Therapy Writing: Shifting Needs to Wants

Overwhelmed mom

I have a problem that I’m trying to work out. One my favorite ways to cope with a problem is to write it out. Not only does it let me think things through in a linear fashion, it also allows me to seek out information, and in the case of the blog it allows for input. This is one of those posts.

I think we can all agree it is incredibly easy to do things we want to do. If it’s challenging, we just really dig in and go for it.

We also know that if we are really struggling to achieve something we say we want, it more often than not turns out it isn’t something we really DO want, but more something we feel we SHOULD want for whatever reasons.

But what happens when you need to do something and you don’t want to? Oh we know things on small scales– all those unpleasant tasks we have to do. But if you need to make a long-term change and don’t want to? How do you go ahead and move it from the Need Column to the most powerful column of all– Need AND Want?

“Ok Mutant, what is going on?”

Right. So, I’ve written about the problems I have as Household Manager before. As the Family Manager in my family I am responsible for:

  • Four schedules (three children and mine)
  • One job/career
  • Three meals for five people
  • Cleanliness and maintenance of an automobile
  • Cleanliness and maintenance of a house: Entry Foyer, living/dining room, converted garage playroom, kitchen, two storage closets, three bedrooms, two bathrooms, one backyard
  • 14 Bills (that I can recall right now) and General Finances
  • Four educations and available for assistance with a fifth
  • A cat
  • A tank of fish
  • A gekco
  • Clothe four people via laundry and clothing purchases as well as regular purges of outgrown and worn-out clothing and shoes
  • Entertainment for five people
  • Maintain the health and well-being four people via scheduled appointments and routine medications
  • Nursing duties for four people during illness (not counting myself)
  • Representative of the immediate family to the extended family
  • And miscellaneous duties I can’t think of right now because — dead

I find this to be so overwhelming, I feel like it’s borderline impossible. As it is, I’m failing in most of, if not all of these duties. And it IS having detrimental effects. My kids were late to school yesterday and usually we cut it so close, Eldest has mentioned how uncomfortable it makes him. I forget important dates. I have very little idea of what exactly is going on in my kids’ classrooms. My finances are- well, they are unspeakable. I forget to schedule routine appointments. I forget to turn in important forms and papers. I am absolutely frantic in the kitchen and find it such a loathsome place to be. Things go missing. I am always stressed out running around trying to find this, that, or the other because I have no idea where I left it and I forgot to make sure I had it ready ahead of time and need it RIGHT NOW. Frustration runs high among all members of the family constantly. I don’t feel peaceful in my home. I feel overwhelmed when I go out. It’s just not a good state of being.

It needs to change. If it was just me, as it was for so very long, it wouldn’t need to change I don’t think. I don’t like lots of order. I don’t like lots of routines. I like to eat when I want, what I want. I like to do and don’t do as I please. Not washing clothes in a week presents me with an ADVENTURE in fashion!

But it isn’t just me. And so I have a need that conflicts with a want. And no matter how much brainwashing I have tried, it hasn’t worked.

I tell myself, “I want this because I want my kids to feel peace and order and stability and reliability.” But then again, I find those things so boring and what if my kids find ME so boring?

I tell myself, “I want this because I want to spend less time stressed and frantic and more time doing things I enjoy doing.” But I’ve always been sort of frantic and maybe I don’t really want to change that after all.

I tell myself, “I want this because when I have had things organized and structured, they have been less stressful and far more enjoyable.” But… maybe I don’t think I deserve to be less stressed or to enjoy things.

And so it is that I stare at this Need that I don’t Want. And it’s not something I Need to do once and get it over with. My favorite way of dealing with unpleasantness you know. This is something I need to do and need to keep doing for a very, very, very long time.

The way I see myself doesn’t jibe, in my head, with the changes I need to make. I don’t like the words schedule, budget, plan, list, calendar, organize, routine, or structure.

I feel like I’m coming across as a really immature kid right now.

Maybe I am.

Regardless, the fact remains I need to change my day to day habits. I need to create helpful routines and habits in my family management style. I need to implement some type of structure. And I just don’t want to.

This whole thing is like the Dentist. I hate the dentist. I hate, hate, hate going to the damn dentist. It hurts, it makes horrible sounds, it tastes terrible, and I always get at least one scolding. And I have to go. And I have gone but maintaining a healthy smile regiment? Nope.

And so the same thing with my Family Management duties. I try and implement some new thing and I keep it up, sometimes for a few months even, and it makes me really happy and starts taking away stress and everything and then…


And we’re back to the same old, same old.

Is it a lack of willpower? Is it immaturity? Is it selfishness? Is it a lack of energy? Is it a lack of knowledge? Is it that I’m looking at things wrong? I have no idea. And I have no idea how to fix it. Not even a little bit. Not without failing– again.

What are your thoughts? Have you made a life-long change you need to make but didn’t want to? How did you DO that?


19 thoughts on “Therapy Writing: Shifting Needs to Wants

  1. Can you remind me how old your kids are? Because I think my musings on this, at least in terms of “current action steps,” are going to be shaped by that.

      • Ok, then, well, darn, and, scandalously I’m going to fly right in the face of the Grumpies here because my take is: you are looking for ways to simplify or reduce your workload and my honest opinion is that at those ages, there’s not much you can call on the kids to do, to achieve that. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m in favor of the basic concept and certainly think the 9 year old should be starting to take on some responsibilities, but I don’t think this is a solution to the current problem.

        So, here’s what I’ve got: well, the kids will get older. This won’t last forever. And in fact 9 is tolerably close to, you know, useful. But looking down your list, here’s what I see:

        Things that are totally your problem and won’t go away (sorry): job/career, car maintenance, ditto house, bills/finances, managing clothing and most laundry (I’m not saying the kids can’t help but I am saying that’s not going to reduce your workload IMHO), health appointments and nursing the ailing.

        Things that might be reduced: scheduling (allocate to the older kids what little you can, e.g. the Grumpies coat example, and consider whatever minimalist approaches you can adopt); meals (can you make the standard breakfast be cereal, fruit, hard-boiled eggs retrieved from the fridge or yogurt ditto? And for heavens sake if you’re serving, offer them just 2 options, “Cereal or fruit this morning?” not a panoply even if more are available. Lunch: I send my son to school every single day with the following lunch: a PB sandwich (I make), 2 fruits or veggies (e.g. carrots, snappeas) that require no prep, a small container of corn chips or pretzels. I don’t even offer the pretext of variety or concern over his opinions; those are all things he likes to eat, they are easy, and he can/will eat them if he is hungry. Your older 2 could probably be given the choice of accepting “the standard ration” or creating their own variety, which puts the burden on them (you aren’t having to rally or supervise much) but allows them an alternative). Supper — well, again, keep it as simple as you can. I say if the man is involved in the meals he needs to prepare some, or take on other responsibilities (and maybe he does, but this isn’t clear from your list). Clothing, I’d keep as minimal as possible. I don’t take my kid shopping (not clear if you do); “new” (usually thrift-store) clothes magically appear in his drawer. Thus he’s not involved in the choice process (which I find tedious) and because they’re cheap, if there’s something that doesn’t work, it’s not a big deal. I have learned some things about his preferences (current pants purchases involve pockets), needs (elastic waist bands are our friends) and his sizing is pretty standard, YMMV. I’d assign all entertainment of adults to the new man or skip it, and focus your efforts on the kid (and yourself of course, as feasible). But entertainment’s a low priority for me so again, YMMV. Can you delegate aspects of the “family representative” to another member of the extended family? My mother likes to joke that if you want to make sure everyone in our family knows something, you just call Aunt Laura (not her real name!) and tell her you have something you want to let her know but that she MUST NOT TELL ANYONE. But there are other ways to accomplish this, I hear! Seriously, do you have a matriarch or other trusted person who could be charged with sharing your news widely?

        That’s all I got. Sorry, it’s not much. Well, that plus my sympathy, the thought that you won’t have this list of responsibilities for that many more years, and the insight that yes, I struggle with the “need but don’t want” problem too. I’m a sluttish housekeeper in the traditional sense of the word (i.e. hopelessly uninterested/uninvolved), and embrace that about myself!

  2. That’s a lot to be responsible for. Too much.
    I was thinking the same thing. How old are your kids? When mine turned 12 they got the “privilege” of doing their own laundry.
    I have told them honestly that I can not do it all by myself, I need help or else I will turn into an “ugly” mother. No one wants the ugly mom. So we have talked about what chores they can help with. It was/is a bit stressful as sometimes it’s “easier” to just do it myself, but I hold out.
    My oldest (14 yo) used to wait until the last minute to hand me forms. When she started missing out on activities because I refused to deal with the form on the way out the door the morning it was due. She learned real quick to give them to me in a timely manner. It’s hard but once you get into the new routine it’s so much easier and less stressful.
    Good luck.

    • Mine are 9, 6, and 4. They have small responsibilities– put your plate in the dishwasher (or sink if the dishwasher is full of clean dishes as indicated by the Clean sign), put dirty clothes in the hamper, put folded clothes away in the drawers. The oldest is responsible for feeding the gecko and cleaning the cage. The youngest feeds the fish. The middle has started lately to feed the cat.

  3. Did you used to have (or possibly currently have) family meetings where you discussed finances? I think you might find it helpful to have regular family meetings where you discuss what’s working with your family and what needs to be worked ON. IIRC, your kids are old enough to start picking up the slack in terms of chores, including doing their own laundry, keeping their own rooms clean, meal prep (including lunches), common areas, etc.

    My family’s rule was when you were big enough to reach into the bottom of the washing machine, you were big enough to do your own laundry. I’ve been responsible for doing my own laundry (including bed linens and towels and ironing things) since I was seven. I started helping with meal prep and making my own lunches around the same time, and of course was doing other chores like washing dishes, mowing the lawn, etc. Not saying I was a perfect kid or did chores perfectly or never needed reminders/nagging but my parents both worked 60+ hour weeks and my brothers and I took on a LOT of household stuff. Also, at least some of your kids are old enough to TELL YOU when there’s stuff that needs to be signed. Possibly an in/out box would help? Stuff that needs signed goes in one box, you process it and put it in the other box, they’re responsible for taking it to school to turn in?

    Your kids might find chore wars fun. you could exchange XP for stuff like TV time or redbox rentals (which are cheap) or what have you.

    • I was doing family meetings and they fell by the wayside. That’s my problem is making things stick. We even tried Chore Wars but it was hard for them to log their points, especially the littlest ones. I have had the oldest do laundry a couple of times as well.
      A huge problem with the thing of getting the kids to help is that the kids have to be taught to help and, especially in the beginning, constantly reminded. And that’s where I fail. I have a hard enough time reminding myself to do what when. And I usually remember late at night after they’re in bed because it’s the first time I can think straight.

  4. I don’t know about the big question, but you definitely need to sit down with the kids and dole out more responsibility. Half this week my 6 year old has been going to school without his jacket even though it’s in the 30s in the morning, but I don’t have mental load for that. It is his responsibility. There’s no reason on earth you should be responsible for 3 meals for 5 people every day. If the new man won’t cook (or isn’t in a position to), then the 9 year old can learn. (I started with scrambled eggs, then moved to crepes, then chili, then swiss steak, macaroni and cheese, spaghetti sauce, fry-up, etc.)

    Looking up, I see that’s what other people are recommending. They are RIGHT. I started doing big chores at age 7 (menu planning, cooking, cleaning, ironing, making my lunch, etc.). My parents lived apart much of my childhood for work reasons, and I stepped up to help my mom out as much as I could. Ask them to help. For me, it was an honor to do my share.

    My 6 year old has been helping with the laundry for a year and he does all sorts of other stuff. We’re just waiting for him to get taller for other chores.

    • Here is my question with the kids and the chores. I don’t get home until 8 on Mondays because of school. They are at their grandmother’s until I get home. Tuesdays and Thursdays they get home at 8 because of Karate. Wednesdays they are at their dad’s house as well as every other Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. So how do I regularly schedule chores with so many time constraints?

      • Why schedule them? They can be done as needed. Scheduling just adds to your mental load. When you’re there doing a chore and your kids are there, tell them to come help so they learn how to do it, then they can do it on their own later. The idea is that you stop doing things that they can do, and they live with the consequences if they don’t do it. Except with a positive spin because they’re helping you out and you’re working together as a family unit.

      • Right. So I just have to remember to do that more often. And I have to get myself to do certain things more often so that I can delegate them as I do them. If that makes sense.

  5. What calendar system do you use? I use but anything similar will allow you to have your calendar and shopping lists in one spot. it makes it easier to remember and set appointments. I also set up alerts when needed (though right now I can’t remember if cozi allows reminder alerts, which would be helpful). I automate most of my bills, too, or pay right away so that i don’t have time to forget them.


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