Who says what?

Novelist, mother, minister, and yoga teacher muses on books, babies, motherhood, and what matters with reverent humor.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Mother? Or is it Housewife?

While I have many gifts, cleaning is not one of them. Nor is cooking. I don't consider myself particularly gifted at mothering, but I love it, and my desire to be good at it makes up for some of the actual imperfections (I think. Ask the kids in a decade). But what I didn't realize--apparently I was not paying attention--is that more than half of mothering is, actually, cleaning. (Or is it eighty percent?)

How can that be? I enjoy playing with my children, singing to them, reading to them, taking them to the park, to classes, on play dates, around the yard to look at slugs and other fascinations, so how is that so much of my job has nothing to do with these things? Instead, I am to clean the kitchen and wash the grimy, finger-printed, finger-painted table, and figure out how to vacuum while the children wrestle with each other at my feet, and how to do laundry (not just wash it, but have it dried and folded and PUT AWAY). But you know all this. You do all this: make the doctor appointments and the special shoe shopping trips and peel stickers off the floor and the car and your clothes.

I may be especially handicapped in this area. I have certain friends whose houses simply put me to shame. How do they do it? WHEN do they do it? WHY do they do it? How come I can't do it?

To Hell With All That, a fantastic book of essays, has a piece about the difference between a mother and housewife. (Mothers are housewives and housewives are mothers but the emphasis is different). I am definitely a mother, so why should my household failures bother me so? I mean, is it that bad to clean the floor with my bare feet? Have you done this? Walk around and once the cheerio or the sticker or the old noodle attaches to the bottom of your foot, you peel it off and voila, slightly cleaner floor. I have yet to find the equivalent to this method in cooking. Any ideas?

1 comment:

  1. I am so with you on this, Sam! I was really excited when a study came out (when Jana was little) that said the best way to build your child's immunity was to have a dog and a dirty floor. I was already doing things half right . . . and I didn't have a dog!