We host a New Years Eve gathering of 12-15 friends and family every year. We had a pretty substantial dinner this year that became a pretty substantial mess very quickly.
I’ve noticed in the past that my brother-in-law rarely lifts a finger to help clean up. As soon as the meal starts winding down and folks start clearing the table (we had to haul all the dirty dishes and leftovers up a flight of stairs), he gets up from his spot and retires to the comfiest chair in the house.
I don’t know why this bothered me this year. He is actually a real nice guy, just clueless. He does absolutely nothing by way of food preparation as well.
So basically, he prepares nothing, arrives, eats, drinks, watches TV, and leaves the work to the rest of us.
Do you have one of these guys or girls in your family? Anyone ever say anything to them? (I said nothing, didn’t want to mess up an otherwise wonderful evening).
It’s an unspoken tradition at our gatherings that whoever cooks gets to relax after the meal. We usually send the teenagers in to clean up, but our kitchen isn’t that big so having more than three or four people just tends to make it harder to move around.
Has anyone ever specifically said to BIL, “Hey, can you bring in the dirty dishes and take out the trash?” Maybe he’s just trying to stay out of the way.
YMMV. Some hosts would never DREAM of asking their guests to clean up. For us it’s mostly family, so we’re pretty casual.
Most women clean up after group meals because they have been trained through constant societal pressure to do so. Some men were either taught to do so as children or reflected as adults on their unfair freeloading behavior and decided to change on their own. And some men . . . not so much.
My experience is that for most men acting like your brother-in-law, it does not register in the slightest way that other adults are doing the work to create his enjoyment, if women are the adults in question. You better believe that if men were washing the dishes they would ask or tell him to get off his butt and help out.
Since even oblivious beneficiaries of patriarchy rarely want to be seen as boorish assholes, simply asking them to help, in front of other men can be surprisingly effective.
As a general rule, making clear explicit requests without adding any subtext is often amazingly successful in getting people to do things cheerfully.
I’m the one who usually doesn’t do anything to help. Not because I don’t want to, I’ll be more than happy to clean up if everybody else gets the fuck out.
I don’t want to talk, I want to get it done. The women in my family tend to gossip while they work together and I hate that shit. I really don’t care to speculate on who is having a problem in their marriage, or if so-and-so is gay, if this one is cheating, or that one can’t have kids.
Not my business.
If you want my help cleaning up, either talk about something pleasant or shut the hell up.
It would also help if this generation of kids was taught to get up when an adult enters the room and needs a place to sit down. We were raised that adults get the seats and kids sit on the floor. My uncle looked across the table at me on Christmas and said he’d get up to set the table if he wasn’t afraid of losing his seat. Between that and having to guard the mashed potatoes from dirty fingers you don’t dare get up to help.
There was plenty of room for everyone to help. Picture a steady stream of folks carrying dirty dishes up the stairs with another line of people heading back down empty handed to get another load. Tablecloths wiped down, dried, and folded. Tables collapsed and put away. Some folding chairs put away. Others up in the kitchen scraping plates, emptying full trash bags, dividing leftovers.
And BIL watching TV.
ETA: After re-reading this post, yes, I should have said something at the time.
My dad is notorious for walking away from a table and settling into a chair to watch TV. He’s one of these guys who doesn’t think a man should do any of the food prep or clean-up. I find it annoyingly old-fashioned. I don’t think he’d be able to make a sandwich for himself.
As it is now, my grandmother and I cook, and my brother (or sister, if shes there) and I clean up. When I cook myself, I would rather do it myself. I cook the food, its my kitchen, my dishes, I’ll clean them. Everyone else can get the hell out of my kitchen. If someone offers to help, I always make them dry the dishes, since I hate doing that.
I wish everyone else would get the hell out of my kitchen , too. Because there’s not much room, and I’m usually trying to finish off some dessert (filling cream puffs or something like that) while my husband makes coffee and here comes my sister-in-law carrying the dirty dishes in. Which would be fine, if she carried them in and put them down and left the kitchen. But she doesn’t. She insists on hand washing them , no matter how many times I tell her not to, we’ll load them into the dishwasher later and no matter how many times I tell her to go back to the dining room. If she ever comes here for a holiday again, I swear i’m going to tie her to her chair.
If you want BIL to help, you’re going to have to tell him. He may be clueless or his own family may be full of people like me.
Other than carrying in some things I rarely help either because the women of my family have their own system of how things should be cleaned and stored and I dont know it. Its kind of their thing and a kind of bonding between them.
At my family’s Christmas dinner this year, the guys of the family were the ones who did the initial kitchen clean-up. Like collecting all the dirty dishes and filling-up the dishwasher. Since all the womenfolk (plus my dad and my BIL) had contributed something to the dinnertable, this seemed like a fair exchange of duties.
I am very grateful that my family isn’t into traditional gender roles.
My brother Jay used to get mistaken for that guy when he ate out with friends. It’s not that he won’t clean up: it’s that he’s got difficulty changing what he’s doing, but a kick to the butt does wonders. Once he adds a given task to “his” list of tasks, he doesn’t need prompting again, ever. His fiancée was surprised when she said she won’t cook, he said “ok, so I do the cooking” and proceeded to start doing just that: she’d always known him to eat mostly at Mom’s, so she hadn’t realized he actually can cook (he’d been eating at Mom’s so Mom wouldn’t eat alone). He can cook, he can clean, he can iron… but he needs to have whatever it is in his tasklist.
My relative most likely to “not do anything” is my mother, and it’s best if she does that, so we’re all happy, plus the “” are because we set her to babysit, which she generally can do without causing disasters. She’s the kind of person who, upon finding herself in a kitchen in which she doesn’t know where things are, will start rearranging instead of asking “where does this go?”.