Recently I read an article in Time Magazine titled “Chore Wars”. The piece began by describing something most of us recall: how when large numbers of women began working out of the home, they would come home at night and have to do all the home and family duties as well. These were the ”Super Women”, and many of them were understandably frazzled until their husbands realized that keeping a home is not only “woman’s work”.
When a woman is away from her home for many hours each week, she does need help—especially when there are children to care for. Fortunately for me, my husband has never been uncomfortable with helping. At various periods when our children were growing up, I did the bookkeeping and office work for our family business. My office was at home, so I could always be on hand. Yet the work was time consuming, and vitally important. Joe often pitched in and fixed a Sunday pancake breakfast, or a yummy supper of Swedish meatballs so that I could take a “time out” during those busy years.
Joe continues to help me a lot, even now that we are retired with lots of leisure. He cheerfully vacuums and folds laundry when needed—which, given my chronic spinal issues, is quite often. But formerly many men of our generation (and older) would have considered their manhood compromised—and wouldn’t have been caught dead doing “woman’s work”. It was a blessed break-through for women with outside careers, when their husbands began to carry a share of the jobs at home. When a husband and wife share their duties, ”home” can always be a place of refuge and refreshment.
Meanwhile, back to the “Chore Wars”. Even though I’m an analytical reader, I found nothing in that magazine article with which I could take issue—except for a ”vibe” that I picked up on my ”attitude radar”: a sense that the writer of the article puts most aspects of homekeeping in the category of drudgery. I was annoyed by the author’s subtle inference that homemaking is a burdensome “chore” rather than a precious privilege to be savored and nurtured in a spirit of creativity, with the priorities of providing comfort and a creative quality of life.
As I read the article, I recalled those years when I worked as an office person. I remember the tremendous relief that swished over me whenever I finally finished balancing the ledger for the day. (Yes we had ledgers where, just like Scrooge, we entered the Accounts Payable and Accounts Receivable and balanced each page with our head math rather than by calculator—while detecting and correcting even the slightest discrepancy, be it only 7 cents.)
How liberating it was when I could close the huge ledger, leave my office, and go for a walk with a child. How refreshing it was to prepare a meal for the family and guests, wash my china and polish the silverware, make a batch of soap, putter in the garden, or hang the clothes on the line outdoors. How relaxing and soul-satisfying to iron vintage tablecloths and pillowcases—while inhaling the fragrance of line dried linens, steamed and pressed.
I was blessed to have a husband who was willing to help when necessary—and I was thankful that, in the later years, I could hire a cleaning lady to assist me on occasion. But my home has always been my sanctuary—the only place on earth where I consistently want to be!
How do we view our work? It’s a matter of attitude!
Margaret L. Been ©2011