I got NOTHING done!

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Amie’s idea of cleaning up

As I was vacuuming I deplored (again) how often the work of a homemaker is lost. It is lost when half an hour later the flour gets spilled and a day later the dust bunnies are convening under the sofa again. It is lost when the dishwasher is full – or empty – again. It is lost when we step into the made bed, put on a clean sweater, finish the meal… And it is lost all over again when at the end of the day I tell myself:

“I didn’t get anything done again!”

Usually the latter refers to the work on my novel and my garden. I clearly don’t reckon all that invisible work that doesn’t get paid, or appreciated even by the one who does it.

But I feel I want to mark it. It is a large part of my life, after all.  I played with the idea of recording it in the blog, but how monotonous that would be, for reader and writer alike! Monotony – doing the same thing, over and over again – is the essence of this work, after all, no matter the tunes we dance and sing to.

So once in a while I write it down in my handwritten journal. Recently:

Woke up, got myself and Amie dressed. Breakfast. Dropped off Amie at preschool. Cleared breakfast table. Made beds.  Dusted furniture. Vacuumed whole house. Emptied dishwasher. Filled dishwasher. Handwashed big pots and pans. Wiped stove and kitchen counters. Picked up Amie. Prepared and ate lunch. Cleared table. Emptied dishwasher. Filled (laundry) washer, ran it, emptied it. Hung laundry to dry. Moved some of the woodpile. Refilled wood basket. Snack time. Played “Max” ten times. Prepared dinner, set table, ate. Cleared table. Put leftovers away. Soaked beans and split peas for soup tomorrow. Dishes. Got Amie ready for bed. Read story and stay with her until she’s asleep. Cup of tea and write this. Got nothing done today!

I can only imagine how much less I would get done if I also had to drive my child(ren) to extracurricular activities, and/or if I had to get to the gym and hairdresser and…

But of course that wasn’t all of my day. For instance, I played “Max” ten times because Amie insisted we get all the animals home safe, and I got to spend most of that time marveling at my daughter’s efforts to reconcile the lives of the chipmunk, the squirrel and the mouse (and their babies, waiting for them in the tree) with the hunger of Max, who would get sick if he only had treats and got nothing wild to eat, and maybe the mouse was worth sacrificing because it has only one baby, whereas the bird has three…

Still, at the end of it, that’s how my day felt. The journal entry may not be a statement of (all) the facts, but of the feeling of accomplishment, which was zilch. In that sense it is a true entry. And in that sense, it has to be recorded, once in a while.

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8 Comments

  1. I appreciate this entry a lot. I’m married but no children yet. Even the monotony of work and home life at this stage sometimes boggles me. The lack of accomplishment in baking, cooking, gardening and other skills frustrates me. I get restless at times but try to remember that it’s ok. Life is monotonous sometimes.

    I hope I’m as patient and understanding as you are when I have kids and there is even more routine.

  2. I feeling your pain today. We have had snow the last three days and it seems as if all I do is clean up water on the floor, dropped gloves, dry towels, shovel snow off the steps, more laundry, more hot drinks, wash and put the mugs away, and so on.

    It feels like I am not accomplishing anything but really we are all making such happy family memories during this unusual snow time.

    I am taking lots of photos though. :)

    Barb

  3. I used to feel the same when my kids were kids and being a working mother,it always seemed that’I got nothing done!’.Today, I have all the time in the world to’get everything done’,but I wish time machine could take me back to those days when I played the same game or told the same story over and over again.Its lot more fun when your kids are kids.

  4. This is why, ladies, feminists wanted emancipation. Do your husbands feel the same way? Or do they have jobs that are ‘appreciated’. You should see ‘una giornata particulare’, with Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni. Precisely how the housewife felt under Mussolini! So, get a lover, or get a job.

  5. @ Jan: by “appreciation” and “emancipation”, and “a job”, do you mean money, pay?
    My point was that this work should be appreciated, that it’s bad that I don’t – although I appreciate some of it quite a bit (chopping and stacking wood, for instance). It is work, energy and time expended, and so, in IMHO, “a job”, even though it doesn’t get payed. And it does not automatically involve drudgery, but family time (see other comment).
    So I’ve got a job. Several actually, already. Thanks!

  6. Hey, you are complaining about your life, I am not about mine :).

    No, I do not mean money. I mean being someone, defining yourself who you are, personal development. And it is not playing the housewife all the time.
    This is all a very old story… I can hardly belief this: 2009, almost 2010. My point is: do you know why you do not appreciate it? Maybe you consider yourself something else than a cleaning woman, which I think you are. I do not understand the lack of ambition in modern women. I am not even a woman, and it drives me mad. Who ever told you those jobs you mention are just yours? Well, stop listening to these people and be around (wo)men who allow you to get a life you don’t complain about. That is my point.

  7. Hey Jan, thanks for clarifying.

    Well, if you read some of the rest of the blog, you’ll see that I am not the housewife all the time, that I don’t complain about it often, and that I am quite ambitious.

    I am saving the world, you know (I’m not kidding). I want to grow food and community and look some of the biggest challenges we’ve ever faced straight in the face, and act – whether it is to make a change or just prepare, I don’t know yet.

    I am also writing a second novel, and this is something I love dearly.

    And you know, someone has to do these menial jobs, and I think raising and to some degree schooling my child, cleaning my house and feeding my chickens is something I can do better than any stranger.

    So tell me, how do *you* feel about doing dishes, and laundry, and vacuuming?

  8. I feel that in my last comment I lost track of what I wanted to say in this post. The idea is this:

    The art of homemaking should be noticed and appreciated. I want to fight the simplistic culture in me that states that housework is drudgery that is somehow necessary but useless too (what a contradiction!). A way of fighting that culture is by acknowledging that it reigns in me (the “complaint”), by noticing the work, marking and recording it, and by acknowledging that it is the basis (in my case) for good moments and happy family life. All of which I tried to do in the post.

    That doesn’t mean that housework should be *everything* in my life! It’s not a simplistic either/or. I want there to be a balance between the work that is “lost” (laundry, dishes) and the work that “stands” (novels, buildings, gardens, children, etc.).

    Balance however is always an ideal, and I feel I have the right to complain when it has somehow gone missing :)

    In response to Jan’s statement that it is 2009 and he is still hearing this complaint. Well, housework will always be around. It was there in 1890, in 1940, and will be so in 2010. And so there will always be someone who has to do it.

    (Also notice, please, that I always talk about my own life. I don’t presume to know what makes other woman, and children, happy.)

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