing Peter to pay Paul.” I learned a valuable lesson with that situation, so I’m not sure why I’m not dealing with this better.
Now that the kids have moved out and the house is quiet again, it’s the perfect opportunity to turn over a new leaf. I realize that I didn’t do my daughter any favors by not teaching her how much energy it took to run a household. She’s tougher than I am, though, and she’s already set some ground rules with her boyfriend about sharing the chores. Maybe she learned something from watching me after all.
As my husband and I close in on 37 years of marriage, I guess it’s time I come clean about what I need for a change. He’s actually a better cook than I am, and he shockingly really loves to do it. I know that old habits are hard to break, but maybe it’s time to let him wear the crown for a little while.
I’d welcome your comments on how to go about making a change. Should I do it slowly or rip it off like a bandage? Am I the only one foolish enough to try to handle it all or do I have company? If you think someone else could benefit from my experiences, I’d appreciate a share.
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