MEDIATING HOME DISPUTES

Working from home presents some brand-new challenges:  your spouse is with you 24-7; your kids are home and attending school online; and you cannot leave the confines of your home.  So, this creates an opportunity to mediate some home-bound issues.

1.         What do we watch on TV?  Imagine a lovely evening with your family sharing the experience of watching a film; this is a fantasy of mine because we cannot agree on a movie.  I struggle with the violent films the men here like and they dislike the lighter rom-coms or Jane Austen-ish movies I watch.  The easy mediated solution is to separate and choose to watch your own film on your own device, but let’s seek a deeper different solution.  What about sharing control?  What if each person chooses one film and we all watch and stay open to the story without critical comment , at least while it is playing?  The person whose birthday is earliest in the year starts and you work your way through the family.  Or, how about agreeing to watch all the Oscar nominated films from this year and last (Wait till you see “Parasite!”)  This way the choice is neutral, so the power struggle is diffused, at least temporarily, as you make your way through the list.  Or, just give it up.  If a shared family evening is important to you, watch what they want.  Do a written ballot and majority rules. Relish this time together and open your mind to a new experience.

2.        Who gets to work on the kitchen table?  Easy answer—the person who financially supports the family.  If you have two wage earners: negotiate, take turns week by week (write it down on a calendar); set up a card table; or adjust work hours and one person has the table in the morning and another in afternoon.  Or roll a pair of dice.  Yes, in mediation sometimes, we sink to this level of leaving it up to chance.

3.         Who cleans what?  If you are like me with your kids living with you (mine are college-age which brings a whole new set of challenges) the house can become real dirty, real fast.  This calls for the all-important  “Family Meeting.”  Arrange a convenient time and get buy-in first.  Does everyone agree that cleaning during the lock-in is necessary?  Yes, this is crucial and don’t allow backsliding on this issue.  We agree cleaning must be done.  Now the question is who does what.  Is there a task someone enjoys, or at least does not despise?  My youngest son is a work-out fiend and he morphs his work-out into a vacuuming extravaganza.  Take turns choosing your area of responsibility.  Write it down and the frequency of cleaning.  Think of it as a settlement agreement between two parties who live next door to one another.  The rules that govern this relationship must be clear.

Good luck home mediators.  These issues are just as tough as the ones in the office.


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