If I Can't Have it All, I Choose to Not Have the Vacuuming

In the early years of marriage and kids we lived in a series of small apartments and houses. I had a little system in which I allotted specific tasks to specific days of the week, which I had written down on a schedule that was taped up inside a cabinet door. I won't claim to ever have been an expert housekeeper, but it was a major improvement from the "I'm out of clean dishes/underwear, better run over to Target and buy some more" system I had going as a single gal.

I never loved it, but I did feel proud of myself for being able to manage my home. Then, my husband got a "real" job and we moved to a city we expected to be in for a while and bought a much bigger house than we had been in before. I was expecting my fourth baby and was sicker than I had been with other pregnancies, then we decided the parish Kindergarten wasn't working for Jack and felt like the best option for our family would be to start homeschooling him.

I was bound and determined to be able to do it all. Apparently some ladies can (or have no choice but to) do it all themselves. I was not managing to. My husband had offered to get me the help I needed in babysitting or housekeeping (and so had my mom, I must have really looked like I needed it), but I was having stay-at-home-mom guilt. I figured that if I wasn't going to contribute to our family financially then I had better be the awesomest housewife that ever was.

But I was a mess.

We got a neighbor girl to come over and play with the kids a couple afternoons a week so that I could catch up on the housekeeping I now wasn't able to get to in the mornings because of homeschooling, but that just made me feel even worse if the house wasn't spit-spot when the husband came home from work. And it's not like the kids actually left me alone because she was there. It just meant I still didn't get much done, but now I was even more disappointed about it.

I was past the point of ever getting to deep cleaning, it was all I could do to get the dishes and laundry done and the floors and counters cleaned off occasionally, but you can forget about vacuuming and mopping and scrubbing. It just wasn't happening. And as the state of the house deteriorated, so did my sense of worth. My home was a visible sign of my failure as a homemaker. Not only was I not bringing any money in, my husband had to come home to a messy house and a grumpy wife.

Finally, my mom stepped in and insisted that I get some help with the housekeeping, because I was being stubborn. And me being so behind on the housework meant that when my parents came to visit us and the kids they just ended up helping me catch up with all the messes and that's not very fun.

We started out with help one day per week, and added another day or two as each new baby came along and now we're up to five mornings a week. And it is SO not a disaster.

I love her, my kids love her. She's worked for us for six years now and it feels like she is part of the family. My house is clean -- vacuumed and everything, and I'm able to focus my attention on mothering and schoolwork, which I find much more fulfilling than basic housework (and which I happen to think I'm much better at too.) Far from making me feel like I'm not a good wife and mother, it finally made me feel again that I was.

I like that during our summers in Chicago we have to manage our own laundry and general tidying. I feel better knowing that I could handle our laundry on my own, in case of a zombie apocalypse or something. (Although, I doubt laundry would be super-high on my priority list.)

you know you want to go here and buy this

If you are doing it all on your own because you must or because you are some kind of domestic superwoman, then you have my utmost respect. But if you could have help, but you don't because you think you ought to be able to manage it all on your own -- Knock It Off and get some help, woman. I wish someone had talked me into it earlier.

Because I really believe now that what we are trying to do currently in the western world is unprecedented in history and nearly impossible. Rich and middle-class women ALWAYS had help around the house. Poorer women lived multi-generationally and had the help of neighbors and friends. No one thought that they could grow and feed and clothe and educate and interact with and clean up after their children all by themselves. (And occasionally also pay attention to their darling husbands.)

Having tried it both ways, I can assure you that, for us, this way is much, much better.

Update: My kids do chores. See here for more on that.

Happy Sunday and Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin everyone! We're going to say a family rosary and eat off the good china and have birthday cake this evening.

Here's what I wore to Mass:

Dress: custom ordered from eShakti to have cap sleeves (my favorite, so I don't have to wear a sweater when it's 104 degrees) AND be long enough. I seriously love this site, and if you're a new customer you can sign up for a $30 off coupon!
Belt: Old Navy
Shoes: Zappos
Necklace/Earrings: Souvenir from Lisieux (they're roses!)
Bump: 28 weeks