Sometimes I feel that all I do is maintain and never really make much forward progress. I can easily fill my day with routine tasks – you know, the stuff that has to be done over and over. Every day I make the bed, scoop the litter box, do the dishes, cook meals, feed animals and people, tidy up, sort mail and newspapers, and those myriad other tasks required for a reasonably comfortable home life. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t really mind these tasks and I fully accept them as part of my job as a homemaker. I am extremely grateful to David for being willing to bear the burden of the financial support of our household alone so that I may devote myself to making our home a cozy and peaceful place.
We tried the dual career thing for a few years and it was not right for us. I never could just let things go at home. In fact, I was even more diligent about keeping our house spotless, preparing good meals and devoting time to the kids, who were elementary school age at the time. Yes, it was a guilt thing. But as a hospice nurse with a very demanding job in addition to home duties, something had to give. In my case it was my health and marriage. David and I both agree that we are better off with me tending the home fires, so to speak, allowing him to devote the time and attention his career demands.
Still, it can be a bit discouraging to rarely have anything tangible to show for one’s efforts. Even if one’s job is mostly repetitious, tedious tasks, at least there is a paycheck in exchange. Not to mention society’s approval for being a *productive member*. There is little understanding, never mind praise for a woman who chooses to stay home, especially after the children are grown.
For nearly a decade I was able to garner at least a modicum of acceptance for my non-working status because I was homeschooling my kids. Even those who might not really understand why I would choose to do such a thing seemed to think it was a productive use of time. However, since Lisa *graduated* and got married last summer, I can’t tell you how many people have asked if I was planning to go back to work as a nurse. And I suppose it’s a reasonable question. I worked very hard to become an R.N. and I enjoyed the work, for the most part. I think I was especially good as a hospice nurse and truly believe those couple of years were well-spent. I learned so much about life and death. I know I gained a tremendous amount from the experience and feel confident that I, in turn, was able to minister to many families and individuals during very difficult circumstances. I am grateful for the opportunity because it helped shaped the person I am today.
But back to the topic at hand – how can I experience a sense of accomplishment and purpose when most of what I do isn’t noticeable unless it isn’t done? I remember spending a lot of time with my grandmother through the years and she has been a role model in many ways. Always busy but never rushed, she was such a hard worker and maintained a clean and comfortable home. I know she must have experienced some of the same feelings because I can remember her making grape jelly and commenting on how she occasionally needed something to show for her efforts. Even though it would eventually be consumed, for at least a little while there would be several beautiful jars of delicious jelly as evidence of her work.
Monday is the day in which I catch up with things that didn’t get attention over a busy weekend, as well as several weekly tasks. I wash our bed linens and remake the bed, do all the laundry (although I will also do a load or two most other days), clean the litter box and refill it, refill the parakeet’s water and food dish, water all indoor plants, and generally put the house in order for the week. However important these tasks are, they really aren’t the sort of thing anyone will notice.
I do think it is important for David to know a bit of what I *do all day* so one thing I do is to not completely make the bed after I put the washed sheets back on. Instead of pulling up the duvet and arranging all the extra pillows, I turn back the covers like some fancy hotels do and leave the duvet folded back at the foot of the bed. Since I otherwise always fully make the bed, this is something David can observe. And because it is a set routine he knows that on Monday nights we will be slipping between freshly washed, smooth and fragrant sheets. I usually even iron the pillowcases. I don’t think it is quite as important to him as it is to me (if I had Bill Gate’s money I would have someone put clean sheets on my bed every day and have fresh flowers in every room), but he does appreciate my efforts.
So where am I going with this? Well, I think that if I am to be content at home I need to do something each day that will actually stay done for awhile. One thing that has been frustrating me is our yard. Actually, *yard* isn’t an adequate word for 40 acres. Keeping up with the outside tasks has become so overwhelming that I have basically just been ignoring it. Unfortunately, that method isn’t really working and I am annoyed with myself. Here it is, well into July, and I still haven’t planted the three half barrels out front or purchased any hanging plants for the balcony or much of anything else outdoors. I did get four tomato plants set out but that’s about it. Last week I decided to tackle just one flower bed. There is a bed that runs alongside our patio and contains two small rose bushes. I pulled out the weeds and raked a copious quantity of acorns from the bed. Yesterday we bought three bags of red cedar mulch so this morning I mulched the bed. I also found a landscape timber behind our guest house and used it to extend the bed to form an “L” shape along the house. This is the area where we keep our trash cans. It now looks so much better.
All I have left to do to complete this little area is purchase and install some type of edging along the patio to contain the mulching. Unfortunately the patio was not well designed. It should sit a few inches higher than the surrounding ground instead of the same level. Yet another design flaw in this owner built home. After completing this area I had about half a bag of mulch left which was just enough for the three half barrels out front. I had already weeded them a few weeks ago so now they are ready for planting. I usually plant them with Mexican heather and vinca, both of which are very hardy and do well with minimal watering. The first thing I intend to buy next payday will be plants for these barrels.
I know the usual saying is not being able to “see the forest for the trees” but around here I have more trouble “seeing the trees for the forest”. In other words, it is often difficult to focus on just one small area when there is such an overwhelming amount of land. I tend to be an all-or-nothing type. With adequate energy and inspiration I can accomplish great things but lately it’s been more of the *nothing* and very little *all*. I just need to narrow my focus and concentrate on just one very small area at a time. Little by little things will get done and I will then feel that sense of accomplishment that I have been craving lately.
Edited to add:
“Maintenance is a drag; it takes all the fucking time (lit.)
The mind boggles and chafes at the boredom.
The culture confers lousy status on maintenance jobs =
minimum wages, housewives = no pay.
clean your desk, wash the dishes, clean the floor,
wash your clothes, wash your toes, change the baby’s
diaper, finish the report, correct the typos, mend the
fence, keep the customer happy, throw out the stinking
garbage, watch out don’t put things in your nose, what
shall I wear, I have no sox, pay your bills, don’t
litter, save string, wash your hair, change the sheets,
go to the store, I’m out of perfume, say it again—
he doesn’t understand, seal it again—it leaks, go to
work, this art is dusty, clear the table, call him again,
flush the toilet, stay young.
I am an artist. I am a woman. I am a wife.
I am a mother. (Random order).
I do a hell of a lot of washing, cleaning, cooking,
renewing, supporting, preserving, etc. Also,
(up to now separately I ‘do’ Art.
Now, I will simply do these maintenance everyday things,
and flush them up to consciousness, exhibit them, as Art.
I will live in the museum and I customarily do at home with
my husband and my baby, for the duration of the exhibition.
(Right? or if you don’t want me around at night I would
come in every day) and do all these things as public Art
activities: I will sweep and wax the floors, dust everything,
wash the walls (i.e. ‘floor paintings, dust works, soap-
sculpture, wall-paintings’) cook, invite people to eat,
make agglomerations and dispositions of all functional
The exhibition area might look ‘empty’ of art, but it will be
maintained in full public view.
MY WORKING WILL BE THE WORK”