Background

My boyfriend of almost 5 years and I are living with my parents until we've found a house. We are both 25. I recently dropped out of university, but found a good job in my field. We both work full time. In fact, I work 8:00-16:30 and my boyfriend 7:00-17:00. I take him to work, which is slightly over half an hour drive from our home. My own work is another half an hour further and I pick him up on the way back home. So we leave for work at 6:15 and come back around 17:45. In the evenings, my boyfriend works on an online course he is enrolled in and I prepare for a new studies I am starting in 2019. My boyfriend also works Saturdays. We're planning to move out. We've been talking with housing companies and are ready to sign a rental agreement for a house currently being built, expected to be ready 6-9 months from now.

My parents have a relatively large house with a large garden and they own a dog. My mother works full time. She leaves at 5:00 and comes back at 14:30. My father used to work full time, but got muscle damage in his arm, so he can't work right now.

I only recently started working, about half a year ago. Before that, I took care of the dog, walking it before my classes started. I did nearly all the cooking and washing up and laundry. I vacuumed every other day and dusted twice a week.

Since I started working and especially since my boyfriend took up this job where I have to take him to, I've got a lot less spare time. I get up at 5:30, leave for work at 6:15. I don't have time to do my makeup anymore, nor to eat a proper breakfast. It's just a sandwich and a quick wash nowadays. I get back from work at 17:45, start cooking (usually for 6 to 8 people), put dinner on the table around 18:15, have dinner for over an hour (because my parents think bonding time is important), do the washing up and get ready for my studies around 20:00. Sometimes we have to walk the dog for an hour instead, because my parents are tired and my siblings aren't at home, then we get home around 20:30. I work on my studies for about an hour to an hour and a half before bed. My boyfriend helps me with all tasks, sets up the table and does his own studies when I do mine. On the weekends, I try to spend time on studying, but also on earning some extra money through photography. I try to sell the photos I make. That works okay. The earnings are not as good as my software job, but they are slowly increasing. Sometimes I just spend time on increasing my social media presence. It's touch, but it works.

For some reason, my parents don't think I have a demanding job (I'm a software engineer). They think I am lazy and I've received comments about not starting to cook immediately when I get home after a particularly demanding day. I also get told that I need to do my homework (university stuff) more diligently, so I don't need to work on it for weeks, because my sister (who goes to secundary education) finishes her work in a few hours.


Problem

Later this week, my father is going into surgery. He and my mother have asked the kids (me, my boyfriend, my 21 year old brother and my 18 year old sister) to take over the household chores, since my mother works full time and my father cannot help. That sounds fair, I think. My sister says she can't help any more than she does at the moment, and my parents agree, since she goes to school 20 hours a week and works 20 hours and school is demanding. My brother has severe autism, goes to his job 30 hours a week and throws a tantrum when he has to do any chore besides walk the dog, so we've settled for having him walk the dog most of the time, except when he's with his girlfriend, which is about most of the time. The conclusion was: my boyfriend and I can do all the extra chores! Mainly me, since my boyfriend works in a factory and I just sit all day. So on top of my already incredibly busy schedule, I have to take care of the garden, dusting, vacuuming, laundry and shopping.

I'm starting to feel like some kind of Cinderella. Moreover, I am starting to fall asleep at work (not yet while driving, luckily). How can I bring this up with my parents?

  • 3
    Have you discussed the possibility to hire someone for some of the chores, like cleaning or gardening? – Marzipanherz Jun 25 at 10:36
  • 1
    You are currently asking two distinct questions (title ("How can I...?") and "Is this something I can bring up with my parents?") and I suggest you get rid of the latter as I do not see how answers to it could benefit you. So, combining school and work, your sister has a 40 hour "work week" like you do (I guess you included a 30 min lunch break), yet she gets preferential treatment? (Because your parents don't believe your job is demanding?). Are you the only programmer in your family and the only one to ever have had anything to do with it? – Anne Daunted Jun 25 at 13:21
  • @AnneDaunted Edited. And yes, they think I am lazy, because she is a cook and cooking is hard work, but programming is not. Also, I am smart, according to them, which supposedly means studying is less work for me. I am indeed the only programmer in the family. – Belle-Sophie Jun 25 at 13:35
  • 2
    Have you ever lived away from home om your own? Are you paying your parents rent? – anongoodnurse Jun 25 at 15:50
  • 1
    How much rent - or contribution to the family bills - are you paying? – A E Jun 26 at 6:09
up vote 7 down vote accepted

I'm starting to feel like some kind of Cinderella.

You are some kind of Cinderella. I think you are being asked to do way too much.

How can I bring this up with my parents?

There are two ways to bring this up.

  • You can have a direct, frank, respectful, and and boundary setting conversation, as discussed very well by @Anne Daunted. Do offer to pay in part for a house-cleaner, a dog-walker, someone to mow the lawn, etc.
  • You can demonstrate that you can't be in two places at once by cutting back on the things you do.

I don't like passive aggressive behavior (which is what the demonstration can be considered), so I would first have a very frank conversation with your parents. But if you get nowhere, you do what you have to do.

Meal prep

Cut this down to 10 minutes, no more. Corn on the cob and a hamburger patty. Hot dogs and peas. Broiled fish and broccoli. I hope you get the picture. If anyone protests, you might respectfully answer,

I understand that this is disappointing, and I wish we weren't in this situation, but the truth is, I just don't have the time to cook elaborate meals right now. If you do, though, please help with meal prep by... (each cooking one day a week, or other reasonable/equitable solution.)

Meal time

Excuse yourself immediately or shortly after you finish eating. If someone complains about that, you might respectfully answer,

I understand that this is disappointing, but I just don't have the time to spend a lot of time eating meals right now. I am so exhausted that I... (fell asleep at work today/other true event.) If you have some time, though, please, please help me with some of my chores. Right now, this is what I'm doing... (list chores.) This is how you can help me... (list how they can help.)

Walking the dog

Come in immediately after the dog has done what is required. If anyone complains that that's not enough exercise for a dog, you might answer,

I understand that this is disappointing, especially for poor Fido, but I just don't have the time to take him on long walks right now. If you do, though, please take Fido for a real walk.

Housework

Do laundry once a week for a limited amount of time. Warn everyone that laundry will be curtailed, so take care to wear most things multiple times; If people complain, you might answer... (etc.)

There's a reason I'm suggesting what will most likely be seen as disrespectful/selfish behavior, and that is because your family has poor boundaries. If they have never set boundaries, they probably don't use them themselves and have never modeled that essential life skill for you. People with poor boundaries almost always see the boundary setter as unreasonable/ungrateful/selfish/disobedient/other. Please read about boundaries on this site (e.g. this answer) and others. You can't live as a live-in servant without building up resentment or becoming exhausted (as you already are.) Either cut back, or set boundaries which will make you feel appreciated and respected. If that doesn't work, it's time (respectfully) to move out.

Right now, one of my kids and their spouse is living with me. They bought a house which needed renovations, and the renovations turned into a nightmare, so the house isn't yet fit to live in. They were welcomed here for the duration. They, too, work full time at fairly demanding jobs, and a lot of their extra time is spent what part of the renovations they can do. I understand this.

My only demand was/is that they need to take care of their cats. The arrangement is working out beautifully, because we understand and respect each other's boundaries. They aren't expected to share meals with me at certain times or to entertain me because it's not reasonable for two working adults with their own lives to bend to my schedule. They don't expect me to cook or clean for them, because it's my house and my time to do with as I please. But this is what we do: I do all the laundry because they are short on time, and I'm not. Sometimes I cook, sometimes they cook, sometimes we order out and the cost then is shared. Otherwise I pretty much do everything I would do if they weren't here. They are here out of necessity; I don't want to turn it into a burden for them. Life provides plenty of burdens without my help.

The core of the problem seems to be that your basis for negotiation is the weakest in the family, since no one else knows much about your profession. You are perceived as being lazy, sitting around all day (and getting paid for it). And some manual labor may even be beneficial to someone with your kind of job.

You are the only one in your family who ever had anything to do with programming. So they have no personal experience they could base their judgement on. But they know that they have/had physically demanding jobs, while you just sit around. Viewing it from their perspective, their judgement makes sense.

What could benefit you is showing them what your job is like, what the work is you do 8 hours a day and which exhhausts you. Try to get their understanding, so that they have at least some understanding of what you are doing. Avoid making it look like what you are doing was more demanding than their work. This is not about comparisons or even a competition, but about getting understanding.

Try to give them an introduction to your daily work (for sure, not some confidential data from your workplace). Maybe a brief overview of how to write a program, how code looks like and pitfalls. Maybe even some underlying theory. Show them, for example, an interesting problem you solved. But all rather informal, just sharing it with them if and when they want to. And do not try to boast about it or to artifically keep it complicated (on the other hand, do not show something too trivial like a "hello world" program, either).

In my experience, code often looks rather intimidating to people who do not know how to code themselves (actually, it even looks intimidating to me, too). With this information, they can better imagine what your job is like. Also tell them about the effects it has on you.

This way, you could try your luck in the negotiations. Suggest what chores you could do, give a reason and/or explanation why and why not - demonstrating your willingness to do the chores immediately. They may at least understand that you can't do all of the chores on your own. Secondly, you are not just stating problems, but already suggest solutions.

Through all of this, do not appear conceited and show understanding (this way causing them less stress also) and thereby also more reasonable. After all, as long as you live in their house, you are the supplicant.


If all fails, since you and your boyfriend earn money, you may offer to pay them some rent in exchange for not having to do so many chores. This depends heavily on several factors, so it may be suitable or not. But the idea to offer some kind of trade (may not involve cash), is worth mentioning.

You are going to have a hard time winning this battle. From what I can see in your story you're falling under that old axiom of "My Roof, My rules!". Simply put, you're living in their house, you can do what you're told or move out.

Now, the problem with that is you're not a teen anymore and you have adult issues. But, in the eyes of your parents your not acting like an adult, you're acting like a child. Thus you need to be guided as a child.

Again, from your parents' perspective they're giving you a bit of tough love. They don't want you to be complacent and get settled in. They want you to be in hell, and looking for a way out. It may not be the way all of us would choose to do it, but it is certainly a common way.

So, now comes the "fixing it" part. Be honest about your goals, your parents' goals and your responsibilities as they have laid them out for you (remember their roof their rules). Would it be better for you to quit your job? Would it be better to drop out of school? Would it be better to move out of the house? Try to be honest about the pros and cons of each.

Dropping out of school seems very short-sighted, but it's safer than burn out. You can always go back when your housing and income are more stable.

Quitting work seems like a bad idea, as it would increase your dependence on your parents, not decrease it. Making it take longer to move out.

Moving out may seem ideal, but all the chores you have to do for them, you will now have to do for yourself.

Once you have a good set of arguments, then talk with them openly about it. Don't ask them to reduce your workload. Instead, simply point out to achieve their workload something else will need to give.

I doubt they are doing it to get free labor out of you. They are likely just trying to prepare you for the world as they see it. If you can point out it's having the opposite effect, then there may be some wiggle room.

Finally, don't ignore the possibility that they are right. When you live on your own, you will have to do all these chores, manage a job and school. Especially in your profession (there are others that do not require as much continuing education and others that require much more). Siblings and Parents will be replaced with children, etc. etc. You think your parents are annoying when you don't start dinner right away, try a 5-year-old.

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