Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Question and Answer: College Housekeeping

About a month ago, I received a letter from a sweet young lady in Scotland, asking my advice. I was so flattered that she cared about my opinion on this matter. And since I have her permission, I'd like to share her letter and my response here on the OFM blog today.
Dear Rachel,
First of all, thank you so much for your blog. I thoroughly enjoy reading it and find myself in a lot of the things you write about.
I am a 22 year old student in Scotland, studying for a Masters in Victorian literature. I live with three other students, one girl and two guys. I have become, somewhat naturally, the "mother" of the house: I bake, I cook, I organise the cleaning etc.
I love my flatmates, but I find it hard sometimes to get them to recognise all the hard work that I am doing. A., the other girl, and I spent two hours on Sunday cleaning the kitchen and the bathroom; one of the boys came home late and told us the next morning how much he had appreciated the clean flat and the abundance of food in the refrigerator upon his return. The other guy came home just as we were finishing up. He did make some remarks on how necessary the cleaning had become and then vanished into his room. I had asked him to please take out the garbage bags we had filled during our cleaning session and maybe empty the dishwasher later on with the other guy. he had made some grunty noise of acknowledgment. At midnight that day, the dishwasher was still not emptied, so I did it, and the garbage still has not been taken out.
I know I am complaining overly much here, but I just wonder if you have any advice on how to deal with this lack of recognition, which I find to be somewhat of a lack of respect. This is not the first time something like this has happened, and our second male flatmate´s wonderful reaction just put it into such a stark contrast :( Of course, neither of them are my husband, my brother or even my boyfriend, so I do not really have any influence on them. But I do consider them my friends.

I am sorry to write such a whiny email, but I thought you might be able to give me some solid advice :) Once again, I admire you and your blog and can only pray for God to send a loving husband my way.

With lots of love from Europe,

After a busy month, I finally responded to her letter this morning. I would love to hear your input on my advice. And perhaps she can benefit from hearing the advice of more than just one person. So please feel free to chime in your comments below!

Here is my message to her:
Dear Miss L,

I'm sorry for my late response. I have been out of town, and then all my planning for the Christmas season has been taking much of my time. Thank you for your very kind words! I so appreciate them. :-)

I actually have been pondering over how to address your question quite a lot since you sent it. I sincerely wish to help you, even just a little bit.

As you can hopefully tell from my blog, I am a very religious person, as well as "old-fashioned." Please keep these things in mind as you read my advice...

To begin with, you should consider the great differences in homemaking approaches between men and women. Men invest time and effort into things that matter to them. For your male roommates, as with many young men of college age, the cleanliness of your flat is very low on their priority lists. It is not in their nature to be greatly concerned about it. If they were in a flat with two other males, instead of two other females, they would just continue to live in a mess!

Even in a marriage, the cleanliness of the home is not always enough of a concern for men that they will do much in the way of homemaking duties. There are some men who like things very neat and tidy, and are willing to clean up quite a bit, but most husbands leave those duties to their wives. They are busy fulfilling their roles as provider and protector, while their wives-- whether they work or not-- are always concerned with the state of cleanliness in the home.

As you are all in college, you are all busy and occupied with your studies. Of course, you would assume that you should each do your share of the housework. But as women, you and your roommate have an innate need to clean and beautify your home. So while your male roommates may notice and even thank you for your efforts, they cannot fully appreciate what you have done, because they do not feel the same need to care for their home in the same way a woman does.

In my opinion, the root of your problem is the very fact that you and your female roommate are living with two men that are not your husbands. I recognize that they are just your friends, and that the situation is completely platonic. But husbands have more invested in a home and in a relationship because they are the provider, the protector, the husband, and the father. (And even then, they don't often help out in the homemaking duties. But that's a subject for another day!  ;-D )

The only things we can change are ourselves and our situations.

If you want to have a flat that is equally cared-for by all those living there, I suggest you room only with other women who care about their home being tidy and are willing to do their fair share of the work.

If that is not a change you wish to make, then I suggest that you accept your other flatmates for who they are, and continue to serve in your role as the the flat "mother" without expecting any help from the men in your flat. This is what real mothers usually do. (Though when a mother has children, it is also her responsibility to train her little people to work, and do their part to help in the housework.)

I do NOT recommend that you try to train your flatmates, as you would your own children. They are NOT your children, and that is not your responsibility or privilege. If their own mothers did not have success with teaching them to help around the house before now, you certainly will not be able to change them at this point!

If I were in your situation, I would prayerfully consider the wisdom in continuing to live with all your current flatmates. I commend you for being such a fastidious homemaker, and for unselfishly blessing the lives of your friends. To reiterate, the way I see things, you can either continue as you are and be happy in your situation, or change your situation to be closer to your expectations.

I hope I have helped you in some tiny way. And I wish you a very Happy Christmas!!! :-)

She has already sent me a very gracious response. (Thank you, Miss L.!)

Miss L., I sincerely hope all works out for the best for you! You have your entire future ahead of you, and I know that if you sincerely seek His help, God will gently lead you in the direction that He has planned for your life. Thank you so much for writing! :-)



  1. Great gentle reminder that my hubby is different than me; sometimes I tend to overlook that and get upset at his lack of help/acknowledgement.

  2. Oh yes-when we believe the lie that the sexes are the same it causes so much conflict!

    I have been working 20 hours lately instead of the 40 I used to which gives me time to do all those old fashioned wifely things, and yesterday my husband said he loves it. He loves a clean house, laundry done, occasional treats made, and dinner every night. And I love it too. We are so much happier then when we used to fight about these things because we were the 'same'.

    I have a question for you. My brother in law is moving into our spare bedroom in January and we have our first baby due in March. He has nowhere else to live for a year (only 18 and trying to go to university-his mom is leaving the country for a year and renting out her house) Any suggestions on making this a good experience for all of us? We definitely feel it's the right thing to do and I think it could be a wonderful opportunity for him to see a happy marriage and for us to fellowship him back into the fold.

  3. Amen! Wonderful post and yes, men and women are fundamentally different in this area, aren't they? Great reminders for us married folk as well - I need to keep my cleaning focus on working with the children and count anything my husband does as an unexpected blessing to me.
    Thank you, I love reading your blog and have been lurking for a long while.

  4. When I get most frustrated and I am feeling a little dis-respected, I remind myself that I would rather serve my husband in this way than to have him passed on or something. It always puts it in perspective for me.

    Also, somehow I think we need to be careful of assuming parental roles in our relationships when we are not the parent. Otherwise it causes others to become lazy in assuming their necessary roles. I'm still trying to work my brain around that one though. That idea resonates with me but as for now I think I only see the tip of the iceberg and I'm still trying to work the rest out.


Old Fashioned Motherhood will not approve any comments that are rude, negative, or disrespectful. Thanks for being civil! :-)

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