I've been reading a lot of posts where the non-ADD spouse complains about the ADD spouse not helping with housework and it seems that it's always the ADD that's blamed. But, I wonder how much of it is the ADD and how much is it that the spouse just doesn't want to help? The reason I ask is that I am the ADD spouse.
I am 30 years old, work a full time job, have a 3 year old son, and I take care of the majority of the household chores. Is my home perfect? No, far from it. But, I clean and cook and do everything because if I don't then no one will. My husband doesn't have ADD, he just basically thinks that because he works harder at work (he has a physical job, whereas I have a desk job) and that he occasionally works overtime that the majority of the housework should be left up to me.
For example, I cook all meals and always clean up the kitchen. Even on his day off or when he's on vacation and I'm still working he will NOT cook. If I do ask him to make dinner, he'll order pizza. I handle all our finances. I have most of the bills on autopay and I've gotten into the habit of checking our bank online daily and have a spreadsheet on my computer to record when bills are due and when they are paid. He just spends the money without asking, even if the money in the account is set aside for a bill. He thinks if it's there than he can spend it. Of the past 5 years that we've owned our home I have mowed the lawn for 3 of those years. One year I was pregnant and my husband just happened to hurt his knee this summer so I hired my nephew to mow. This last summer was the first year my husband decided to help me and mow the grass the majority of the summer. Of course it was still my job to scoop dog poop, pick up any sticks/branches/leaves, and trim the edges of the lawn. The dogs have always been and still are my sole responsibility. I have to let them outside to go potty, have to feed them twice a day, and take them to the vet when needed. My husband will completely ignore their cries to go outside, but yet he's not the one with the ADD. I could go on and on.
I know that the problems between us are because I've let him get away with these things. But, yet he doesn't have ADD. So, when the ADD spouse doesn't help around the house is it truely due to the ADD or is it because the spouse is just letting him get away with it? I know it's easier to just do something yourself than to wait for them to get around to doing it. I know my house isn't perfect and it does make me angry when my husband says that our house is "trashed" even though I work hard to keep it as clean as I can. But, when he points out something that needs to be done I'll either write myself a note and stick it to the refrigerator or I'll tackle the project right then and there so I don't forget. But, he knows that if I just write myself a note that it could be a while before I get around to doing it - that is the ADD part of me procrastinating. If it is truely the ADD that is to blame in a lot of these cases then I think the non-ADD spouse needs to come up with some new ways to get things moving that works with their ADD spouse, not against them.
culture and training vs ADD
Submitted by arwen on
LadyFlower, I think you are right on to question how much of the problems that revolve around household tasks are ADD and how much are due to other factors, like selfishness, or laziness, or culture or training! This has always been one of the key issues for me and my husband. When my husband and I married (and he was undiagnosed and not exhibiting many ADD traits due to hormonal impacts), he very concsciously did not want to be like his father in this respect. My father-in-law is a well-meaning man, but his upbringing generated an outlook on marriage that relegated a wife to the status of a second-class citizen, and gave him a sense of entitlement about household matters. His feeling was that his job was to go out and earn money (and if he had problems in this arena, his wife should help out temporarily), and his wife's normal role was to take care of everything on the homefront (regardless of whatever temporary handicap she might experience) -- a double-standard! but one which my mother-in-law accepted with equanimity, that being pretty much the cultural norm then and there. I was raised with a different outlook, for the husband and wife to both work outside and inside the home, and when my husband and I married, he thought that worked better than his parents' arrangement, so we adopted that approach in our marriage and lifestyle. So, even before we married, he had learned to do some cooking, some cleaning, even some child care (and kudos to him for his attitude!!! a big part of why we married). We both worked at corporate jobs, and we divvied up the household chores based on capabilities, skills and interests.
But a funny thing happened over time. My husband was still willing to cook -- but only certain dishes or on the grill. My husband was still willing to clean -- but only certain kinds of cleaning. He was still willing to do child care -- but only if it meant he didn't have to interrupt what he was doing. He would do a little on his own initiative, but he seldom felt pressed to take care of any of it, and mostly he only dealt with household chores if I asked him (which was intensely annoying to me, since we had predicated our lifestyle and marriage on the original arrangement). The more time went on, the less inclinded he became to do these things. Eventually, the only times my husband cooked or did child care was if I absolutely could not take care of it (e.g. very seriously sick, or out of town), and he stopped doing any cleaning altogether unless I begged or screamed. This trend began *before* his ADD traits began to reassert themselves (which began about 20 years ago in concert with his decreasing hormone levels). The trend got sharply worse after his ADD traits kicked in.
To me it seems clear that the attitudes and behaviors that his father modeled during my husband's upbringing probably shaped his behavior on a subconscious or unconscious level when he began to change his ways about household tasks. During the early stage, he would realize that tasks needed to be done, he just didn't feel that he needed to do them. If I asked him to take care of something, he would do so without complaint, but often with the attitude of granting a favor. It almost always got taken care of OK, but the next time the same thing needed doing, I would have to ask again. He had obviously stopped viewing these kinds of tasks as being his responsibility. Later on in this degeneration, he wouldn't realize that the tasks even needed to be done, and was sometimes irritated at being asked to take care of things (like when he had something else he wanted to do). Practically everything he did required supervision to make sure it was done on time and appropriately. He clearly had become less able to actually do the work. (Granted, his earlier attitude that it wasn't his responsibility certainly didn't help foster any capabilities!!!)
In the latter stages of this situation, my husband would tell me that he "couldn't" handle household chores, or "couldn't" see what tasks should be done (by which he meant he had no ability to perceive the work needed). Because of his earlier behaviors, this didn't strike me as very plausible -- it seemed unlikely he had completely lost that ability, anymore than one forgets how to ride the proverbial bicycle -- it seemed more likely he had an *impediment* to his ability, which we eventually came to understand was his re-emerging ADD. To me, that implied exactly what you have suggested -- that I needed to help my husband find a new, better way for him to pull his weight on the homefront. If he could no longer recognize or notice tasks that needed to be done, because his ADD distracted his mind onto more seductively interesting things, then we needed to work together to help him find ways to overcome that distraction. If he couldn't remember a task checklist in his head anymore, as so many non-ADDers normally do without even being aware of it, then we had to put one together on paper or in a computer for him to be able to refer to. If his ADD was now causing him to chronically lose track of time, then we had to figure out some system to bring him back on track. And so on.
This experience is why I say in so many of my other posts that I think it's really important (although very difficult) to determine and separate what a person with ADD really can't do from what they really can do -- and why they can't. If the problem really is just a lack of training, that can be fairly easily remedied -- the person with ADD, just like anyone else, should not be blamed for ignorance (as long as they are willing to learn). If the problem is cultural, then negotiation has to be undertaken -- it's no one's fault that they absorb the mores of their cultural background, and who has the moral say-so to judge which is right? If the problem is a limitation in the brain because of the physiology of ADD, that can be addressed to at least a degree by medication -- certainly the person with ADD cannot be blamed for a physical condition they cannot control by will alone. If the problem is one of "bad" learned behaviors (by which I mean they are antisocial, or anti-productive, or potentially harmful), then the painful process of unlearning them and relearning better new behaviors must be pursued -- the person with ADD may be open to some blame here, if they refuse to accept the need for a fresh start or reject the input of others, but not when he or she puts in the hard work with a positive will. Unfortunately, many of the difficult issues that confront a couple with and ADD partner contain several of these problem components. Unless the issue is properly dissected, it can be very difficult to resolve! Even more unfortunately, the physiological limitations of ADD can often create an impediment to the dissection (this is also true, but usually to a lesser degree, of cultural conflicts or or learned "bad behaviors" ). This is why, to my mind, treatment of ADD with meds is almost always the best first step, followed by behavioral or psychodynamic counseling -- to address the most serious impediments first, so that further problem resolution can evolve. Once these key roadblocks are mitigated, then progress can begin in other areas (where joint counseling can often be very effective).
Without doubt this is a lot of work! But I always figured that, as the non-ADD spouse, I was *already* putting in a lot of work to get my spouse to handle things -- it seemed to me to make a lot more sense to put that effort into dissecting the problem so I could address the root components appropriately and maybe effect some real, positive, *lasting* change! The part of me that protested that I "shouldn't have to" eventually looked more and more to me like a case of cutting off my nose to spite my face.
Whether failure to deal with household tasks is due to ADD or not is obviously a very individual question. I don't think there can be any doubt that culture and upbringing have a non-trivial contribution in the problem when the spouse with ADD is an American male and he's not pitching in -- but ADD can often play a big role too, by reducing the motivation to learn the necessary skills, by inhibiting the ability to remember how to do things not frequently done, etc. I would imagine that that for an American female with ADD, culture and upbringing provide more training and motivation for overcoming the behaviors that might arise from having ADD -- regardless of which, I congratulate you on your accomplishments -- I think what you are doing is a tremendous achievement! You clearly have worked hard to deal with your ADD, more power to you!