Our house has a large family room, one end is a kitchen, where I cook (and love doing it). The other end has comfortable couches and a TV. While I cook dinner, I take great pleasure in listening to NPR. Usually, others in my family are in the family room watching a show of their choice. I have trouble hearing the radio, but when the ads come on, it’s impossible. (The ads are always louder than the program.) The noise spoils what has become a special time in my day. I’ve talked to my family about it, and sometimes they mute the ads, out of respect for me. I can’t use earbuds because then I can’t move around the kitchen to work. I have really tried to work this out cooperatively. But frankly, I’m cooking dinner (for everyone) and they are just watching TV. I understand if there are special shows they want to watch, but when do I get my turn? I’m willing to compromise but the family drama continues. What can we do?
— Sensitive in Sonoma
Well, here’s my hope: that you have another TV in the house, and that the family room TV becomes off limits during your cooking time. That’s a compromise — everyone wins. If they refuse, or you don’t have (or cannot buy) another TV then your obvious preference for compromise falls by the wayside. Columnists and therapists like to talk about reasonable solutions to problems, but it takes two or more to tango, and then the person most upset (and therefore most motivated) is left with a difficult decision. How can you change things when others won’t cooperate? Or, are you willing to acquiesce?
I admit my maternal, wifely, feminist blood boils at the thought of you cooking and not having the generous support of your family. But, if you do not want to risk your family’s wrath then you will have to tolerate the situation as it is.
Or, you can skip the cooking and go listen to NPR in peace in another room. I know you will miss feeding your family, and I can only hope that your family also misses you. They would likely become more respectful. Perhaps one of them will take over the job, although I wouldn’t put money on it. They may accuse you of being selfish, and I hope you can smile and say, “Well, yes, I am being selfish, sad to say that the working-it-out-thing didn’t take.” And then return to your program. As for dinner, make sure there’s something on hand that will satisfy you.
You will probably feel like you are being mean; this is the lot in life of nurturing, responsible women (and men). In our changing world, however, when children often are neither needed nor expected to participate as good citizen participants in family life, I like to think you are teaching them an important lesson about communal values. Life works best when everyone cooperates.