Laissez-faire, to let be, to let things take their own course.
It’s often applied to larger scale orders, like government policies. But it also makes some sense in the context of smaller orders, like family and home order.
In essence, however much the breadwinner is the owner of the house and the captain of the relationship, the homemaker is the manager of the home. And many homemakers become proper little tyrants, more often than not unintentionally. We’ll call them Domestic Dictators.
The characteristic befliefs and behaviours of a Domestic Dictator are:
- there is a specific way to do everything which is the only valid way
- perfect order, artistic beauty and spotlessness are requirements to make a home for the family
- efficiency in maintaining order will make everyong happy
- if a job isn’t done perfectly, it wasn’t worth doing
- if a job isn’t done perfectly, it needs redoing from scratch
- everyone wants and needs everything to be perfect
- falling short of the ideal mark is equal to failure
- if nobody else can do something perfectly, the homemaker must do everything
- if someone is given a task they have to do it just as the homemaker would
- disciplining someone for falling short of domestic expectations is appropriate
- nobody needs praise or reward for meeting domestic expectations
This puts a lot of pressure on the home and the relationships within it, even though the Domestic Dictator does not see the source of the pressure and often believes what they are doing is beneficial to everyone under the roof! In the Domestic Dictator’s eyes, getting angry about the way the laundry was put out is justified because they believe that it needs to be hung a certain way to dry, that this drying method benefits everyone, and therefore that they need to “fix” the job someone else did. They believe that feeling anger is natural because time and energy was wasted and they believe that redoing the task is justified because their way is the only way that works. But what they neglect is that efficiency does not mean harmony, and that doing and redoing tasks is not efficiency either! Fretting over the perfect home can drive a family apart. And the cure to that mentality is laissez-faire homemaking.
Laissez-faire homemaking takes a different mentality. The beliefs and behaviours of a Laissez-Faire Homemaker are:
- if something works, then it was done well
- perfect order, artistic beauty and spotlessness are nice, but tidiness, prettiness and cleanliness are good targets
- efficiency in maintaining order can be stressful
- if a job isn’t done perfectly, at least it was done
- if a job isn’t done perfectly, it can be left for now
- nobody else wants and needs everything to be perfect
- falling short of the ideal mark is a far cry from failure
- if things need to be delegated, the homemaker can let perfection slide
- if someone is given a task then the homemaker embraces their hard work
- disciplining someone for falling short of domestic expectations is abusive
- everyone deserves praise or reward for meeting domestic expectations
The Laissez-Faire Homemaker takes a much more relaxed approach, taking pleasure in order without needing to force perfection on everyone. If the dishes are not properly cleaned the Laissez-Faire Homemaker may need to redo them and explain the situation, but if the laundry is hung out slightly differently to usual there is no need to tell the helper off or to redo the work from scratch. The Laissez-Faire Homemaker doesn’t only act like this, but internalizes the messages and embraces a more relaxed set of beliefs around homemaking, feeling calm and collected at the end of the day and doing their best not to let little annoyances get the better of them.
Some of my favourite laissez-faire homemaking mantras are:
1: “It doesn’t matter.”
Every time I feel annoyed about anything that has happened or been done which interferes with my plans, that’s the first thing I move to tell the other person. Often it’s hard, but fortunately with Jon it comes easily. Only once have I had to tell him “I want to say it doesn’t matter, but it kind of does.” Once in five years has my annoyance ultimately mattered. So remind yourself of it, and say it to your loved ones: “It doesn’t matter.”
2: “You can have whatever you want.”
Food is a big source of arguments and I really can’t see why. Between women playing 20 questions about dinner venues and men not really being aware of what’s in the fridge, many couples argue over meal planning. What I do is simpler: I look at what we have, suggest two or three meals and Jon picks. And if he wants something else? Then he can have it. As long as we have it in the house or he’s willing to go out and get the ingredients, he can have whatever he wants. Leftovers can be reheated. Meals can be frozen. Ingredients can be repurposed. What matters is that everyone is fed and happy.
3: “There is always tomorrow.”
Some days the setbacks just pile up. My schedule is very tight most days: work, housework and downtime are all calculated into the day methodically. So if something takes too long or gets in the way, I can miss things. On Tuesday I missed several opportunities to write due to endless phone calls. On Friday we were out a lot and I couldn’t do the cleaning. So instead I did the cleaning and my extra work on Saturday. Sometimes things can wait, so prioritize, reschedule and calm down. There’s always tomorrow.
4: “Once done is good enough.”
When Jon does the dishes the stacking is almost always completely different from how I would do it. When he hangs the laundry out it’s wherever. When he makes dinner it is often simple, fast and may not fit my macros. But considering that he only does these things when I am too busy earning money, doing another job or having a minor meltdown, it would be cruel to complain he isn’t me, and stupid to redo it in the time I don’t have. Once done is good enough.
5: “What’s done is done.”
Sometimes your annoyance does matter. Sometimes work is an absolute mess, needs immediately redoing from scratch, never doing like that again, has completely thrown your schedule and the person needs to know. But, again, making it into a massive blow-out has no point. Take them aside, explain the problem, pour your energy into fixing it. But what’s done is done. You can’t undo their mistake with anger. So let it go.
If you are more of a Domestic Dictator, this approach may seem confusing, even lazy. But it works. You may wonder how people can be happy if a stew was made and all everyone wants to eat is eggs and waffles. You may wonder how a homemaker can settle for an improperly loaded dishwasher. You may wonder how a house can run if everything is not exactly to plan. But it still works.
There is happiness in harmony, and laissez-faire homemaking puts harmony first, allowing happiness to bloom.
TTFN and Happy Hunting!