A few months back my friend Kristie and I were having a fabulous bitch session, I mean… oh hell. I can’t make it any more flowery than that because that’s exactly what it was. We were bitching. Hot topic: Husbands. It wasn’t a husband-bashing, not really. It was more a venting of all of those husbandly quirks that at one time we probably found endearing but after 10+ years of marriage we now find extraordinarily annoying.
The one topic that we kept coming back to was housekeeping. Ugh. The mere mention of that word sends me into a fit of vexation.
But I get it. I do. I like a clean house. I love having a clean house. I love things neat and organized: easy to find; everything with its own place.
The question is not if I like it that way, it’s do I have the time and energy to keep it that way?
The short answer is complicated. On the one hand, yes. I have the time as long as I stay on top of it Every. Single. Day. On the other hand, my time is not simply a matter of cleaning. While some days cleaning is simply a matter of 20-30 minutes several times a day, other days it is much more. And this in addition to being a 4th grade, Kindergarten, and preschool teacher, school administrator, chauffeur, blogger, web designer, secretary, full time cook and server, personal shopper, WWE referee and hostage negotiator, child caregiver… Oh. And somewhere in there I still have to fit in just a little bit of being ME.
Ok. I’m going to make a confession here. Well, two actually.
First, I could probably do better with my time management skills and find more time. Put down Facebook, Pinterest, Words with Friends, Snapchat, texting, and general social time suckers. I could do better about organizing my trips so we don’t spend so much time going, driving, going back and forth. I could watch less TV and be more efficient in my duties. I don’t deny my failure in making the most of my time to include priorities like cleaning up after dinner and scrubbing toilets.
Second, The Husband would say the kids should help. He’s right of course. The kids should do more. There are lists of chores for kids separated by age and they are reasonable. Why shouldn’t the Baby be putting toys away and the Little Man setting the table and the Princess running the vacuum? They are perfectly capable of doing more chores and it would definitely help. Except. Except to get them to do things means staying on top of them to do it, nagging and griping and yelling. Screw those posts about how to stop nagging and griping and yelling because that crap doesn’t work with my kids. It’s more work to get the kids to do it. I mean, I suppose in the long run… No. In the long run it will make them better adults but I’ve raised a kid and until the day she moved out I still had to nag and gripe and yell- maybe not as often, but still. And guess what. The 10 minutes it should have taken to empty the dishwasher has now taken 45 minutes of me nagging and then another 10 minutes of me fixing things they did wrong. Alright, alright… I still need to get them more involved and I am determined to. I swear.
Of course, there is a longer answer to my above question about keeping a clean house.
For one, we have to analyze if “clean house” means clean or clean. Are we confusing clean with presentable or are we expecting hospital-grade cleanliness? If I shove all of the clutter in the closet so that any visitor might take my house for neat, does that count or are we talking about every square inch of organization? Am I being judged based on the overall appearance or are we breaking out the white glove here?
Also, what is the break down of responsibility here? Yeah, as I mentioned above the kids need to help out more, but my kids are still pretty little all things considered, so does that mean the remainder of cleaning is my responsibility? Is the Husband doing my job because he puts his own washed, dried, and folded laundry away? or loading his late night cereal bowl and spoon into the dishwasher? Do I owe him a huge thank you if he runs a broom over the kitchen floor or the vacuum around the living room rug? In theory, if I were working full time then he and I would split the housekeeping responsibilities 50/50. But as it stands I am a stay-at-home mom (SAHM), so how does that redefine housekeeping?
I see this topic come up a lot in mom groups: this division of housekeeping duties. The vast majority of responsibility seems to lie with the mom whether she is a SAHM or working mom. This is the 21st century, right? Haven’t we clawed our way to equal rights only to be set back to 1950 when it comes to housekeeping? Perhaps, that’s not even a fair and accurate portrayal.
My Nana was a SAHM the entire 50 years of her marriage. My Papa worked long, hard hours to support the family. He played golf on Saturday and spent Sunday with the family. My Nana kept a clean house, cooked 3 meals a day, took care of the children. But my Papa still vacuumed the whole house every Saturday before golf. He folded laundry. He helped change sheets. This was 1950 and my Papa didn’t tell my Nana that “he went to work and worked hard to make the money and support the family so he shouldn’t have to do any housework.” No. He worked his 9-5 and then came home and shared the responsibilities 50/50.
Oh. And my Nana didn’t homeschool her children.
I think housekeeping is a completely different beast with the modern family in general than in 1950. Kids spend time doing school and then being shuffled off to lessons, practice, tutors, therapists, etc. There’s social engagements like birthday parties, and there’s involvement in organizations like Church and clubs. The modern family doesn’t really spend enough time IN the home except to LIVE there. Living is messy. LIFE is messy.
And homeschooling adds a whole extra level to messy. We do school at home. Art projects, science experiments, history simulations…. We host classes and co-ops with multiple families. We are constantly, constantly, CONSTANTLY on the go- field trips, educational opportunities, etc. We are hoarders of all things educational- books, magazines, math manipulatives, science equipment, craft and art supplies… We are keeping portfolios and school records.
And what about my time?
As a homeschool mom I spend endless hours planning. Planning what we are going to do daily, weekly, monthly, annually. Researching curriculum. Working and reworking our schedule to adjust for the new interests, attitudes, opportunities. Checking for learning opportunities in every homeschool group I can find- field trips, classes, co-ops, get-togethers. I teach. I read. I regroup and teach and read again. I spend time explaining hard concepts. I spend time engaging. I travel. I travel so much- to and from the library, to and from classes, co-ops, get-togethers, and field trips, to and from park days and pot luck lunches.
So, back to my bitch session with Kristie.
What I love about a good bitch session with Kristie is that it helps me to realize I am not the only one struggling with the eternal housekeeping battle. I realize that we struggle because of a spouse that is holding us to an expectation without a lot of consideration for a.) what we do with our time and b.) his role in supporting and helping with housekeeping. I realize that we struggle because we look at Better Homes and Garden and watch HGTV and there is an unrealistic bar set that homes should look picture perfect, but no real idea of a lived in home really looks like. I realize that we struggle because we carry the weight of our husbands’ expectation, society’s expectation, and as if that is not enough, our own expectation that somehow we are failing because today we just didn’t feel like cleaning up after dinner and tomorrow we let the clean laundry pile up on the bed and the next day we gave up after hanging up the Baby’s 5th dress that she put on so the next 15 just got tossed in the floor. (Maybe that last one is just me.)
So how can we see real life? We see our real life, but how can we compare it to know that we are not alone? Kristie and I came up with the perfect solution:
A HOMESCHOOL HOME TOUR
Today we are going to tour the homes of some homeschoolers (and stay-at-home-moms) and I believe we will see that we are definitely not alone. My house is included in these photographs, but I am not going to label any photos with names because I think it’s important to recognize ourselves in these pictures. These pictures represent real every day life with kids (in most cases multiple children), spouses, pets, and our own damn messy selves.
I hope that from this tour, you can see that dishes do pile up, beds go unmade, toys and laundry get strung around all over the place. When I asked for pictures from friends and when I took my own, I was looking for every day pictures. Stop and shoot pictures. These aren’t from exceptionally messy days. These are life. Real life. Every day life.
We can’t control others’ expectations of us, but we can relieve some of our own expectations by realizing that we are not alone. We get sick sometimes. We get sucked into Facebook sometimes. And sometimes we are just damn lazy. But it’s ok. It’s ok because we are not alone. We are all in this struggle together.