Friday, January 18, 2013

On Strike

 “Gah! What now!?!”

By the evening of day five, J was flustered. Ant needed this, K needed that, the washer wouldn’t do its thing, the kitchen was a mess, the trash needed to be taken out, and Sophie had just dumped her food all over the kitchen floor in protest of the new kibble.

I was sitting on the couch, smirking. I was on strike.

K walked on and exclaimed, “The jeans I wanted to wear tomorrow aren’t washed!”

I may or may not have been able to suppress a snicker.

Ant came in and said, “Why won’t Disney XD work on my iPod? Is there something wrong with the wireless?”

Then I started to feel bad, because it was obvious that all of them were out of their realm, and there would be no recovering before bedtime tonight. I slowly, magnanimously, rose from the loveseat and swooped in to fix it all. I had been waiting for the perfect time, and it was now upon me.


Last Saturday, on the one weekend a month J has off (and which I like to reserve for fun things, because, seriously? We get one freaking weekend a month) we ended up with laundry list of random crap that needed immediate attention. In nasty weather, no less. By Sunday, this meant that everything that needs to be done for the household (laundry, cleaning, random paperwork, you get the idea) had to be done. If everyone had chipped in that morning, it could have been done easily in a couple of hours.

Instead, I found myself scurrying around doing it all by myself while the guys took Sunday morning to enjoy themselves. This pissed me off so much that I did something I rarely do. I said screw it.

I went on strike. I announced that I was on strike, and would be, indefinitely. They were in charge. Cleaning, laundry, grocery shopping, doctor’s appointments, calls from Ant’s school about random accidents… that was all on them now, and not on me.

J was concerned I would make an actual picket line (he never
wants to be considered a scab), but he didn't need to worry. Creating a
picket line sounded like too much work.  Photo Source
On Monday, K locked himself out of the house after school, and I sat there on the phone at work, asking him what he was going to do about it.

When J forgot to make K’s follow-up doctor’s appointments on Tuesday, I made him call them back.

When Ant didn’t make it to basketball practice, we made cookies instead.

When I didn’t have any clean socks to wear, I stole J’s.

When J listed the handful of things he forgot while he was at the store, I calmly looked back at him, with no offer to help.

And you want to know what I did with all my free time? I wrote. I read. I ordered HBO and watched some TV I’ve wanted to watch for months now. I watched them flounder. I took lots of deep breaths when it came to the state of the kitchen counters, but I was able to hold off.

It’s not that I take some perverse joy in screwing with my family… although I did find this amusing. It’s that I think my guys needed a reminder or two. That I am not the only one in charge of doing this shit. That I do a LOT of the dirty work around here. That it can suck all of your free time and your will to live if you’re left to do everything all by yourself.

Ant was the first one to start being more helpful. Long gone is the whining about feeding the dog and taking out the trash. He also would make me a glass of iced tea at supper, and he made sure the table was set without being asked. J quickly followed with picking up the slack, of course. He’s smart enough to realize that I’m at the end of my rope and supportive enough to play along with my game. K was a harder sell, but even now he’s taking his mountains of miscellaneous crap up to his room right when he gets home, and not dumping it all over the living room and kitchen table.


So, on day five, I swooped in and rescued them. All in all, they are good guys, and everyone deserves help when facing insurmountable odds. It took about thirty minutes for me to get it all taken care of, because I’m a pro, but the point was made. I don’t live to serve them, and I can find plenty of fun things to fill my time.

And J watched me with a look of wonder of his face. He best remember that… but, I have my own things to remember, too.

It’s hard for me to let go of things like the laundry, the chores, the to-do list—it was an exercise for me as much as it was for them—because I always use excuses of the things that need to be done to avoid the things I want to do.  Somehow, somewhere, it is ingrained in me that I am both on the front and the last position of defense. No one should feel that way. No one should expect that their role is to play the martyr. It’s not a good feeling. So, for their sake, for my sake, for our family’s sake, I went on strike. And it was fantastic.

Just don’t think that things are going back to business as usual, circa last week, just because I’m calling off the strike for the time being. They’re totally not.


  1. Great idea. It sounds like you take on the bulk of the chores. I remember when my mom, when I was 9, taught me how to do laundry. Then as soon as I turned 13 I was expected to cook dinner for the family once per week. She helped until I figured out simple things like following a recipe, but after going to college and watching all of my roommates flounder and order take out every night, I called my mom to thank her for self-sufficiency.
    You're not crazy. You deserve some time for you. Maybe you should schedule these weeks. And write in "foot rub" somewhere in that contract.

    1. Foot Rub. I have noted that. That will be on the list...

      I've always been big on teaching the kids to cook, clean, do laundry for themselves, and for the most part, they're usually good at this. Ant can make his own breakfast and lunch, and K always does his own laundry (and some of the other laundry as well). Everyone in this house knows how to scrub a toilet-- which is a good thing in a house full of boys. It's just that sometimes, they all seem to forget to help out. I don't know how to explain it, per se, but all of a sudden, we're inundated with wrappers and dirty cups and dirty laundry and papers from school, and I find myself trying to curtail the chaos while they're all sitting on the couch, lined up, playing Minecraft.

      Which is no good. No good.

  2. well played my friend, very well played.

  3. I hear ya! I happen to be at a hotel this very moment. On strike, but I spun it as a "retreat."

    1. I've considered giving myself a retreat, but have never acted on it! In fact, I'd love to ride Amtrak somewhere by myself, and have myself a writing retreat. That's my version of Heaven, right there.

  4. We had to resort to this a couple of years ago. The lesson has stuck!

  5. Wow! Good for you. That was awesome.


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