I'm rereading a book by Lorrie Flem called Welcome Home, Daddy. In fact, I was rereading it last night in the rocking chair while we were finishing up our frozen pizza in the front of the TV. My husband asked me what I was reading and I showed him the cover and he laughed. I suppose if I can't actually get all the stacks of books off the dining room table so we can eat in there, I can at least read about people who do have clean tables for inspiration.
This week has been a real rollercoaster. I wanted to be a lot farther ahead in our cleaning than we are, but strep and my back are interfering. I've been trying to clean the dining room for three weeks now, but our table keeps growing more books. (I have no idea how it does that.) I am now considering going through the house with boxes and just throwing everything on the floors into them. Then maybe I'll shut the boxes up and put them in the outer garage. When we've forgotten what's in them, I'll cart them out to Goodwill. I'm sure that since all this stuff is routinely all over the floor we don't really need or want it. (Mothers are so unreasonable.)
Actually, today Andy and I finally remembered that it was Friday and so he needed to take out the many, many boxes of toys and children's books that have been sitting on our fireplace since January. The Methodist church in town runs a children's thrift shop, but it's only open for shopping and donations on Friday from 10-2. The nearest Goodwill is 40 minutes away, and we just discovered it a couple of Sundays ago, because it's in the town where we go to church. (Actually, I think it is brand new. Prior to its opening, our nearest Goodwill, Salvation Army, or Amvets was an hour or more away, which is why people around here have so many garage sales. In fact, there are so many garage sales here in the spring and summer that we have affectionately come to call those seasons "Garage Sale Season" instead.)
It felt good to get those boxes off the fireplace, so this morning I've been working on the table. After this weekend, we should have at least one room in the house presentable -- including the walls, which Andy is almost done painting. And our new furniture arrived on Wednesday...
Apparently china cabinets are actually built for hide and seek and keeping your trucks away from toddlers. Who knew? My dear, dear husband keeps patrolling through this room issuing orders: "NO TRUCKS ON YOUR MOTHER'S NICE FURNITURE!!!" Of course, what am I thinking about the other cabinet (no hutch) which we're using as a sideboard? I think I could make these Montessori shelves... Wouldn't that be a great place to start seedlings?
But no, no, no! We are going to put a pair of candlestick lamps and a lace doily on that sideboard, because this is the image I have in my head of what other people's dining rooms look like. (I'm operating at a bit of a disadvantage here because in my house growing up, our buffet was always piled high with my dad's airplane magazines. I just thought that was what it was for, you know?) It still has potential as a Montessori cabinet, though.
The china cabinet, however, really is going to be for china. (A novel concept, I know.) Well, and maybe canning supplies, because they don't really fit where I have them.
Lately I feel like I am slowly becoming a grown-up. I don't mean that in a bad sense -- because I tend to think that no one should grow up so much that he or she loses that child-like sense of wonder that keeps life interesting and exciting -- but in the sense that I am finally learning to let go of childish resentments and mythologies surrounding housework and homemaking. As a child, I had many chores, but I generally resented having to do them. It was never made very clear to me that chores were important, not just because my mother said to do them, but because a clean house is more satisfying than a dirty one, in a family everyone contributes to the well-being of the family, and also that I was going to have to keep my own house one day. When Andy and I shared our first apartment at the ripe old age of 19, I had managed to retain some of the routines which my neat, organized, and competent-around-the-house mother had tried to instill in me, but our very first week trouble reared its ugly head when it became clear that my dear fiance (we made a few mistakes along the way) had never actually had to help around his house growing up. We were both in college, but I had a job and he didn't, and I distinctly remember fuming over this while scrubbing the bathtub and watching him put his feet up. Being 19, instead of discussing things like rational adults, I just determined that if he wasn't going to do anything then I wasn't either, and the slide into chaos began.
Both of us have come a long way from those days, of course, and we no longer fight about chores. (After 16 years together, we work as a team now.) But it's hard to rebuild routines and habits after they've been broken... or to develop new ones completely from scratch, especially if you're also in the middle of raising a growing family. If I could have dispensed with the idea that I was being punished by having to care for my own home, our lives would have gone a lot smoother. And I have heard my husband tell his mother more than once that she should have made him help around the house.
At this point, however, ruminating over the past is not very productive, particularly since we've got five adults-in-training here. So here are a few strategies we're working on:
- I make it a point to let my kids know how much their contributions around the house count. The simple truth is I can't do it without them. I want to make sure that they know this. The house will not run at all if they don't do their part.
- I make it a point of reminding the kids periodically that they do not like a messy house either. They know they like the house better when it's clean.
- I try to be patient in training the kids in doing their chores. I try very hard not to just do it over myself. For one thing, there is nothing quite as disheartening as watching someone do over the job you've just done. (Think about this for a second. How would you feel if you'd just gotten done folding the laundry and someone came along and refolded it all?) For another thing, they'll never learn to do the job at all if I'm constantly fixing it for them. Still, checking chores is something I fall down at.
- One of the things that has helped us the most as our family has grown is to have regular chore times every day, when the same chores are done. This may seem like a no-brainer to more organized people, but I hadn't really managed this too well until I read Managers of Their Homes. About a year ago, I read Managers of Their Chores and, while I've never gotten around to doing the ChorePacks, this book did show me that one of the reasons why my house was still in a fairly chaotic state was because I still didn't have enough chore times worked into the day and because I was still treating my kids a little too gingerly. I don't want my kids to spend their entire day doing schoolwork and chores, but it isn't asking them too much to help clean up after dinner and pick up before going to bed.
- Decluttering probably is a no-brainer, but I grew up in a family of packrats, so I'm a little slow on this one.
- Although I doubt that I ever get as much aqccomplished in 15 minutes as Flylady does (Flylady doesn't have toddler twins), focusing on doing what I can for brief periods of time is definitely an improvement over letting everything go the way I would have in the past, and generally workable for pregnancy.
- Most important of all, however, is the change in my attitude toward housework. As I get older, I have come to see the work involved in keeping house more in terms of making a home than of onerous drudgery I need to avoid at all costs in favor of something more interesting. Don't get me wrong; I still have my bad days, I still don't really enjoy a lot of the work, and I'd generally much rather be outside. But I have begun to think of the work as worthwhile, which is a step in the right direction.