Paarth Madan

A medium to iterate on my own thoughts.

Dirty Dishes

Posted at — Feb 28, 2021

This is part of the grateful series.

My Mom does a lot in the house.

She’s a 1st generation immigrant who began assimilating into North-American culture at 14.

Traditionally, South-Asian women have been expected to run the household, while men were the primary breadwinners. This is, obviously, an outdated cultural tradition. But, that doesn’t mean she was exempt from it.

An unfortunate byproduct of growing up as a first generation is the interplay between her two cultures. One on end, she was expected to go to university and work, much like the other North American kids her age. In parallel, she inherited the traditional culture to support the entire house.

As such, her day-to-day consists of a two full-time jobs.

As I observe my Mom in her day-to-day, I’ve learned a few things. Her grit and persistence in being able to do it all sprouts in her unconditional love for us. I aspire to have this love for my own kids, one day.

Her prioritization of the self is close to zero, for everyone’s priorities live above hers.

I frequently tell her that she needs to learn to be more selfish. I think the best way to be available to others is to first make sure you’re in the best shape. Whether that means physically, mentally, or emotionally: spend time on yourselves so you can be there for others long term.

Now, I know, this sounds super hypocritical; I preach to my Mom that she should spend time on herself, but the obvious rebuttal to it all is: she doesn’t have time.

That leads me to this process.

The motivation behind this process is multi-fold; I try to lay out the reasoning below.

Growing up in a South Asian household, my Mom wouldn’t dare make me do chores. Well, not entirely, but it isn’t far from the truth. It appears this ideology is also deeply rooted in her raising and the culture in the ancestral line.

It may be cultural, but I think a large component is her inability to stomach offloading work to her kids. I think her motherly instinct still views me as a child, someone who is entirely dependent and incapable of helping.

As a kid, I thought this was great. As I’ve grown, I’ve noticed this as problematic for a few reasons.

  1. My Mom undergoes constant toil. I can alleviate stress off of my Mom.
  2. I may start my own family. If I don’t have the necessary skills, I won’t be the best partner I can be.
  3. I’m not entirely self-sufficient. I can be.

I’ve been invested in this process for the last few years. I believe the start of manhood is the desire for responsibility. I want to do all the physical work in the house and alleviate as much as I can off of my parents.

In the last year I’ve slowly taken ownership over my own food. I prepare most of my meals for the week. I think I’ve solidified process there, so it’s time to look for new opportunities.

Having been at home for sustained periods of time, my Mom has been cleaning more dishes.

I decided I can help out in that department.

Now, here’s where process comes in. Creating new habits is hard. If I decide that “I’m going to do the dishes from now on”, it simply won’t work. We’re human, so the first sight of adversity is often the exit of motivation.

Instead, I try to devise process to be there when my motivation isn’t. Process to ensure I stick with it, even when I’m not inclined to.

So, here’s the process I’ve developed.

I’ve put aside a single plate, a single bowl, a single spoon, a single knife and a single fork.

I’ll eat using only these particular utensils.

Unless I decide to eat using dirty dishes, the idea is simple. Wash the dishes after use, or before next use.

Thus far, I’ve been able to wash everything immediately. The process seems to have stuck, and it’s quite painless.

I’ve added at most 3 to 4 minutes of latency to the mealtime, and I’ve been able to alleviate my Mom of a non-trivial amount of dishes per day.

A digression:

We often get used to the roles in a relationship and how they’re defined. Living in my house, I’ve never thought to question responsibilities and how they’re divided.

Overtime, the responsibilities are cemented and everyone expects things to remain the same. This is problematic when you have someone like my Mom, who would end up taking on more responsibility if it meant her kids didn’t need to do anything.

Parenting is such an interesting stage of life. Her love is so immense that she’s willing to take on all this responsibility. She may not realize that her doing this is less beneficial to our long-term growth. That’s the paradox of parenting, sometimes the best thing for your kids is tough-love –– maybe?

Another example, for instance, is in a relationship between two people. One person is often deemed the driver. This is a responsibility, and ideally, should be shared. It’s taxing on the individual.

Action: Take the time out of your day to question how the responsibilities in your relationships are divided. Try to improve the status quo.

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