After this week, I have a whole new respect for housekeepers. Not people hired to keep other folks' houses - no, the women who cook, clean, wash, and care for everyone and everything in their own houses.
My mother's been gone this week -- at a teaching conference which she attends almost every year and which is her relaxation and vacation for the year. She went by train, this year, and since the conference is in Dallas this time around it's a two-day trip, each way. She left Tuesday, early, and won't be back until Sunday evening.
This leaves me, as the eldest girl, in charge of the household. I figured it would be pretty easy. Cook dinner a couple nights a week - the kids each have a cooking night, so that would be easy. Breakfast is a piece of cake - scrambled eggs and toast aren't exactly difficult to prepare. The laundry needs keeping up with, but what's a load or two of laundry every day?
I am disillusioned. It has been only three days, and already I am exhausted! Eggs and toast aren't hard to prepare - but one has to be up and awake in order to prepare them. And there's the washing up afterwards. It's not hard to run a load of clothes through the washer - but one has to remember to go back, fetch them out, and hang them on the line. And then remember to go back and turn them for even drying. And then remember to go back and bring them in before darkness and dew. It's not hard to cook dinner, but there's the planning, the shopping - and the cleaning up afterwards. And meanwhile, while you're hanging laundry or washing dishes or catching a few minutes of rest, the floors need sweeping, there's an accumulation of clutter on the coffee table, and your younger siblings are doing something they're not allowed, because Mummy's not here and they think they can get away with it.
I knew all this, in theory. I've watched my mother try to keep up with all of it over the years - and she's home schooled us all at the same time, too. I knew she didn't find it easy; I knew we were often disorganised, behind in something. The carpets weren't always vacuumed, dinner was late, and the garden never got weeded unless I did it. Now I'm looking at the weeds and saying "They can wait!" -- and the only reason I'm planning to vacuum today is because we have company coming.
This is all without mentioning trying to deal with an 18-year-old brother who thinks he's immune to all authority, parental included but ESPECIALLY that of his older sister. We won't go there.
The most difficult thing for me has been not the cooking or the cleaning or the whole organisational aspect of housekeeping; it's been juggling all this while keeping an even temper and a sweet disposition. I'm sadly inclined towards shortness and snapping when I'm stressed or tired, and it's been almost impossible to deal with minor crises and small annoyances in a righteous manner. The siblings annoy me, some plan or other doesn't go quite right, and I bite someone's head off. I hate this, and I've spent most of my odd moments the last few days praying for a calm spirit. I guess maybe God wanted me to learn a lesson this week! ;-) But again I'm impressed with the magnitude of the job so many women bear every day.
I realise I'm probably preaching to the choir here - after all, most of my readers, I think, are mothers and homemakers themselves. Well, my hat is off to all of you! I think that anyone who is under the impression that being a homemaker or a stay-at-home mother is easy should be obliged to try it himself for a week. I think he'd be singing a different tune by the end of it!
And I'll be very, very glad to hand the reins back to my mother on Monday morning.