Adapted from a recent online discussion.
On the division of labor at home:
Almost everyone I know struggles over this. I offer no solution, but suggest that people ask themselves, to what standards do you, as a couple, agree to regularly clean the house? Clean enough so that it's comfortable and not stressful to come home to? Or clean enough for your mother-in-law to drop in unannounced? Or just clean enough that if Child Protective Services stops by, you wouldn't be written up in the newspaper?
My husband thinks the toilet doesn't need to be cleaned unless it actually looks dirty; I think it should be thoroughly sanitized once a week. The question, though, is not who is right, but rather: Is there an amount of dirtiness I can stand that overlaps with an amount of cleaning he can stand doing?
If so, then that's our toilet-cleaning frequency. If not, then is he willing to do more just to keep me happy, or am I willing to do more just to keep me happy? Clearly, this can be extrapolated to frequency of changing sheets, cleaning fridge and oven, sweeping, vacuuming.
This concept can be stretched further, too. I like the kitchen island and counters to be clutter-free all the time, but my husband thinks this is a pain, and silly. On the other hand, my husband doesn't like to see clean dishes drying on the countertop, but I see drying dishes as a waste of time, since the air will dry them.
Ah ha, I can foresee a deal: I will (usually) keep the countertops free of drying dishes; and he will (usually) keep the counters clutter-free. Not an explicit agreement, no sanctions if one of us is too tired, or forgets, or otherwise fails. Just: I promise I will try to do what I can to not bug you, I hope you will do likewise, and I won't hold it against you if you sit down in front of the TV one evening without honoring our deal, because sometimes you need to chill out. This is not a scorecard, it's a marriage.
On feeling competitive about your child's abilities:
I used to feel like my kid was the smartest, most intuitive child in school. I assured myself that his future was going to be bright and I would never have to worry. Guess what? He's still very bright, but pretty confused and somewhat unmotivated.
He always scored super-high in science and math, so we couldn't figure out why, when high school hit, his lowest grades were in those areas. All of his friends were high achievers, and that still did not motivate him. We did whatever we could to help, but in the end it was really up to him, and I felt pretty helpless.
He's still a great kid, but he has a lot of growing up to do, and we will stand by him all the way. And I learned to be humble, and happy for other parents whose kids succeeded beyond mine.
Competitive parents need to get a competitive outlet of their own, and sign up for a 5K or join a bowling league. Competition is a good thing — when you're the one doing the competing.