Mrs. Homemaker or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Laundry

I had a MAJOR BREAKTHROUGH this week. It is epic. Truly life-changing. I actually cannot believe it took me this long to get here, because now it seems so totally obvious. Are you ready to hear about it? Are you super excited?

OK, here goes…

I am a homemaker.

I KNOW, RIGHT?

I’m serious though. In 6 1/2 years of marriage (the last 2 1/2 of which I have not had an outside job) I have never thought of myself as someone who is in charge of a home. I thought of all the stuff that keeps this place running – cleaning and laundry and cooking and dishes – as CHORES, chores I hated, chores I tried to avoid. I spent a lot of time and energy being pissed off that I was expected to do these things. It’s because I’m a WOMAN. It’s so SEXIST and UNFAIR and DAMN THE MAN for pushing me into this gender stereotype!

Until I realized wait a minute…I wasn’t pushed into a role I was unhappy with. I wanted this. Yes it’s true that the other option – me working and E staying home – wasn’t ever really on the table (the Navy doesn’t exactly let you quit just because your wife is tired of doing the dishes) but his job stability and paycheck was part of why I signed up for this marriage. Wait, that sounds bad. What I mean is knowing E could provide for me and our future children was one of the things I liked about him from the start. Wait, that still sounds bad. Before we even GOT married we decided I would stay home once we had kids. We just forgot to negotiate out what “staying home” included.

(If you still think the previous paragraph makes me sound like a gold-digger, let me assure you, there is no gold to dig. There is maybe a frappuchino or two and possibly a new toilet seat – SO SEXY – to replace the broken one. But no gold.)

My “ah-ha” moment came the other night while I was trying to make dinner. I say “trying” because it is difficult to cook while a toddler throws his entire weight against the back of your knees and screams for more milk. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but you’re much more likely to cut off a finger and I kind of like having a nice even number. So, in a conscious act of gentle patient parenting (something I am working on SO HARD with mixed success and/or results) I got down on Little Evan’s level and said, “Honey, Mommy needs you to go play in the family room. Mommy is making dinner right now, which is part of her job. You know how I watch you during the day while daddy works? Well, right now I need Daddy to watch you while Mommy works.”

It was like a light bulb went off in my head. MY JOB. Making dinner is my job. Housekeeping is my job. I should have work hours and a lunch break. I should be allowed to do my job without the toddler climbing up my butt. People DO get paid for these things – a cook, a housekeeper – so why shouldn’t I value my work?

(Of course, none of that applies to motherhood. Kids don’t give a crap about my stupid “job” theory, especially when they need something something right now NOW I WANT IT NOW MAMA SOMETHING FOR ME NOOOOOOW. That also means parenting duties during hours we are both home are still 50/50. I’m not some kind of June Cleaveresque mommy martyr.)

So while E is off doing…nuclear Navy stuff, I am here doing the house stuff. There’s stuff that needs to be done every day, stuff I hate to do, stuff that has to be done a zillion times a day, and stuff that only needs to be done every once in a while. So I made a list. Actually, I made three lists:

Do these every day
– Laundry
– Dinner
– Empty and clean sink (my tribute to the FlyLady method and the ONLY part of her plan I’m adopting)
– Put all the toys in the toy box
– Feed animals
– Scoop cat box

Do one of these each day
– Clean a bathroom
– Sweep/mop downstairs
– Vacuum upstairs
– Dust
– Clean out fridge
– Declutter flat surfaces

Do these as needed
– Menu plan
– Grocery shop
– Buy bulk items (toilet paper, diapers, etc)

Yesterday I scrubbed down the powder room and it felt AWESOME. Today I straightened up the dining room and feel FANTASTIC. If someone were to stop by for an impromptu dinner I could not only feed them, I could serve it to them on a clean table. The best part is I am no longer overwhelmed and angry about all this housework. When I’m not spending all my time putting it off and sending E angry glares for not helping it doesn’t really take that long to load a dishwasher. Of course, on the weekends there WILL be helping. And when I am sick/need a scheduled day off (and there WILL be scheduled days off) I’ll have a concrete to-do list E can follow. It’s not fancy and it’s not worthy of a book deal (or even an Excel spreadsheet) but I do feel like this is a major change for the better.

Secret bonus part of my new “job?” I get paid in impromptu shopping trips to Target for new black flats and bright colored tights, guilt free.

Now excuse me, I have to go shine my sink.

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17 Responses to “Mrs. Homemaker or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Laundry”

  1. Kitty Conner says:

    That lightbulb! We’re childless, so it’s totally, TOTALLY different, but somehow it was the exact same moment. We both work 50+ hours a week and still have this stupid house and these stupid chores and I just don’ wannna clean up and I don’ wanna cook the things.

    Until I realized that they weren’t chores anymore. I am a grown up. No one was making me do anything. These things I had to do were just part of my home-job and like the things I do in my away-from-home job, I can prioritze them. Or choose not to do them. Or delegate them to my assistant/husband.

    And just like I choose to stay at my away-from-home job because I like it, it makes me happy and the pay it brings keeps me in stretchy pants from Target, I choose to do my home-job because I like to be able to invite people over and I like to be able to find stuff and I like to not look into my refrigerator and wretch.

    Yay for choices! Yay for not being miserable!

  2. eversmommy says:

    I am so glad to read this post–I am not a stay at home, I wish I was, but truly I could take a little more pride in the things that need done at home when I am there! Instead of looking around in sheer confusion on where to start, I could break up the entirety into managable pieces and do them because I WANT my house to look good, not because I feel like I SHOULD. Keep up that great attitude!!!! And dude, I’ve been meaning to ask…when the heck do you have time to knit AND FINISH projects???? Oh I’m envious of that green scarf!

    • bebehblog says:

      That scarf is just 30 stitches across and all in garter stitch, so it was possible to knit a) in the dark at night while nursing and b) while a toddler climbed on me. THAT’S how I got it done. Now ask me how far I’ve gotten on the beautiful cardigan I started three weeks ago. (Answer: 4 inches. Which is basically just the waist band.)

  3. Brigid Keely says:

    I had to have a talk like this with Nesko because he was all “I work 40 hours a week, I’m tired, can’t YOU clean the floors, blah blah blah” and I was all we both have jobs. Yours includes transit time where you get to listen to the music and not have someone chew on your fingers, and a lunch break. My “shifts” are over twelve hours long EVERY SINGLE DAY and my “boss” literally pulls on my hair and screams at me to indicate displeasure. Every other job I’ve had with a boss like that? I’ve walked out of. (there has been more than one, plus a boss who threatened me with a knife.) ALSO YOU GET YOUR WORTH MEASURED IN A PAYCHECK, I JUST GET POOP FILLED DIAPERS.

    We’re still hashing out who does what around the house, but it is very difficult for me to dust and sweep because it aggravates my asthma, which means some of our floors haven’t been swept… in months. Which oh my GOD is SO OPPRESSIVE emotionally to me, but the last time I swept the house I had an asthma attack and then got a cold that lasted over a month.

    And “chore” wrangling is, apparently, part of my job now. Yet, ironically, is a skillset that will count AGAINST me if I try to return to the paid working world, where women with children are heavily penalized while men with children are rewarded with higher starting salaries, higher raises, more PTO, etc.

    Augh, frustration.

    That being said, all the dishes are done and the laundry is done and the dining room table looks great even if the floor is crap.

  4. StraderSpiel says:

    While I was breastfeeding my second and homeschooling my first, my husband and I decided paying for a cleaning service to come in twice a month would be cheaper than marriage therapy. And the results were (in my opinion) way better!

  5. Katherine says:

    this? is perfect. and just what i needed to read. thank you!! you are so totes right.

  6. Jenn Smith says:

    Suzanne,
    I do believe you have read my mind today. The whole way to work this morning I was agonizing over the fact that my house is a total disaster, and I need to get it whipped back into shape. Your post was just what I needed to help alter my thinking, and start trying to get the house pulled back together. BTW You have adopted more of the Flylady plan than you think.

  7. Other Erin says:

    I totally understand how you felt after scrubbing the powder room. I love that feeling of accomplishment afer being all domestic.

    On a side note – does little Evan understand long, complex sentences/thoughts like that? If so, I am impressed/need to know more about childhood development.

  8. Holly says:

    This post was so freakin timely for me. I literally had to just give myself a time out so that I didn’t call my husband at work and scream at him for not taking out the garbage like I asked.

    As a new SAHM by way of unemployment I have been really struggling with the extra house stuff that all seems to be MY job since I stay home. But this post puts it in such a real way. Thanks!!

  9. Suzanne says:

    I work part-time and my husband has a career with really long hours, on-call nights, and at least 1 working weekend a month. I never thought I would be a part-time employee and part-time SAHM. I am still trying to wrap my brain around this and decide whether it is for me. I still get resentful that I cook and shop and do the laundry and pick up everything and take care of our kid a lot more than he does. But the thought of working full-time, plus all the housework that will still be done by ME the majority of the time, also scares me. Thanks for your perspective.

    Also, how hard is it to learn to knit? I really want to learn something like that that I can do while watching the kiddo plays on her own. Plu,s I love the thought of being crafty like that!

  10. Rachel says:

    Oh shit. You just changed my life. Thank you for thinking this. Thank you for writing it down too, so I could see it.

  11. Leah says:

    Nothing you can possibly say will change my mind about cleaning. I loathe it. But fortunately I am of the personalty that unless there is a large amount of people coming over, I don’t give one good goddamn. As long as there is no pervasive foul odor, me and filth are cool.

    However, you get MAJOR cool points for the Dr. Strangelove post title.

  12. Ari says:

    Thank you for this post! I’m sitting in my messy apartment that has been overtaken by baby gear and laundry feeling majorly overwhelmed, but your post helped a lot! I usually just try and tackle everything at once and end the day feeling like I didn’t accomplish anything. Scheduled duties with lunch breaks will work perfectly for me. Thank you for your “light bulb” moment!

  13. […] write another one of those if you want. I got a LOT of real-life feedback from people who read my last housekeeping post, including people who are actually using my lists as their lists for staying on top of things. […]

  14. I’m all kinds of late to this party, but this is a great post. I often have to remind myself not only that this is my job and I chose to do it (although I’ll admit, I wasn’t 100% clear on what the duties entailed when I signed up), but that when I worked in an office, there were parts of my job that I hated—and I still had to do them!

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