Author Topic: Pitching In  (Read 7294 times)

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mbbored

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Pitching In
« on: December 05, 2013, 12:29:12 AM »
On one side of my family, I'm one of 13 grandchildren. Ten of us were born within a period of about ten years, there was a gap of another decade, and then three were born within four years. We tend to divide into two camps: the "bigs" and the "littles." For as long as I can remember, there's a certain but unspoken division of labor when we all visit my grandparents' farm for a long weekend: the uncles work on a project around the property, the aunts cook, the bigs clean and watch the littles, and the littles generally try and stay out of trouble. Regardless of who your actual parents or siblings were, if somebody older than you told you to do something, you did it. As the littles grew up, they no longer needed our watching, but never took over any of the cleaning duties.

Fast forward to this Thanksgiving at the farm. Now all the littles are college-aged and the bigs have moved far away and/or started families of their own. It worked out that this year that I was the only big to make it back. After the first family lunch on Wednesday, the littles started to leave the table to head back to their computers. I wasn't about to wash dishes for 11 people by myself, so I called them by name and asked them to help me clear the table and wash the dishes. One of them said "Of course!" and dove right in. The other two (who are siblings) looked at me with really confused expressions and asked why. I said that the moms had been cooking all morning, the dads were going back to fixing the plumbing problem in the bathroom and they were old enough to pitch in. The only boy in the group said, "But I'm a boy!" I replied that knowing how to wash dishes, and doing so without being asked, would impress girls. I grabbed a stack of plates and they followed suit without saying anything else. That night after dinner, I asked for their help again. They asked "We have to do it again?!?" and I said yes, as long as there were meals to be eaten, there were plates to be cleaned. Both times, our grandmother and all those of our parents' generation listened in, without saying a word.

By the end of the weekend, they immediately started helping with the dishes and it never took us longer than 20 minutes. Heck, I washed the actual pots and pans, scrubbed all the counters and took out the trash myself, they just scraped plates, loaded the dishwasher and put away leftovers.

This week I got an email from my aunt's husband, father of the reluctant two, and he was very critical of the way I supposedly bossed his children around, forcing them to labor on their vacation. He particularly didn't like the way I made his son do "women's" work. Did I overstep by asking my cousins to help me with dishes? Do I owe them or my uncle an apology?

delabela

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Re: Pitching In
« Reply #1 on: December 05, 2013, 12:34:59 AM »
Ignore him.  I don't think you overstepped - it's a family weekend, and everybody needs to pitch into get everybody fed and keep things clean.  And, personally, I could not respond politely to the "women's work" comment, so I would not be able to respond at all.  I pity the child who is raised to think he or she never has to do anything around the house - it must be a rude awakening when your first apartment does not clean itself. 

Pen^2

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Re: Pitching In
« Reply #2 on: December 05, 2013, 12:41:03 AM »
As a general rule of thumb, if someone observes you speaking to or doing something with their child, says and does nothing and allows you to continue what you're saying/doing, and then later claims that it was unacceptable and how dare you and so on... they're full of something. If they were really upset, and if it really seemed so tremendously wrong to them, they say something on the spot. Although the "women's work" bit does more to undermine his entire stance than anything else.

Plus, you were fine. A college-aged adult should not be leaving one person to do washing up for a dozen others, and is several years over the age where they should be helping without being asked to.

You owe nothing--you did nothing wrong, and uncle isn't legitimately upset. Further, they're adults now. If you did do something wrong, you'd owe them an apology, not him.

If he brings it up in conversation when you next see him, I'd say something along the lines of, "Okay, next time, how should they be reminded to do their share?" Don't respond to the email, because he's being ridiculous and sexist. Those kinds of things don't get responses.

Ceallach

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Re: Pitching In
« Reply #3 on: December 05, 2013, 12:42:31 AM »
I think you did great! 

Shame on your uncle for raising such entitled children and being so sexist.
"Nobody can do everything, but everybody can do something"


Lindee

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Re: Pitching In
« Reply #4 on: December 05, 2013, 12:54:22 AM »
I'm full of admiration for you. I think you handled the situation just right.  Much better than being stuck doing all the clean up by yourself which it seems was your idiot uncle's plan. I'm appalled that they have got away with leaving it all to their older cousins without helping until now and it should have been addressed before as soon as they were old enough to pick up a tea towel.  Ignore your uncle.

sammycat

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Re: Pitching In
« Reply #5 on: December 05, 2013, 12:58:42 AM »
I agree with everyone else.

You were fantastic, your sexist uncle is beyond disgusting, and shame on all the other adults for not making these now adult children pitch in years ago when they should have.

I'll just leave it at that as what I really want to say would likely get me banned from the board.

JustEstelle

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Re: Pitching In
« Reply #6 on: December 05, 2013, 01:29:04 AM »
Did I overstep by asking my cousins to help me with dishes? Do I owe them or my uncle an apology?

Absolutely not.  The "littles" should have stepped up to help without even being asked.  As for making a boy do "women's work" - pffffft.  You owe no one an apology.  And you did not overstep.  One person shouldn't be expected to clean up after that many people without help.

aussie_chick

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Re: Pitching In
« Reply #7 on: December 05, 2013, 02:39:56 AM »
POD to everyone else who said you did a great job!

Out of curiosity, I wonder who your uncle expected was going to clean up after everyone since the other bigs weren't there and by all accounts, the other adults had already dealt with cooking and plumbing issues. Does your uncle honestly believe his 'children' should be waited on hand and foot? Any by you on your own?

In my partners family, they do a similar thing. It's a working bee event that also comprises good food and great company. Perhaps if the now college aged 'littles' don't want to participate in the whole event, they should maybe find something else to do on their vacation.

cicero

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Re: Pitching In
« Reply #8 on: December 05, 2013, 02:53:03 AM »

This week I got an email from my aunt's husband, father of the reluctant two, and he was very critical of the way I supposedly bossed his children around, forcing them to labor on their vacation. He particularly didn't like the way I made his son do "women's" work. Did I overstep by asking my cousins to help me with dishes? Do I owe them or my uncle an apology?
women's work?

He owes YOU an apology! what a boor! (and my DS would probably say "i didn't know you use your *thing* to wash dishes").

You did fine and that's exactly how i handle things in our family (though in our family everyone usually pitches in). if he was unhappy he should have pulled you aside at the time and said something. he didn't- probably because he knew "the tribe's elders" would've hit him with a clue-by-four.

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snappylt

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Re: Pitching In
« Reply #9 on: December 05, 2013, 03:48:09 AM »
Wait - your cousins are college age people, and their daddy still feels that he has to send unpleasant e-mails on their behalf???

jalutaja

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Re: Pitching In
« Reply #10 on: December 05, 2013, 06:31:38 AM »
Well, you can also remind the uncle that this would not happened, if the boy would already been working with the men.

camlan

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Re: Pitching In
« Reply #11 on: December 05, 2013, 07:18:09 AM »
I'd respond back, short and sweet.

"Uncle, traditionally [since with his "women's work" he seems to be a traditionalist], the aunts cook, the uncles do repairs and the kids clean up after meals. All I did was ask my cousins to fill their traditional role at these family gatherings."

No apologies. Just the facts.

Nothing is impossible, the word itself says, “I’m possible!” –Audrey Hepburn


HoneyBee42

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Re: Pitching In
« Reply #12 on: December 05, 2013, 08:20:02 AM »
To answer the questions, I think there was nothing wrong with the approach (other than the over-due nature of it), nor do I believe either of the young adults or the uncle are due an apology.

If I responded at all, I'd probably treat the whole thing as if he were attempting to joke.  But I'd probably try to go for the high road of ignoring the email, and he is unlikely to say anything in the larger family gathering (since he didn't at the time).  I'd do the same thing (getting the 'littles' to work on the cleanup) as last time--after a few repetitions, they might not even need a whole lot of reminding.  But if he did say anything, I'd probably give him one of those pitying head shakes and "Comedy fail, uncle."


siamesecat2965

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Re: Pitching In
« Reply #13 on: December 05, 2013, 08:26:18 AM »
I think you were fine, and handled the situation very well. Uncle is a boor, and I do feel sorry for his kids. I'm guessing they might not even be aware that he sent this email to you!

I'd simply ignore. You didn't ask them to do anything out of the ordinary, dangerous, or any backbreaking labor. Had you asked that, at the time, he would have been fine to say something to you. But you didn't, and he didn't bring it up until after. I'd simply ignore him.

esposita

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Re: Pitching In
« Reply #14 on: December 05, 2013, 08:42:08 AM »
Wait - your cousins are college age people, and their daddy still feels that he has to send unpleasant e-mails on their behalf???

This. You owe no kind of an apology to this man for having a relationship and a conversation with a grown adult. I'd probably just reply "Thank you for telling me how you feel. Have a Merry Christmas!"