I often feel like a bad wife as I have trouble keeping my house clean and organised despite my best efforts. It is one of the main issues that my husband and I have and can lead to disagreements and sometimes fights. At present, I am enrolled at university and it is taking up a lot of my time. He encouraged me to go back to study – at that time my baby was three months old. Now three months later, I think both of us are regretting it.
First of all, you are a mother of an infant, a university student and a wife. That is a lot of different roles to juggle. Just having a baby alone increases the workload of a new mother. It can be hard for men to understand how much effort goes into caring for a little one with all of the nursing, nappy changing, rocking to sleep, calming, soothing, and more feeding!
Sometimes people see babies in terms of tasks, but those little people deserve not just actions done to them, but quality time spent with them: speaking, playing, carrying, and being exposed to their beautiful new world. Little ones quickly become curious toddlers who potentially make messes faster than the blink of an eye (at least mine does!). So while it appears you are “at home”, you are truly working full-time. I always ask mums to imagine what they would hire a full-time nanny to do for their kids in order to take proper care of them. In the end, you’ll find that a bit of tidying up is necessary, but the majority of the time, in my opinion, should be spent with your little one investing in their growth, safety and development.
On top of that, you are studying, and still expected to manage the housework by yourself, and clearly it’s not working. And you know what? It’s OK that things aren’t working. Your role as a wife isn’t summed up in your laundry piles. Housework reflects living in a house, not how loving, respectful, caring, supportive and open you are with your spouse.
That being said, it is a source of conflict for you both, so it sounds like some mental cleaning is in order. Here are some questions I recommend you start with:
1. What are you doing right? What are you accomplishing each day? What are you proud of? Think about this each day, and make a mental note (or journal if you like writing). It’s easy to feel you did absolutely nothing when the only measure of your worth, in your head or your husband’s, isn’t cleaned yet. Let’s rearrange where self worth comes from as the foundation, and that is first found in the quality of your ‘ibadah.
2. Identify where and why things fall apart at home. Is it too much clothing? Too tired to clean up after dinner? No time to take the rubbish out? Nothing has a place where it belongs? You don’t have free time without baby to sweep, mop and scrub? You aren’t doing laundry often enough to keep the loads simple? The laundry facility is out of the home? Pinpoint these with clarity if possible.
When the house isn’t taken care of, it’s often a reflection of our emotional needs not being taken care of. What’s missing?
3. Sit down with your husband to work this out! Identify what you need help with, and ask him to do it. All the work can’t fall on your shoulders. Do you want him to empty the bin each night? Load the dishwasher? Hang up, fold, or iron his own clothing? Take the baby out so you can vacuum and sweep? Get specific about what you both need, and stick to it. Teamwork feels awesome. Blaming doesn’t.
4. Dig a little deeper: all women want a clean house. When the house isn’t taken care of, it’s often a reflection of our emotional needs not being taken care of. What’s missing? Are you feeling lonely in your marriage? Do you feel inadequate around your husband? Are you missing quality time with him? Is there something else weighing you down? Do you need a social outlet with friends to relax and get in some good belly laughs?
5. Renew your intentions often! Housework can be acts of worship when the intentions are keeping clean, which is a sign of faith as a Muslim, honouring your husband, and appreciating the blessings Allah (SWT) has granted you in your life. Doing things for the sake of Allah (SWT) takes those tasks beyond this world!
Your husband might resist taking on a role because he believes the housework is “women’s work.” You need to repeat that you need support. Your fights and arguments should be motivation for you both to work out a mutually supportive system for each other. So the bigger goal is more calm, happiness, openness, teamwork, and intimacy.
Finally, invite over a friend who is good at cleaning and organising. Ask her to help you declutter, clean up and get a system going. Friends can be an awesome boost of motivation and female support.
Megan Wyatt is the founder of Wives of Jannah, a rapidly growing organization of thousands of Muslim wives who are inspired by the core goal of rekindling marriage as an act of worship. She coaches wives and couples to learn the art of her key technique Fearless Vulnerability. SISTERS magazine, an international publication now online, features Megan in their relationship column where she answers questions from wives around the globe. She is also the co-founder and key trainer for Find Your Mr. Right where she guides single Muslim women in finding, meeting, attracting, and marrying their future husband. She co-authored and published a book with her 13 year old daughter called “How to Get Hijab Ready: A Guide for Muslim Girls Ages 8-11.” A homeschooling mother of four, Megan resides in Southern California with her children and husband Zeyad Ramadan.