I have recently read ‘A Shed of One’s Own’ by Markus Berkmann – a brilliant description of life from the point of view of a self professed ‘middle-aged’ man. Incidentally labelling yourself as ‘middle-aged’ seems to come with many limitations, but that’s for another blog.

In chapter five there is an interesting observation regarding a ‘Guilt Gap’ between men and women. 

Like Virginia Woolf, most women need a room of one’s own, but even when they have it, they cannot quite escape the guilt that they really should be doing something else. (Dishes to wash? Lawns to mow? Walls to grout?). Whereas men, I believe, feel no such guilt. We know that the women would like us to feel guilty, but we just can’t. So to make everyone’s life a bit easier, we pretend that we are doing something sensible and productive in that shed, to conceal our lack of guilt that we aren’t’.

Ring any bells?! Assuming that the quote above is largely true (though I’m sure that there are many exceptions to the rule) - why is it that women tend to feel guilty more of the time than men?

The causes are presumably numerous. I’m sure that history has something to do with it. Women have fought hard for the right to have equal opportunities in careers and work in the same way as men, but have almost forgotten to add the caveat that this should mean a 50-50 split in all other tasks – household, child-raising etc. Many women have merely added ‘bread-winning’ to their remit, whilst not having removed anything from it. In the current financial climate, many families cannot survive on one income – for most women, working is no longer a choice, but an expectation...there is a lot to do!

Regardless of the causes, what is the solution? Surely it’s healthier to have the ‘male attitude’ rather than punishing ourselves with guilt when we are supposed to be having a lovely time?

“But if I don’t do it, then nobody will!” I hear you cry! 

Ultimately it’s a matter of priorities – how important are you? Where do you see yourself and ‘you time’ in the pecking order? Perhaps everything but ‘You’ gets automatically labelled urgent without considering whether doing the washing up tomorrow (in the vain hope that someone else might do it) would result in the sky falling in, or not. What would more likely result in the metaphorical sky falling in would be you reaching the end of your tether, unhappy and grumpy a lot of the time, collapsing exhausted at the end of every endless day - still 

with a myriad of things left on the infinite ‘to-do’ list...etc. etc. The reason men feel less guilty, more of the time – particularly when they are

taking the time out to enjoy themselves, is because for them they are a priority. They have earned that time to enjoy themselves, and after all, that’s what life is about...isn’t it? Many men believe that time out to enjoy themselves is more urgent, and more important than most other things. I think they’re probably right.  

Here are some top tips to keep the guilt in check:
  • Use Stephen Covey’s Time Management Matrix – rather than having an endless list, divide your ‘to-do’ activities into a grid - with urgent and not urgent at the top, and important and not important down the side. Make sure that, depending on the level of necessity, “you-time” is in one of the top two boxes. The bottom two boxes tend to fall away anyway.
  • Accept that there will always be something to do, so unless you prioritise ‘you-time’ over other things, you will never get to it at the bottom of the list.
  •  What’s the worst that could happen? When you label things in your mind automatically as urgent, question it. What would happen if you didn’t do it? Is it that bad?
  • Delegate. It sounds harder than it is – clear communication on division of labour in advance can mean everyone gets to make time for themselves.  

NLP Coaching can help you with time management and reducing guilt feelings.




25/06/2012 2:32pm

You’re right. Although arguably middle-aged I have never felt the need for a shed but I have long aimed at maximising enjoyment of life. When I friend commented recently that i spend more time enjoying myself than anything else I took it as a great compliment. Guilt schmilt! Here’s a thought: if you have a partner, identify the things you both enjoy. Then do lots o0f them -make them your priorities. The less enjoyable stuff will get done, perhaps even by both of you. If you haven’t a partner, identify the things you enjoy doing with other people, then proceed as above.
One caveat: if Strictly East Holby Casualty Street is your idea of enjoyment, limit it. That way sadness lies. Cook and eat some potatoes rather than becoming one. Then do something physical you both enjoy to work it off. I’m sure you’ll think of something.

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