Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Our journey to a fair and balanced housework thingy

For any of you who feel overwhelmed by the household duties, whether you have children or dogs, homeschool or not, I must have full disclosure and tell you that my partner, my husband, cleans ALOT. A L O T.

I cannot even imagine what kind of desperately falling down sty this would be without his infectious energetic spirit, his famous "cleaning attacks", his openmindedness to moving rooms around, to seeing the bright side of forts (I found my missing thing under the couch!!) and stains and spills and dish-mountains.

This awesome teamwork we have in running this home has been 11 years in the making--12 if you count the year we lived together before we were married. He used to be a clueless young guy who thought food came from the nice lady (his Mom), clothes came from the dresser, and dirt, grime, scum, and clutter were just unheard of. I used to be a typical young girl with closets full of crap I had to keep, clothes I had to keep, and who would look at a small pile of stuff and just fall to my knees in confusion and fear and stuff it into the closet. I knew how to wash clothes and do Windex/paper towel kinds of things. I was pretty good with the foamy stuff you spray in the bathroom to shine the taps, but thats about it. Seriously. I think it took us 3 weeks in our first apartment to even get it that garbage HAD to go all the way to the curb EACH week or else bad badness would occur.

We didnt know about "sour" washcloths, not putting corn cobs down the disposer, or rinsing out pops and beers before you stored them in a big bag to take to the store for the 10 cents. We didn't know about bleach alternative, carpet sprinkle powder, or how to "air out" the apartment with opening windows on both sides of the building. We didn't know about not taking the Christmas tree out the door by scraping it through the house, and then we didn't know something as natural and innocent as pine needles could destroy a vacuum. We didn't know you didn't need 5 inch roofing nails to hang up a little calendar, or anything about how to find the studs in the walls. We didn't know about primer such as Kilz, and were dissapointed when lavender paint didn't fully cover dark orange paint in one coat with 99 cent brushes. We didn't know about flipping the mattress, sweeping under the stove, or the power of vinegar. We didn't know how to take turns, or what was "fair" as far as housework. We both had full time jobs, and I was in college, taking both day and night classes. We didn't want to be sexist or weird about delegating jobs, and in fact, we didn't really even know how to discuss it. We knew it was gross and messy and we didn't really know what to do besides to proclaim every two weeks that "THIS PLACE IS NASTY/THIS SUCKS/ I WANNA MOVE OUT!"

We learned e v e r y t h i n g together. It was the perfect recipe for either disaster or equality and harmonious friendship. We ended up with the latter, I am happy to say. Luck, Love, Fate all may have played a part, but lets be frank here, I would never have seriously dated nor ever married some guy who was a wierd chauvinist freak or a lazy mutt or any kind of scary, jerky lazy or evil dude who sucked or was yucky. Duh!

So if that makes me a magical wise woman, so be it.

I hated his Magic cards and CD-ROMS everywhere, he hated my trinkets, papers, makeup, books, and general clutter. We didn't know how to grocery shop at all, and I am MORTIFIED and angered to admit that we would often spend 2 or even $300 dollars---for two people! In 1995! What in god's name did we buy?????? That is my budget for two weeks for SIX people now. I know our technique was to go to whatever store we felt like, and to wander up and down every single aisle and think "Ooh-ooh that looks yummy!" and to pop it into the cart. Coupons or bargain unting were unheard of, as was any sense of reality regarding produce's shelf-life, menu planning, or anything, really. We gained like 35 pounds, both of us almost immediately-and this is before any baby came along.

We didn't know how to manage our money whatsoever-and before you scoff and think "they still don't"---we actually had money back then. Our rent was $395 a month, no I did not leave out any digits, 3-9-5, and we both worked full time and were insured by our parents. Gee. Now we live on one budget, have a huge house payment, four children, 500 pets, and are the tightest penny pinchers. Sigh.

ATM cards had just gotten invented, and so we would run to the ATM like it was a drinking fountain--yay! yay! yay! the money machine! Yay! Its Las Vegas! Yay!

Despite spending a small fortune on groceries, we also ate out constantly. Fast food, once a forbidden treat when we lived with our parents, was now available, and chow we did. Coney Island, too, along with Dairy Queen, Olive Garden, Red Lobster--it really is a testament to our genes that we didn't end up 500 lbs, dead serious.

I won't even get into how we put the whole wedding on a Hudson's credit card, because this blog is supposed to be about cleaning, but wow.

When I got pregnant with Greta, in our second month of marriage, I got sick, real sick. I couldn't even open my eyes most days, and I lived in a haze of vomiting and vertigo for 4 months. Steve started cleaning alot, as I would cry about "smells". He loved me, I was suffering, and he did what I would have done for him in a heartbeat. He took care of me, and tried to make our nest something that was suitable for his wife and baby-bean, and pleasant for us both.

We ate alot of restaurant food, as going to the grocery stores made me die, and after simulataneously vomiting all morning and afternoon while creating an entire human from scratch, I was understandably ravenous by evening, and we would eat Subway and things like this. At least the kitchen stayed cleaner.

When the dear baby was born, of course the house fell apart, as it does and should, in the normal newborn way: piles of tiny baby clothes and milk flooded bras and shirts and sheets that needed laundering (we had no washer or dryer) teetering out of the hampers and onto the floor, soaps and creams and lotions and various pain killers and pads and cloths and diapering supplies and double-gulps of gatorade all piled around my permanent encampment in the bed with baby...mail stacked up, rotten everything in the fridge as we blearily ordered another pizza...but soon newborn days gave way to happy baby days, and we started really cleaning up the place so she could crawl on the floor. We vacuumed tons, and Steve was doing more and more, because the only thing that would keep the little angel baby from meowling and crying was to be with Mama, Steve was starting to do more and more--and cheerfully! We would go grocery shopping together and he would say things like "you go on upstairs and nurse the Katy-Kate, and I'll bring this food all in". Cool! "you go give her her bath and I will run the vacuum and then we can all watch the movie". Awesome! "If you take her on a walk, I can get these clothes put away real quick" Sweet!

We had some rough times, too, our first year and half of parenthood, and we decided to get out of that pit-hole one bedroom upperflat and move to a nice 2 bedroom brick flat in Grosse Pointe. Steve went from a good dad to some kind of uber-sensational magic dad, and our marriage really turned from good to spectacular in that move. We were SO happy to be in this nice city in this nice house with our little tot. I wasnt working anymore, so we had to learn in a hurry to live on one income, with a bit higher rent, and a little kid to afford. She had a proper nursery, toys, high chair, stroller, and we spent our days caring for her, all the while Steve working...

When I was pregnant with Mickey, I was even sicker than I was with Greta, if that is possible, and this time it lasted 7 months. I knew my body better, and threw up less than I did the first time around--but this time with no "rest", only a 2 year old to care for all day instead, Steve stepped up even more with the grocery shopping, garbage duties, and once I got really big and slow, the lifting and food prep as well as bathtime with Greta.

Fastforward several months of C-section sadness and pain and infection riddled recovery/colic HELL to me at home with a 3 year old and a dear baby boy. I was getting around town with my 2 little ones, having dinner on the table at dinner time again, and gettin' laundry done. I was doing great, really a golden era for us all, Greta was old enough to not be a baby, Mickey was the happiest little piglet in the world, and Steve was making good money. We became vegetarians, and got very into healthy eating with our kids. I made homemade babyfood, used cloth diapers, and was in a group of other stay home moms who all had 3 and 4 year old girls and a new baby. I would walk them in the double stroller all over the town, and we would spend our weekends playing and enjoying them together. I was doing the vast majority of the housework, and I was happy to after so much time of not being well enough. We had friends over, and before bed Steve and I would always clean up the beer bottles/board games/empty bags of chips so it would be nice in the morning for the kids. We had food in the cupboards, and nothing in the fridge was rotten. We had a kitty, and you didnt smell that when you entered the house.

There is still a long road ahead to buying our first home, making the decision of homeschooling, three years of me babysitting, and two more baby boys born in as many years. The patterns of giving and taking, have ebbed and flowed along with our money situations and our changing roles. but one thing has remained a constant: Steve is a good, good man who wants to have things nice and clean as much as I do. He knows how hard it is to do it all, and we know how hard he works all day at his job. He is realistic, cool, normal, and just does not live in that clueless rediculous jerky jerko world that so many of my friends' hubbies and partners seem to.

No, we dont have the tidiest house in the world, nor do we have the messiest. We arent the richest folks, nor are we the poorest. But what seems to be comepletely missing from our home is that low-simmering anger that seems to prevail in so many other houses--that resentment and bitterness that comes from feeling used, unnappreciated, and under-supported. For this I rejoice. I am grateful for the journey we have been on so far, and how we came to this.

I dont know if I have advice for anyone, or if this post will inspire anything besides angry tear-filled "must be nice" thoughts.

Our latest Zen-Housekeeping role model: Rabbi Shmuley from Shalom in the Home, on Discovery channel. Although this is not a show about cleaning, it is a nany-911 type of thing, his spirit is what got us through last night's 2 hours of dishwashing, complete emptying of the laundry room, cleaning the gross rabbit cage, taking apart the vacuum and doing 3 loads of laundry as well as mopping the dining room floor on hands and knees, giving 2 baths, cooking a really good dinner, reading to the kids, going through the mail, cutting and dying my hair, and running to the store. All between 530 and 1030 pm, with the digital temperature in our airconditioned hallway reading 85. Thank you Rabbi Shmuley for your great attitude and wise words, and thank you Steve for being so super mega awesomely cool!

1 comment:

Kelley said...

I'm impressed. You are an amazing writer, and I love to read your stuff. Keep it up. :)