Friday, August 21, 2009

Domesticity 101

My mother was a first generation superwoman who worked throughout my childhood. She realized early on that we, as women, can not do it all. Thus she hired a bi-weekly housecleaner and was smitten with easy prep meals such as Hamburger Helper. The invention of the microwave greatly expanded her nightly repertoire and quick, yet soggy, fish sticks with a side of peas became a staple. To this day my mother owns two microwaves and does most of her cooking with them.

I obediently followed in her footsteps and also became a working woman. Only neither my husband or myself chose careers based on income production. As a brewer and veterinarian we work hard. We get by but are far from wealthy. Accordingly I do not have a housekeeper or cook. And, oddly, I’m not fond of frozen food.

I want my children to have delicious home-cooked meals, milk and cookies after school, clean clothes in the closet and someone to help with their homework. I also want them to have a roof over their heads, indoor plumbing and some mode of transport to and fro. As such I find myself in the precarious position of being a working woman by night and a domestic goddess by day.

Only here’s the thing. After eight-years of formal schooling I am well-versed in veterinary matters. My domestic skills, however, are faulty at best. As a child I did my own laundry and was forced to pick up my room (cleaning for house cleaners ... who ever heard of such a thing!). I also took a few cooking lessons. End of story. I never truly learned cook or bake. Knitting was passe as was any mode of sewing. I was not trained to clean a floor or, according to my husband, load a dishwasher. It seems I am self-taught in all home matters.

I tend to pick and choose my domestic pursuits. I lean towards the crafty ... knitting, baking, cooking, sewing and gardening. My husband would be ecstatic if I would, say, become heavily involved in the fine art of toilet scrubbing. But alas this does not hold my interest (though I have tried my hand at plumbing). Accordingly my house sits in disarray as I feign ability.

This week in lieu of laundry and dishes and general tidiness I dabbled in canning and embroidery. I dare say I have two new hobbies to add to my cache. First I made an Apricot-Basil-Riesling Jam. You see we have an apricot tree (well really it belongs to our neighbors but I lay claim to the generous portion that falls over our fence). In years past the fruit has shamefully gone to waste. This year I decided to make jam. I loosely followed this recipe and added the basil on the advice of a friend. The thrift store had an inexpensive canning pot and I found the jars at our local market. The resulting jam was/is delicious. I may have to buy more fruit and make another batch.

As for embroidery ... I fell in love with a set of “vintage” tea towels at JoAnns. They were just begging to be embroidered. Once again the thrift store had what I needed - embroidery hoops and floss. I traced a pattern in pencil and, in honor of my soon to laying hens, fashioned a Wyandotte.

It looks like I may have a theme for Christmas care packages. Now if I could only find someone to scrub the floors ...


Please tell my I'm not the only one struggling to "do it all". I'd love to hear how do you manage house, hobbies and all that life demands.


Mrs. E said...

My mom was a bored out of her mind stay at home mom. She read a lot. Housekeeping was not her thing. I am a happy working mom. My house is somewhat clean. BUT, my mom taught me to read, play piano, embroider, and knit. She canned and gardened. Your kids will remember less of the mess and more of the things you do together. That jam will never be forgotten! You're doing fine, girl! Every home is different. If there is love and fun there--that is all that matters! (Clean floors are highly overrated!)

Jennifer said...

I agree with the "clean floors are highly overrated" comment left by Mrs. E.

Struggling to "do it all"? Honey, I can't even get one-tenth of one percent of it done! But my life is pretty good - even with crunchy floors...

Enjoy your jam and your embroidery... you only get one go-around in this life...might as well go around doing things that you love.

Peace and best wishes.

Tammie said...

ha it all? most days i dont even do half. and im a stay at home mom! you'd think i should be able to maintain the clean house thing. but no. there are times i think my house is messier than the homes of my working mom pals.

i used to be frustrated by it all but as ive gotten older ive learned to tune out the mess. i get as much done in a day as i can, but make sure to save time for the stuff i want to do with the family, or my hobbies. life is far too short to worry about a clean house.

amelia said...

It's funny how my mental list of what must be done has been shrinking through the years- less things "must get done" and my tolerance of less than spotless florrs has increased. This is a battle we have with ourselves as no one in my house is dwelling on it but me- besides, a little dirt, scattered toys, cluttered cupboards makes a house a home :)

the Lady said...

My mom decided that she had to let go of her previous standards of cleanliness. For god's sake, she worked 40 hours a week at a minimum, and often more, being a nurse with a regular on-call schedule. You can relate. She didn't ever care about our (the kid's) rooms being clean, they were allowed to be messy as hell, thinking back on it. I was messy messy messy in my room until I was 12, until then, the only requirement was that there was a fire path from my bed to the door. I kid you not.
My dad did the dishes half of the time, and kept the kitchen floor swept most of the time. The vacuuming didn't happen all that often. As soon as we were old enough we were taught to do laundry and clean the bathrooms. Honestly, the only thing I can ever remember my mom caring about much was having the dishes done, because she did the cooking. Everything else she just let go. And she did make jam and cook, and we had green vegetables every day of the week. And we played out of doors and got taken to the movies and took lots and lots and lots of walks in the summertime, whenever it was nice. And we went to the river and the beach. And that's what I remember. And we got raised up healthy and happy. The key to her being happy was to, as I said, let it go. And it's not like the house was a sty, or terribly dirty, but it just didn't get cleaned as if she had been a single person. It helps if your kids are old enough to train to help out, and if your husband will help out. Otherwise - your instincts are right on. I don't remember the dirt levels, but I sure do remember that wonderful warm blackberry jam made with blackberries we all picked in the warm sun, and the cornbread on weekends that I make now. And going to the river, and so many long walks in the woods, picking up sticks and snakes and bringing the goat and the dog too. Kids grow up faster than you think, the dirt will be there to clean when they're gone. I don't think anyone really "does it all," at least not by themselves.