Homage to the Parents that Cook, Clean and Do All the In between
I should have clued in when I got angry at the dirty sheets on the bed. When I tried to give them the “mom stare” -- you know that look that says, “Do NOT mess with me. I am angry, and you have pushed me to the limit.” – I had secretly hoped the sheets would just comply and hop off the bed. This is the very crazy vision that made me think, I need an intervention.
It came in the form of a lunch with someone who was going through the same thing as me. We both had been full-time, type-A organized, professional, corporate employees for many years, and then life delivered a switcheroo. At this point, we take on more of the home duties than our spouses due life changes. AND we both recounted story after story about how this extra duty has pushed us to the limit on any given day.
For me, it came with the realization that I had probably taken my spouse for granted for years. While I worked a progressively responsible professional career, my spouse did a lot around the house. I did my part too, but, he, as a full-time parent and home manager, did a ton of those day-to-day duties that need to be done, but are often take for granted. I used to think we had a shoe fairy in the house that just made sure my shoes made it back upstairs.
I was grateful at the time; however, I now have a better appreciation for every load of laundry, every cycle of loading and emptying the dishwasher, every “clutter-less” kitchen counter, and every special shoe-fair delivery.
My challenge started with me trying to “workize” (my husband’s word) my home duties. Here is an example of what I mean. The laundry room is a trigger for me – seems to be always full of dirty clothes and a never-ending reminder of work to be done. I applied my knowledge of project management to see if we could get a break. I had determined that my goal, at least two days of the week, was to walk by a clean, empty laundry room.
Keep in mind with four kids, my husband and I should have taught them laundry skills early on; yet both our moms did our laundry until we left for college, and as the saying goes, "The apple does not fall far from the tree." In our house, the laundry fell to mom and dad. My spouse had accepted the laundry clutter ages ago. When I took over, however, I thought I could improve operations.
After the novelty of a “new” chore wore off, I learned one thing: I could attain my goal of an empty laundry room, but that meant I had to live with the fact that behind closed room doors of teenagers, there are mounds of laundry on the floor, waiting patiently for me to clear the laundry room so that they could fill is up again. (Yes, I am losing it as I anthropomorphize sheets and laundry, treating these nonhuman objects as if they have a life, and thoughts and they are out to get me.)
I got so obsessed that I made sure the children knew that jeans could be worn more than once. I knew that I was on the edge of a breakdown as I folded clean boxer shorts and a thought briefly crossed my mind that would have my grandmother rolling in her grave -- could they wear these more than once? Phew! I think my grandmother got special permission from God to break into my thought pattern and snap me out of it.
I asked my son, child number 3 if he could just turn his socks the right side out before putting them in the laundry. He said yes; however, I knew I was in a weak state when I believed him. After the third basket of folded sock, I approached him about it, and his response: “I said I could, Mom, as that is what you asked me. I did not say I would. Maybe you should ask me a better question next time.” (Good thing he grinned at me. He knows I always give points for an English lesson.)
I won’t even get started on cleaning the kitchen. I will only say that my standards have changed. I went from having a certain way of correctly loading a dishwasher, to now just celebrating it is loaded or unloaded at all. Another thing, how come I am the only one who can wipe the kitchen table? I bought Clorox wipes and set them less than a foot from the table; yet the kids just can’t seem to reach the wipes!
Before I digress too far, and find my not-so-happy place again -- let me get to the point. THANK YOU to all the moms and dads who do the cooking and the cleaning and the in-betweening. The kids won’t appreciate it until they are on their own and have to do it for themselves. To the single parents who don’t have any back ups, you deserve a medal of honor. To the spouses who have ever felt taken for granted, unappreciated, undervalued, I say hats off to you. Your role is invaluable to the full functioning of the house.
To my spouse I say thanks for all the years, I just looked at clean underwear as a given. For the times I said I was too tired to unload the dishwasher, I appreciate that you mustered up the energy one more time. When I traveled and stayed in hotels with clean sheets, thank you for training our sheets to jump off, the bed, wash themselves, and jump back on the bed. I have not mastered that level of training yet. What is your secret?
Kori Reed is the Author if ZagZig Parenting: (Mis) Adventures of a Career-Drive Mom and Stay-At-Home Dad. You can order it at