Other Cerebral Homemaking posts:
Two women, two jobs:
- Susan is a hotel maid. Every morning when she reports for work she knows pretty much what to expect. She will work on the same floor she always works on and will start with the same room she always starts with. Sometimes she will have to skip a room because it is occupied or didn’t get used, sometimes she will find a room dirtier than normal, sometimes she will get a better or worse tip than normal, but mostly her work is predictable.
- Beth is an events coordinator. Her clients hire her to manage all of the details for weddings, conferences, and lavish parties. The nature of her work means she does not work the same number of hours from week to week – she may put in 100 hours during the last week before a big event and not work at all during the week after it. What she is doing while she works varies a great deal, as well – on a given morning she may meet with a client to get final approval for the decorations she has planned, meet with a caterer to taste proposed menu items, phone the site manager to discuss placement of lighting, and spend time online sourcing a particular box shape and size for the goody bags to be given to departing guests. Although some of her work looks similar from project to project, often enough she finds herself doing unique tasks no job description could hope to cover – supervising the installation of a fantasy “set” for an “under the sea” ball, stopping the nosebleed of an overexcited bride, and more.
Which of these jobs is most similar to the homemaker’s work?
Mrrrrmmmppp! Time’s up!
The answer, at least for this homemaker, is BOTH. There is the mundane, to be sure – bathroom cleaning, laundry, dishes, cooking, childcare, gardening, returning library books, shopping – but then there are the “projects,” too. The corn comes in all at once from the garden and needs to be “put up,” I want to make new curtains for the master bedroom, somebody needs to throw a shower for the mother-to-be, the windows need to be washed, the living room needs to be painted, a recovering mom needs to have meals brought for her family, the youngest child is potty-training, we are re-roofing the house. Even when my child is sick with the flu – that, too, is a kind of project.
Can you see that a homemaker has quite a task in front of her? How to keep up with the mundane-but-necessary-to-keep-the family-functioning chores while making room for special (and sometimes unexpected) projects?
Let me say up front that this is an aspect of homemaking in which I have been known to fail spectacularly, especially earlier in my career. I leaned much further toward the project management side of the equation – to me it was much more fun and rewarding to plan Bible class curriculum, put on a big party, hold a yard sale, or teach a class than to clean toilets or do laundry. And I was good at all those projects – people thanked me and complimented me and congratulated me, but while I smiled at the kind words, in the back of my mind I couldn’t forget that my husband was wearing yesterday’s socks and we had not had a non-sandwich meal for two days while I had given everything I had to producing the great event. Things were, ahem, out of balance.
How to fix this problem? Some people say, “Don’t do anything extra. Stay at home and scrub those floors! Say no to volunteering, helping, and serving. You are a HOMEmaker after all.” Others say, “Housework is over-rated, and anyway, it will wait for you. Go ahead and produce the play and chair the charity drive! We are here to serve, after all! Don’t waste your talent on toilets!”
Can you see the merits of both of these viewpoints? I can, and I know women from each camp, although most are like me – they lean more in one direction but they can’t forget the pull of the other. It leaves us conflicted and sometimes vacillating between extremes.
I have to give credit to The Husband for helping me learn to do better about keeping up with the everyday homemaking work while taking on special projects. He was nice about my failures, but I knew he really did not love having no clean laundry, irregular meals, and a topsy-turvy home. He may have pointed out a time or two that he had to keep going to his job while he worked on extras. Too true.
Gradually, I came to really see that homemaking is my career, including sock-washing and curtain construction and meal preparation and teaching the children and all the rest. It all has to get done within my abilities and talents. None of it is unimportant. Of course, not every job has to be done every day or even during all seasons of my career – deciding the when and the how often and to what degree is the tricky part.
You came here looking for answers? I am not sure I have many – I am still learning, because my job description continues to change. Just in the last few weeks, one of our children has gone to college, and now not only do the chores have to be reshuffled amongst those of us left at home, but the very rate at which various things need attention has changed – there is less laundry, for example – so we are adjusting to the new normal and figuring things out.
I do know I have finally come to understand the necessity of keeping up with the dailies in order to be able to work on the projects with some sort of serenity. I am sure our children think I was always the type who would say, “The house is on fire? Oh, all right, I suppose we must evacuate, but could you just run the dirty laundry down to the washing machine for me first? Today is laundry day, you know…” They think I have always been organized, but I (and The Husband) know better.
I suppose my tips, mostly learned the hard way, boil down to these:
–Make the regular housekeeping a really regular thing as much as you can. Good habits and best practices are at their greatest service when there are extra strains on your time from the special projects that come along, so get these humming along automatically the best you can. This is where understanding and living the truths we talked about here are so helpful.
—Know which regular housekeeping chores must keep going and which can be deferred (and for how long) during special circumstances. For me, the laundry, basic meals, and kitchen cleaning have to keep going. Bathroom cleaning can be deferred a short while, but life is really easier if we can keep giving them regular disinfectant wipe-downs, at the very least. Regular tidying up (and doing our best to put things away as we use them) makes running in and out the door more efficient. Dusting, floor care, and mirror polishing can wait quite awhile, though, if necessary.
–Respect your abilities and energy levels. Know thyself, ya know? Most of the time, I think home should be a restful not frantic place, and the homemaker, as the barometer of the home, needs to operate at a pace that allows that.
–Know that growth usually only comes when we are pushed toward it, so be open to step out of that comfort zone.
–Remember that we are here to serve. We need to serve at home and away, in various capacities, and not just in the ways that we most like. Serving means seeing to the needs of the ones in our orbits, which includes our husbands, children, extended family, neighbors, and strangers. They all have a claim on our attention.
–You cannot be everything to everybody all the time. Sometimes, for certain things and at certain seasons, saying no is the best answer for everyone. Personal filters are helpful here. (There are several articles in the Balancing Balance series that are helpful for this whole topic, in fact.)
It is not easy. I think for most of us it is a life-long pursuit, this balancing of our work. At least, I comfort myself with that idea when I realize I have let things get out of whack yet again.
What do you think? How do you handle these differing needs? What is challenging for you? What have you learned so far in your career?