By Tracee Sioux
My husband, bless his soul, has been giving me crap about why the house isn’t spotless every day when he comes home from work.
While this may be dull and monotonous to everyone else, hopefully it will enlighten him to my true role as “housewife,” as he likes to refer to me. Actually, I hope it will enlighten him to my “mothering” skills, which is how I prefer to think about what I do around here.
6:45 am to 7:30 am – Am handed crying baby and bottle by husband who is trying to get ready for work. Zack has a cold and can’t breathe well enough to even drink his bottle so going back to sleep is out of the question. Older sister, asleep next to me due to cold, is awakened and refuses to go back to sleep either. Wrestle with Zack to get nose drops up his nose, search the house for the snot sucker, fight with screaming baby to suck the mucus out of his nose. Still can’t breathe, take baby and self into hot shower hoping steam with drain some mucus, 5 year old demanding to get into hot water with mom and brother cause she’s cold and has stuffy nose too. Try to manage the three of us under small amount of water without touching freezing wall of shower. Give up and opt for bath. Sit down in bath and realize before it gets full that we have already run out of hot water. Get all kids out of bath and get self and two kids dressed in warm fleece clothes as we have no central heat and “warm” this time of year simply isn’t going to happen.
Get coffee. Get daughter sore throat suckers for cold.
Collect load of laundry from all over house. Tell daughter to go get her dirty clothes and bring them to me. Argue about whether her favorite nightgown is dirty and needs washing. Tell daughter to put her slippers and socks on. Insist both go on. Start load.
Realize must get sewing machine and projects off kitchen table to be able to fold laundry. Sit down and sew two throw pillows from scrap materials. Put sewing machine and projects under kitchen table. Wipe table off to put clean clothes there.
Try to give baby tsp of Tussin. Clean Tussin baby spit all over floor. Look for syringe to make baby take tsp of Tussing. Apply Baby Vicks to nostrils, suck snot out of screaming baby’s nose. Try to get Zack to eat Bananas. Zack spits out bananas.
Let baby crawl around on floor. Following me around whining.
Go to the bathroom and tell kids not to disturb me for 5 minutes as I didn’t have time to poop yesterday and I feel cranky and backed up.
Feel better. Brush teeth. Tell daughter to turn off TV and brush teeth and find something more productive to do.
Turn on her computer learning game.
Hang bar over stove with drill, hang pans on bar. Unscrew ugly screws from wall now that we don’t need them.
Smell something fowl and change baby’s poopy diaper. Find pacifier, special blanky and attempt to get sick baby down for nap. Can’t breathe. Suck his nose again. Try for nap again. Wants more cuddle since he’s sick. Tell daughter to stop asking me for stuff while I try to get Zack to take a nap.
9 am to 11 am – switch out laundry. Help daughter get frozen fruit to much on. Turn the computer game on again. Teach her the value of a mouse pad to move the math. Read directions for learning game, sit with her and encourage her when she gets the first few right.
Baby wakes up after only 20 minutes. Try to feed him again. No go. Put back down for nap. Go outside and haul more stuff in from the car. Open box to build kitchen island to further organize kitchen.
Fold laundry. Load more laundry. Force feed Tussin in baby, this time trapping him on his back so he can’t spit out so easily. Wipe Tussin off baby’s face and clothes and floor.
Look all over house for wrench. Check the car, while I’m there, check the mail. Wash throw pillow covers from couch, starting to stink. Tell daughter she may change clothes and watch TV. Try to build island again. A few more screws. Teach daughter difference between Philips head and Flat head screwdriver, allow her to practice gross motor skills with screw driver. Teach her to read directions, pointing out subtleties of IKEA diagrams.
Answer daughters complaints of hunger by saying, “just a minute, let me just get this done.” Daughter goes to fridge, finds herself salad, makes me one too. What a great self-sufficient kid! Shower her with praise and compliments for independence and helping and thinking of mommy too.
Get mirror from wall to entertain baby while I work.
Baby wants food again. Make him oatmeal, sugar, ice. Daughter sees fun game on TV.
Mommy do you want to play a game
I would love to, but I really need to feed Zack, get the laundry and dishes done, finish building an island, then we need to go grocery shopping.
Okay well let me just tell you about the game.” It’s the hot, cold, getting hotter, getting colder game where you hide something and the other person has to find it.
Realize the educational value of the game being one of deductive reasoning reading verbal and non-verbal cues.
Agree that I will play the game while I feed the baby, myself, put island together, and fold clothes. Hide bear in clean laundry, hide it in daddy’s slacks pocket, again in the dish towel drawer, again in the dishwasher. Finish salad, fold clothes, let baby munch on cheerios. Put baby back on floor. Forget we’re playing the game and realize I can’t do everything all at once. Tell her we will play again later.
Let her help me put the wheels on the island. Retrieve an unknown object from baby’s mouth.
Change another poopy diaper. Fill box where diapers go with new diapers. Go to the bathroom. Sit down and blog for exactly 15 minutes. Going back to work on island before baby needs another nap and while daughter is dressing up dolls in her room.
noon – Go to the kitchen floor and screw four pieces of wood together to make the underside of a shelf.
Zack, don’t put the bracket in your mouth.
no no noo
I said no
Ainsley come get your brother please
Zack get off the instructions, I have to see the diagram
Ainsley I told you several times already, it is too cold to wear that nightgown, if you want to wear it put on long pants and a long shirt under it. I don’t want to tell you again.
Make mental note about needing toilet paper, formula, milk, cabbage at the grocery store. Out of coffee.
Drying stopped. Every 30 seconds starting again to remind me to fold the clothes. Finish brackets. Fold Clothes, put more in wash. Remember there are wet clothes spoiling in the floorboard of the car. Ask Ainsley to put her shoes on and go get them so I can wash them. Ask her to bring back the laundry basket from her room that she took there to put her clothes away. Realize by Zack’s babbling and moaning that he needs another nap. Collect him, find his pacifier and blanket again. Take him to his room and sway until he falls asleep. Pray he stays asleep for a while so I can get things done. Make him bottle, let him drink it in the crib and hope he falls asleep. Empty diaper pail so kid’s room doesn’t smell of poo.
I’m getting tired and it’s 12:43 pm. Still haven’t brushed my hair. Look around the house. Half an island and all the packaging is on the kitchen floor. Living room floor is littered with baby toys, daughters hats, shoes, coats, clothes, school work, markers, crayons, books, bags, dolls, horses and bears. Bottles and sippy cups are in the bathroom, kitchen, and living room. Ainsley has dropped a salad fork where she was eating at the computer. Dishes are piled up, dirty towels are here and there.
Back to the island.
Mom, did you put that notebook thing somewhere, mom, mom, mom, mom remember when you gave me that notepad thing and said I could have it – did you put it somewhere else?
I don’t know where that ended up and I don’t have time to look for it right now.
Mom, can I make something else for myself to eat?
Daughter makes another salad singing:
“Cabbage chicken salad, they like it everywhere, cabbage chicken salad, they like it because it’s so good and it’s so healthy!”
Make Ainsley h0ld the hooks on while I screw them in so I can get leverage. And then again.
Finally, kitchen island finished. Hang mirror that was back splash above stove in hall at Baby Zack’s level so he can experiment with his reflection. Measured wrong 5 times, tried again 5 times. Baby Zack wakes up and cries while watching me from his crib.
It’s okay Zack, I’ll be there in a minute, just let me finish this.
Ask 5 year old to put away screwdrivers and tools, help clean up packaging and clean mirror for Zack. Put aside packaging I can use later in top of my closet, cardboard for mailing pictures and bags to reuse later for trash. Reorganize pots and pans and dishtowels on kitchen island.
Retrieve baby, check for fever, look at clock to see if it’s time for more medicine. Can’t remember when I last gave it to him.
Remind Ainsley for second time to start picking her toys up. She’s distracted by reorganizing her office. Tells me just wait until I just gets my desk all clean and stuff.
Another load of laundry to fold. Can’t put off going to Sams Warehouse, don’t have enough formula to make it through tonight, used last of it for nap. Also out of milk, so can’t substitute.
Tell Ainsley to put on warmer clothes so we can go to the store, also tell her to brush teeth and hair and put on her shoes and boots. Tell her 3 times, will fold clothes while she does that. Won’t have time to put on makeup or fix my hair. Zack will get hungry if we dawdle.
Brush your hair. Zack’s got your salad, better get it before you have a big mess to clean up. Zack look, you can bang on these pots to make cool music, like drums. There’s Zacky in the mirror, that’s you! What a good looking fellow. Just stick a hat on your head and let’s go! Wear a coat, you’re already sick! Please stop banging on the pots you two, I’m getting a headache. Zack! Do you stink AGAIN?
In the car we learn about right and left and traffic signals. While shopping we discuss what is and is not healthy. We learn to pick healthy chips versus unhealthy ones, we compare prices. We use our math skills while we look at how much comes in a box and which is the best price. We learn that we don’t buy strawberries in January because they don’t grow in the winter and so are too expensive for us. On the way home we do another deductive reasoning guessing game – “I have something glass and colorful and round in my pocket, guess what’s in my pocket,” It is 4 pm when we get home, Zack is napping again. Ainsley helps me bring in the groceries.
I teach her to use the butcher knife and divide 10 pounds of beef to put in smaller bags and freeze. She learns that if you make 10 cuts you get 11 pieces of beef. She also learns that hamburger is dead chopped up cows. Gross.
She grabs a yogurt for a snack and I finish putting the groceries away. It’s 5 pm and my husband will be headed home.
The house is not clean. There is stuff all over the living room. There is a load of clothes waiting to be folded. Another is still in the washer. There is not a chance in the world that I will be able to get the laundry done and put away, the living room picked up and the mound of dishes loaded in the dishwasher. Oh, and have dinner ready. It just can’t happen in an hour, especially since Zack will wake up in the next half hour and demand my attention with wet diapers, painful teething, stuffy nose and empty stomach. And I am dog tired, beyond exhaustion. I’ve not had time to brush my hair or eat a snack or sit down to rest, I even ate lunch while folding laundry.
Jeremy will walk in the door and what he will see is everything I haven’t got done today. The dishes will annoy him, the toys littering the living room will irritate him, the not-quite-finished laundry will seem a mystery to him. This is the evidence that I am a substandard “housewife.”
The imperative difference is in how we interpret my day. I do not see myself as a housewife primarily. I see my function as one of being a mother. Mothering is the primary function of why I’m staying home rather than out there earning a living to raise our standard of living.
I am raising two people here. I am doing it conscientiously with a very specific goal in mind. They will be good people, able to be productive members of society. They will know how to take care of themselves, they will have confidence and a sense of self that will see them through adolescence and early adulthood. They will become good parents who know how to nurture and care for others.
The evidence of what I do all day isn’t apparent when you come in the front door. But, I’m teaching my daughter how to read before Kindergarten and she can add numbers and count and write and spell.
My kids have learned about cooperation and compassion and helping and working as a team today. They have learned how to find something to eat if they are hungry. They have learned what a healthy snack is. They learned patience and how to read body language and how to reason given limited information. They have learned to love learning through playing. They have learned they have the ability to make music. They have learned responsibility. They have learned about language and proper speaking and manners and worked on their cognitive skills. They have practiced their motor development skills and learned how to keep a beat. They have worked on their math and their reading. They have learned about following directions. They have learned that I am available to them, and empathetic and compassionate when it comes to their needs. They have learned to wear warmer clothes when it is cold to avoid getting sick. They have learned to have fun while working. They have learned to recycle and reuse to improve the environment. They have learned where meat comes from. They have learned how to divide. They have learned how many months until their next birthday, learning the order of the months.
I look back on my day as a raging success because I see my primary function as mothering. My role is not an underpaid babysitter, maid and cook. What I do all day has worth – real eternal value that is significant and important. I’m going as fast as I can and working my ass off. I didn’t get an hour for lunch or two 15 minute breaks either. I didn’t even get to poop without interruption this morning.
Perhaps if my husband were to see my contributions of mothering as valid and vital in our family life he wouldn’t be perpetually disappointed in what a bad housewife I am. But, if he chooses to walk in the door and see everything I didn’t do, that’s his decision. While his recognition of the value of my mothering would ease some stress in my life, his lack of validation will not change my primary function as a “housewife.” I will remain, first and foremost – a mother. I will continue to do my chores as he does the busy work he’s required to do at the office – not his first priority, nor mine.