Chores

The boys have chores now. Older Boy does dishes and Younger Boy cleans up the living room and their room. Younger Boy also has homework these days. That leaves me with less to do which is nice.

Today I’m catching up on laundry. Oh joy. But, it needs to get done and I have nothing but time now. I’ve already paid bills and read the rest of the book I had started earlier this week, time to do something productive I guess. Right now I’m waiting on the dryer.

Before I started school again, I had started finally seeing housework as important. I am a notorious slob. I am fine with things laying about the place and getting my clean clothes out of a pile. My husband, not so much. For years it had been an argument between us. I was home with the kids and in charge of the house and it was typically messy. It drove him up a wall. Whenever we fought over it I’d feel terrible and things would get better for about a week. Then I was right back to my messy ways.

For the last month or two that I was home before I started school again though, my mindset finally changed (it only took 35 years…). I read a book called Mrs. Dunwoody’s Excellent Instructions for Homekeeping by Miriam Lukken. The book is styled as a turn of the 1900’s lady’s receipt book. The story goes that Mrs. Dunwoody ran a boarding house after her husband died and the tips and tricks in the book came from her book of tips and recipes for her daughters. A receipt book is a very old fashioned sort of thing, but I love the idea. A woman writes in her book all of her favorite or most useful tips so that she remembers them and can eventually hand them down to her daughters. My mother did a version of this when she gave me her notes from doing Thanksgiving dinner for the last 10 years. The papers went through everything from what a good price for turkey was to how to order the cooking, cleaning, and setting up in the days leading to the holiday. Included were her favorite recipes for stuffing and sides. That was a version of the receipt book, focused on Thanksgiving.

Anyway, this book includes recipes for whitewash and shoe blacking alongside more useful tips on how to wipe your windows when you clean them so that you can tell which side any streaks are on as they dry. Home remedies, scaling recipes for potlucks, laundry tips, and a cleaning schedule for the week as well as for the year are included along with snippets about the importance of homekeeping. It was that last that finally got to me. While the tone of the book might not be for everyone, for me who had stayed home with the kids for 7 years and never quite got the hang of the whole thing, it was a revelation. The idea that the home is the center of the world was a new one to me.

My mother had always told me that the wife/mother sets the tone for the home. I knew that was true because when I had a bad day, so did everyone else. What I never quite got is that the home is a sanctuary. An oasis of calm in a hectic world. Because my world at home with the kids was hectic, our home’s atmosphere was one of barely contained chaos. But, the kids started school a month or two before I did and, during that time, I was able to slow down and really see the house around me. I was able to see that the tone of the house wasn’t what I wanted it to be. I realized that one way to change that was to change the way the house looked. A clean house feels better, you know?

We have clutter coming out the rafters, but I could keep things tidy and keep things from piling up too much. With the kids in school I finally had time to attend to it properly and really look at what I had wrought. My time tends to be spent either doing things or trying desperately to relax and get out of doing things. With the kids out of the house and me not having to watch them every waking moment, I was able to clean the house and still have some time to myself to do things that I enjoyed. The house ran more smoothly and the tone of the home changed to one that was more peaceful. Of course, that ended once I started school. My focus changed again to homework and deadlines. I have tried to get it back a few times, but never seriously because my time always had demands on it that seemed more important than dishes.

With this little enforced vacation, maybe I can get back to that feeling of ease and routine that I had for such a little time all those years ago. If I can get back into some kind of routine it might be easier to keep it going once school starts again. Doing a little each day instead of letting it pile up for the weekends is a good start. I should use this time to remind myself that I never ceased to be a homemaker just because I went back to school and will be working eventually. I will always be a large part of making the home a calm sanctuary and inviting place to come back to for my family. Now, don’t get me wrong, I have two active boys, I don’t mean that it will ever be a Zen retreat. But, it can be someplace they feel welcome and able to relax. Also, don’t get the idea that I”m the only one doing the work. Dear Husband does more than his share (remember, I actively try to get out of doing things whenever I can), but I do need to hold up my end of the bargain and stop trying to duck responsibility for the housework.

This will be an interesting break from school. We’ll see how I do.

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