Women Are Control Freaks?

Pass the mirror. I’ll fess up.

Woman with Good CounselWhen I read this article in Time’s Healthland about control freaks, specifically about women needing to give up control in certain areas of their lives, I saw a tiny bit of myself here and there.

Or rather, I saw myself as I was some years back. In my old life, in my old house; when my kids were little.

The net of the article? It’s an amusing read, suggesting that women might be happier if they learned to delegate around the house and thus, ceased to be control freaks!

Control over cleaning? Seriously?

Control Freak?

When it comes to fussing over household chores, apparently I have no problem with that one, as long as the chemicals don’t send me scurrying for an oxygen tank.

Still, before I was entirely alone with two messy kids in tow, I did care more about upkeep around the house. And not only that – about doing it my way.

But I think about the manner in which both men and women lay claim to certain areas of our lives. Sometimes, insisting on taking control – perhaps to an extreme – helps balance our lack of it in other areas.

So what exactly is the definition of a control freak, anyway? Try this:

someone with a compulsive desire to exert control over situations and people

Exert control? Compulsively?

Pas moi. What about you?

Happy Homemakers?

If I’m dreadful at delegating housework, does it follow that I’m a control freak? That I’m less happy than if I did delegate dusting the blinds, sweeping the kitchen, and dealing with the perpetual piles of laundry?

Since I neither dust the blinds nor sweep the kitchen, and dirty clothes remain art installations in my sons’ rooms, is it the fact that I don’t want someone messing in my pantry that makes me a control freak? Is it my opposition to attempts others may make to neaten my work space with its files and books, or insist that I reorganize my computer’s desktop?

Toilet bowl cleaning?

Happy to delegate!

A friend taking a can of Pledge to a 200-year old side table?

Yes indeed, I’ll let out a resounding eek and throw my body in front of the stream of liquid before it hits the 18th century surface… Okay, no bodily intervention. But I will yell “Stop!”

The Sanctity of Our Spaces

Is it the proverbial “room of one’s own” that’s at stake here? Do we women feel a need to own our spaces – or to sanctify them? Is it a means to put an “off limits” sign around something – even if it has to do with home?

The fact remains: I don’t love people messing with my space – even if my space is messy – to others. But does that make me a control freak?

And if we’re going to generalize, what about men? Those who are very particular when it comes to the care and feeding of their vehicles? The obsessive trips through the car wash, or the Sundays spent hosing, sponging, and waxing, not to mention the vacuuming of leather interiors with a loving hand?

Yes, it’s cliché. Perhaps it’s all cliché.

Kid Controls

Wanting things done in a certain fashion with regard to children?

You got me there! For American women in contemporary times, I would certainly agree. American dads seem more relaxed.

And for some mothers, the parental (controls?) pickiness reaches into everything to do with the emotional, physical, educational, recreational, and logistical side of caring for their kiddos.

In extremis.

Time to turn to our Lesson Books in Parisian Parenting?

Control, Comfort, Orientation, Mess

Are we all increasingly control freaks in some ways? I’m guessing – yes.

Could we or should we lighten up if we can? Find ways to simplify? Probably so.

My take on this?

Silver Hair Beautiful SmileWe seek to control in order to stay sane. For both men and women, it’s about trying to feel as though something is manageable by us and for us, in what is otherwise an increasingly uncertain (and frightening) world. Which doesn’t mean we couldn’t lighten up – likely in different ways.

I’m fine with the dust, and I’m equally fine handing off a broom. You can even put the coriander and cumin on the top shelf in my pantry; I’ll fetch the step stool if I must. But don’t try to manipulate or control me – who I am, what I say, my ability to explore and to experience.

And don’t touch my work space or my laptop, dammit! That’s about my comfort, my orientation, and I like it the way it is!

  • Do you find the observations in this article to be true – for you?
  • Any freakish control tendencies of your own? In relationships, with kids, at home, at work?
  •  Do you delegate to simplify, to breathe more deeply, to relax – assuming it enhances our happiness?


© D. A. Wolf




  1. says

    So a woman wants to exert control over her own life and she’s considered a control freak. And the slams continue.
    I don’t understand this compulsive need of journalists and politicians to continue to want to label us.
    Yes, if I’m going to pay for the groceries, I want control over which groceries are bought. Yes, I have certain methods for cleaning the house, but I am happy to teach my daughters HOW to do it and enlist their help.
    Yes, I pick and choose what I want to delegate and what I think is easier to just do it myself. I will not apologize for trying to exert some control over my life, my finances, my home.
    And there is so much to deal with every day that’s OUT of my control, that I’m certainly going to take advantage of every opportunity that I actually get to decide things for myself. If that makes me a control freak to some, well…I guess that’s out of my control.

    • BigLittleWolf says

      Well that’s one way of looking at it, April… And while the writer was playing it (partially) for humor, I think you make excellent points. If we’re to be held accountable (any of us, any gender, any responsibility) – isn’t it only natural that we would want control?

  2. says

    I never gave it much thought, but you raise some interesting questions. Entrepreneur is much more of a control freak than I am…even in housecleaning! That doesn’t mean I have a laissez-faire attitude, but I’ve learned which hills are worth dying on and which ones aren’t!

  3. Robert says

    You can’t gauge control-freakiness without engaging the concept of territory. It isn’t being controlling when you are having to assert rights to something which should be yours unquestionably.

    And the question of “who should have what territory” is where the problem often lies. Out of respect, I wouldn’t undertake the rearrange the contents of the kitchen cabinets (even though I find it illogical and annoying) because I condider that territory to be hers. By the same token, I would take offense if she came out and rearranged the garage.

    I did take offense when she removed the allergy cover from my pillow and threw it away without notice because she no longer liked it’s condition. Since allergies are a major health hazard for me, and I was two months into a sinus infection, I didn’t consider it out of line to be unhappy.

  4. says

    My husband says I am a control freak – and yes, in some respects I am. But he is the pot calling the kettle black. I at least have learned that if someone else is doing something to help me out, I should just stay out of the way and let it be done the way that person chooses to do it. With some gritting of teeth sometimes. Husband, however, needs to control the way I drive and many other things if he knows a bit about them. I grit my teeth until I reach the point of no return and then I bite back. Is being a “control freak” bad? Only when you start stepping on toes, I think.

    • BigLittleWolf says

      Great point, Carol. There’s so much judgment in the term “control freak.” Perhaps the degree to which we exercise control in certain areas is no one’s business but our own, unless it harms others – or for that matter, ourselves.

      (Pot calling the kettle black. So often the case! ;))

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