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The Psychology of Men and Masculinities: Interpersonal Competence at Work
10 CEUs Males: Interventions for Balancing a Work Addicted Workaholic Lifestyle

Section 6
Housework in Workaholics

Question 6 | Test | Table of Contents | Addictions CEU Courses
Social Worker CEU, Psychologist CE, Counselor CEU, & MFT CEU

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On the last track we discussed managing ambition.  An effective method for managing ambition is creative compromise.  We examined two types of creative compromise.  The two types of creative compromise we examined were compromise for relationships and compromise for core values. 

On this track... we will discuss compromise the workaholic male makes regarding housework.  While some men pitch in gladly from the beginning, others must be nagged, wheedled, or at the very least reminded to take some responsibility.  Either way, I find that workaholic clients who pick up some of the housework often find themselves more involved in their family life.  As tools for equalizing housework, we will discuss strategies for avoiding housework and strategies for picking up housework.  As you listen to this track, you might consider your workaholic client.  Could playing this track in an upcoming session be productive?

Share on Facebook #1  Strategies for Avoiding Housework
How do clients keep the division of household labor unequal?  They’re smart enough to know that "they can’t simply plead ‘that’s women’s work’ excuse," says Francine Deutsch, a professor of psychology at Mount Holyoke College who studied equal parenting in a research project sponsored by the National Science Foundation.  

After extensive interviews with more than four hundred couples, Deutsch and her collaborators identified five subtle strategies many workaholic and non-workaholic men use to avoid housework.

1. The first is passive resistance.  When I asked one client how he responded to requests to do housework, he answered, "In one ear, and out the other."  Forms of passive resistance can include ignoring a request for help, being oblivious to children’s needs, or performing a request but doing it grumpily and grudgingly.

2. The second strategy commonly used by workaholic clients to avoid housework is incompetence.  Even little children know this tactic—if the client breaks enough dishes, he won’t be asked to wash them anymore.

3. In addition to passive resistance and incompetent, a third strategy for avoiding housework is praise.  Yes, praise.  Praise at home may have the effect of keeping the work within the women’s domain.  The unspoken message is, "You’re so good at it, you should do it."  Does your workaholic client use praise as a strategy for avoiding housework.

4. Different standards are also sometimes used by my workaholic clients.  In these cases, men use different standards at home.  These standards may be lower.  I find clients don’t care as much if the clothes are clean or their kids take healthy lunches to school.

5. A fifth strategy for avoiding housework is denial.  As you know, denial takes a variety of forms.  I find that male workaholic clients tend to exaggerate their own contributions by comparing themselves to previous generations, attribute greater contributions of their wives to their wives’ personalities or preferences, and obscure who’s doing what by invoking rules and patterns that sound fair and equal but in practice are not.

Share on Facebook #2  Strategies for Picking Up Housework
Next, let’s discuss strategies for doing housework.  As a method for building familial relationships, picking up housework might benefit your client. 

However, because workaholic clients often avoid housework, here are the strategies I’ve found to be effective.

1. First, suggest clients have extended time alone with kids.  This helps clients to see just what it takes to care for a child and run a home.  In one extreme case, a client of mine, Tim, reported that when his wife had to leave home for six months for a work assignment, it transformed him.  Tim was a surgeon in training who had to put in long hours.  Tim stated, "Now I notice and take action when the family needs milk or diapers."

2. Next, you might consider helping your client avoid criticism regarding his efforts by his family.  I stated to Harold’s wife, "Let him complete tasks as he sees fit.  Remind yourself that the end result is what matters—a happy baby, a reasonably clean floor.  You may have to bite your tongue at first, but it’s worth it.  That means no nagging, no directions, no micromanaging.  If he is feeding the kids, it is up to him to cook, clean, and choose healthy alternatives.  He’s an adult and if he decides to take them out instead of eat leftovers, that’s okay."

3. Third, I suggest to my clients that they divide responsibilities based on interests and competencies.  For example, if your client likes grocery shopping but hates cleaning, you might suggest that he arrange the responsibilities accordingly.  Of course, sticking to the plan isn’t always easy.  Would you agree that open lines of communication and a sense of respect are critical ingredients? 

Harold also found a critical ingredient to dividing responsibilities is also a sense of humor.  Harold stated, "The other day my wife said, "You know, the Board of Health called today and said that they were condemning the bathroom for unsanitary conditions, dear.’  I thought about that for awhile, then I cleaned the bathroom."  Think of your Harold.  How might your workaholic client respond?
4. In addition to dividing responsibilities, a fourth strategy for picking up housework is to discuss responsibilities and trade thank-yous at family meetings.  Even when progress is slow, a formal acknowledgment of everyone’s effort is important.  Harold stated, "Having monthly family meetings helps because we compliment each other and talk about problems."  Would you also agree that these meetings are a time to plan fun family outings to reinforce the fact that the family is a team so that family’s will have the time to enjoy each other’s company.

5. Finally, your client might consider getting a housekeeper or cleaning service.  A weekly or biweekly blitz by an experienced cleaner can be productive, especially if your client’s spouse works also.  I stated to Tim, the surgeon, "Remember that your time is valuable.  If you and your wife don’t have time to engage in housework and be a family, you might consider a cleaning service."  Think of your Tim.  Could your workaholic client benefit from a cleaning service or other strategies for picking up housework? 

On this track... we discussed picking up housework.  As tools for equalizing housework, we discussed strategies for avoiding housework and strategies for picking up housework.

On the next track we will discuss overcoming the resistance to behavior change in cognitive behavioral therapy.  We will specifically discuss 5 cognitive blocks that can create resistance to making behavioral changes.  These 5 cognitive blocks are, I don’t have the right to change now since I’ve been doing it this way for so long.; I should keep my dissatisfaction to myself to avoid conflict; I shouldn’t have to spell out what I need, they should already know; my boss is the one who expects this from me, so he or she should change first; and I can’t compromise when I’m so angry.

Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Bonebright, C. A., Clay, D. L., & Ankenmann, R. D. (2000). The relationship of workaholism with work–life conflict, life satisfaction, and purpose in life. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 47(4), 469–477.

Rodriguez-Stanley, J., Alonso-Ferres, M., Zilioli, S., & Slatcher, R. B. (2020). Housework, health, and well-being in older adults: The role of socioeconomic status. Journal of Family Psychology, 34(5), 610–620. 

Saxbe, D. E., Repetti, R. L., & Graesch, A. P. (2011). Time spent in housework and leisure: Links with parents' physiological recovery from work. Journal of Family Psychology, 25(2), 271–281.

What are five strategies for picking up housework? To select and enter your answer go to Test.

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