Monday, May 3, 2010

Mama Bean is not domesticated

My mother is very good at keeping house. When I was growing up, she did it all while working full-time. I don't know how. I inherited none of her talents, it seems.

Granted, I am a youngest child, only daughter after two much older brothers. I was/am a Spoiled Princess who didn't do chores. Take it up with my brothers, I'm sure they'd love to tell you aaaaaall about it. They were quite active domestically, splitting their efforts between outdoor chores (mowing, shoveling, raking) and indoor (vacuuming, dishes, bathrooms). Mom did everything else: cooking, laundry, gardening, washing/cleaning, floors, etc. And etc. Plus paying bills and balancing the books. Et. Cet. Era.

She must have kept track of it all in some sort of mental household calendar, because she just seemed to know innately when it was time to do such and such activity. It was all a mystery to me. For example, when I moved out, I had no idea how often I was supposed to wash my towels or sheets. (How often are you supposed to wash your towels and sheets?) (Yes, Aunt Leila, I've read your worksheets. Thank-you.)

My mom took the time to make hot breakfast for my brothers. Well, the oatmeal would be hot at 6 am when she cooked it before heading on her one hour public transit commute to work. Then it would sit in the pot and congeal until my brothers woke up to eat it. We like to joke about how traumatizing it was, oat-jelly molded to the pot, enough that the boys didn't like oatmeal well into adulthood. But, seriously, she could have left them to pour cereal and milk in a bowl, so, jokes aside, it was pretty awesome of her. (What about my breakfasts? Well, I woke up and ate with my dad, who would drive me to my sitter's house on his way to his work. Due to a peculiar obsession with my regularity, I had to eat oat bran. Every day. No sugar. This was truly traumatizing; I envied my brothers their oatmeal blobs. Moving on...)

I used to do my own laundry, sporadically, sometimes, if my mom didn't get frustrated with the mountain of clothes on my floor and did it for me first. As a consequence of my inconsistent performance, I used to wear a lot of stuff more than once (or twice or seven times or until it was crusty with dirt and sweat...) before washing it. Frankly, I'm amazed I had any friends. Clearly, I am not fit for domestic consumption.

But I want to be. I mean, I'm never going to be Martha Stewart, but I can be something reasonable, something Clean and Reasonable and Friendly. I can be something my children one day describe on their blogs as pretty good at keeping house, right?

This is why I took up baking. Baking feels very home-maker-y. I wear an apron. Doesn't that toooootally make sense? Yup. If I feed them enough cookies, they won't notice their sheets were only cleaned twice a year...

I will not succeed if I rely on a magical mental chore list. My brain doesn't work this way. I need a written out, detailed and precise Household Activity Roster. I need it to no longer be written in non-permanent marker on my mirror, and instead on hard copy paper, somewhere prominent and readily consulted for direction on What To Do Next. I need to be creating this paper version instead of blogging about it...

What chores do you do Each and Every Day? I've listed dishes, and an evening tidy up. And we don't even do this. We do dishes when they've covered all the available counter space. We tidy up when people other than the people who actually live in this house are coming to this house, imminently, in the next fifteen minutes, say. Otherwise, our only daily activities seem to be creating mess - making laundry, making dishes, making objects that at some later time will require restoration to a once again usable state.

My Activity Roster is divided into daily, weekly, and monthly tasks. I did not include essential duties like changing diapers, or feeding Bean and ourselves. These are things that must happen in the moment they must happen. I think of chores as things that must happen when I find an appropriate chunk of time to perform them. For example, a bowl of cereal gets spilled, it must be cleaned up right away. This is not a chore, it's just a necessity, and you drop other activities in order to complete it. But washing the kitchen floor, that's a chore. It doesn't have to happen right now (except it kind of does need to happen right now, because it's dusty and sticky...) but it does have to happen Eventually and with Regularity.

Anyway, this is not ground breaking stuff to anyone but me, because I am domestically inept. But I'm working on it, so I feel the need to write it down :P Maybe in a month, I'll evaluate how well the experiment is going. Or, maybe I'll just go make some more cookies...

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