Don’t Expect Laundry Service


Dear Daughters,

On the day I married your mother, my cousin Jimmy (second guy from the left above) offered me a bit of advice.  We were standing in a motel room at the time, sharing a can of Budweiser while we fumbled with the buttons on our fancy tuxedo shirts. Jimmy had been married for just over two years, so he was clearly way ahead of me, maturity-wise.

“Here’s what I can tell you,” he said, quite seriously. “If you want to be happy in your marriage, don’t expect her to do your laundry.”

I nodded and smiled. That would be no problem. My mother had trained me to do my own laundry since high school. What’s more, she had once told me (and I quote) “if you think a woman should serve you, you don’t deserve it.”

Mom’s quasi-poetic advice continues to shape me. But I’ve also never forgotten Jim’s sage counsel–which is ultimately less about laundry than it is about expectations.

We all have a tendency to take for granted that which seems to simply occur. Someone handles the shopping, cleans the bathrooms, does the dishes, and (yes) washes the clothes. Someone helps with homework, pays the mortgage, hunts the bugs that show up in your bedroom, and generally strives to stay on top of the never-ending litany of needs.

When we’re children, if we’re lucky, those “someones” are our parents. But one of the keys to achieving real adulthood–to becoming a fully functional, independent, contributing member of society–is recognizing that we never really had the right to expect those things of them. Our parents served us, but not because we deserved it.

To put the point another way: Becoming an adult requires accepting that life doesn’t come with laundry service (or kitchen or toilet or exterminator service, either). In the end, the only person you should ever expect to serve you is you.

It may sound a bit harsh, but recognizing this reality actually has a significant upside: Only when we stop expecting others to do things for us do we start to fully appreciate all they do. Only when doing your laundry stops seeming like someone else’s job can it start seeming like what it’s been all along–an act of loving care.

In short, when we expect less, we tend to become more grateful. And gratitude is as good for its givers as it is for its receivers.

With that in mind, I recommend adjusting your expectations and increasing your appreciation, effective immediately. Don’t expect anyone to serve you, ever. And always appreciate their efforts when they do.

Also, do your laundry! Your mother and I are tired, and your room is a certifiable disaster area.



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