Copyright 2006 by Erin Chilcote
I’ve been a “housewife”, a “homemaker” a SAHM (stay-at-home-mom) for about 5 years. I love being home. I love the fact that my kids can come home and not go to a daycare. I am in charge of all things “house-related.” Bills – cleaning – cooking – school stuff . Am I lonely? Sometimes. Do I get bored – not really. Its not a matter of boredom as a matter or “just don’t feel like doing anything”. Can I take a break – not really. Or maybe I’m just saying I can’t. I guess the home life would still function if I chose not to clean the bathrooms today. I guess the kids would still have a happy home life if I decided not to scrub the kitchen floors. But would I be happy – no. As I’m sitting there enjoying my romance novel – the back of my mind is thinking – dirty floors, laundry piling up, the funny smell in the kids’ bathroom. The fair maiden and prince would have to simply wait.
I never used to be obsessive. Before SAHM-time, I was well-organized. I worked at a credit union pushing paperwork. I loved it. I loved organizing and making a routine. I was the one to call on to re-organize something. When I left to be a SAHM, I made up a huge binder of step-by-step instructions on certain processes for the new person to refer to. I was proud of that huge binder. I’m betting its long been trashed. My office was always neat – if a loan officer needed to find something – they could. Before I’d go home for the night, my desk was clean and ready for a new day. I cringe when I go back to visit and see my desk… sorry… my old desk. Files and papers everywhere. No sense of order. So I close my eyes and walk by the office door. “Don’t look”, I tell myself. During the time I worked, the house was fairing well. It wasn’t spotless, but it wasn’t a trash heap either. The weekends were laundry days. My husband would wash and I’d fold. Yes, I folded because I hated the way he would fold things. We only had 2 girls at that time and one was 2, the other 4. Easy enough. Dinners were made by whoever was home first. Most of the time, it was me. Nothing too creative – spaghetti, or hamburgers, or a chicken helper. It was food and we ate it. At night we’d ‘straighten’ up the house – never ‘clean’ it. Dust was ok… bathrooms lasted for a month or 2 before total scrubbing. It was fine. But by golly, at work, my desk was neat – never any dust – and nice smelling. It was organized – not obsessively clean – just organized.
If you were to call my mom and ask her if I was this clean as a child, you would probably have to wait for her laughing to subside. Could be a while. My room was classified as Grade A pig-sty. My sister hated sharing a room with me. Her side was always clean and mine was, let’s say, very unorganized. I had dust an inch thick on my dressers. I had make-up on the dresser doilies. My bed – I know I had sheets on it and they were clean because my mom washed them once a week. I just simply was not a clean child. A shower for me was turning on the water, in, out and dry. Some times I’d just wet my hands and dry them on the towel so it would appear that I took a shower. Gross, I know. My desk at school was a mine field. Stuff was just crammed in there. It was a danger zone. But my room was the worst. I can still hear my mom, “this room is a pig sty!” I think I still hear my mom laughing.
So now we are to present day. Am I still organized? Sure, but it borders on obsessive neatness. Everything has a place. If it is not being used, then it needs to be in its place. After all – I’m the one who is home looking at it all day. Toys have bins, or boxes or places to go. Animals sit neatly on the beds or floor. Is it a bit much – I don’t think so. I like to compare myself with my Aunt. All animals at her house were in bags in closets. I don’t ever remember seeing my cousins’ toys in their rooms – just in the basement. No posters on the walls. No weird toys on the dressers. Neat and tidy at all times. So compared to that….. I’m pretty good! My home is now basically what my office used to be. Organized. Neat. My new place to be proud of. I am proud of my house. After all, its my job and I should be proud of my job. I am proud that when people come over, everything is nice and clean. It like an artist after finishing a painting. My clean house is my work of art. When it has been cleaned, scented, straightened up – I sit back and enjoy it. It makes me smile. Then, anywhere from 5 minutes to 4 hours later, its gone. Someone has ripped my work of art to pieces. How could that happen?? Its called having a family. I now have 3 girls – ages 3, 7, and 9. Toys fly everywhere. Backpacks are tossed in the hallway. Paint is washed off hands into the newly cleaned sink. But don’t let me put it all on the kids. My dear husband is involved too. From crumbs left on my counters from peanut butter sandwiches, to clothing flung on the laundry room floor. I don’t smile. But, I don’t cry. I close my eyes and picture how my art used to look. I savor that for 3 seconds and begin the “stoop and scoop”.
I’ve given up telling my family how proud I am of my housework and that I’d like them to take a moment to savor it. They don’t understand my love of a clean house. They tell me I’m obsessive (I’ll accept that) or tell me to lighten up. My kids will go up to their room and say “wow mom, nice job on our room – it looks great”. By the time I finish saying “thank you”, the tornado has hit. I slowly back out of the room and close the door. Hopefully the Barbies had homeowners’ insurance. Hopefully Polly Pocket and her friends will be able to meet up again from all sides of the room. “Hi-ho Cherry-O, anyone? Not with only 2 cherries. I used to be really gun-ho on my older 2 keeping their room clean. I would tell them – when you are done playing with a toy – put it away. Now, I’m accepting being able to tell them at night – “please clear a path in case you have to go to the bathroom at night”. When I go upstairs to put clothing away, I just watch my step and move quickly. My 3 year old has her own room. Complete with those wonderful bins that sit on the rack system. A bin for everything. (here comes the obsessive – warning). Each bin has a category – music stuff – potato head stuff – dolls – baby stuff – puzzles – etc. It was perfect for me. I tried to tell my older 2 (the rack system used to be theirs) – “Look, each bin has a purpose. Now you can find things easier. Isn’t this great?” Apparently, I was the only one who saw the miracles in the storage bins. Anyway, so now my 3 year old has them in her room. I don’t expect her to understand the concept of grouping toy categories. I would help her clean up and just try to explain. After the 3rd time of helping her clean before her nap and finding that during the nap she would dump every bin into one big pile and build towers with the bins, I gave up. You would be laughing hysterically if you saw her room. Another room where the door is mostly closed.
The master bedroom. The bed is made or very neat looking every morning. I get up – I make the bed. Very simple. He always sees the beautifully made bed every night before crawling in. He knows I like having it made so if I need to set something on it, like clothing, its not a big mess. On the weekends my husband is the last one up. That’s fine – he’s up very early during the week. So after he has come down I head up to take care of putting away clothes or taking things upstairs. I glance in and am shocked. Evidently after my husband got up, a small hurricane made its way through our closed windows and onto the bed. Pillows are everywhere. The flat sheet is twisted and turned. The comforter is almost all the way off the bed. I look around. Hmm… nothing else in the room is in a state of disaster. Something tells me there was no hurricane. I ask my husband the obvious (the “here’s your sign” – thank you Jeff Foxworthy). “Did you make up the bed this morning”. I get a “no, I didn’t get a chance to.” What answer am I looking for? I’m not sure. Maybe a, “No, I’m sorry. I know you like it looking nice. I’ll take care of it”. I’d even accept a, “I did, but this little gremlin came in with his buddies and there was a big incident.” Now, don’t get all huffy. There are some mornings when he does try to help with the bed. He pulls all the covers straight up and does the karate swing-n-smooth. I’m good with that. It shows he cared. So that’s the bed part of the room. The rest of the room I dust and vacuum once a week. Again, I stand back and take pride in my work. My words of thank-you from my husband are somewhat disguised. I’m thinking that “you moved my stuff again” is code for “you’re the best – thanks for making our room look so utterly fabulous!” I shall move on.
Hello and welcome to Erin’s financial services. Who knew, as I was failing business accounting (intro) that I’d be making money stretch and do miraculous things!
I am in charge of the house money. My husband makes it and hands it over to me. I am responsible for paying all the bills, doing the grocery list and making the money last. This is quite a feat since my husband gets paid once-a-month. When I stopped working, I was able to re-do our finances and get all of our bills caught up and on time. I praised myself as a financial wizard! The kids were able to do outside activities and we would still have money for a little fun. Then my husband switched jobs to a one paycheck a month. Wow. All my had work had just been challenged. It was as if someone was saying, “ok – try this out!” It took a month or 2 but we were up and running. Strategic planning of the bills got them off schedule and back on schedule. Phone calls were made, lists were created and we were on a roll. Rather, I was on a roll. I would fill in my husband as to the status of certain accounts and he was happy. I dealt with the headaches, frustration and feelings of total failure when a financial glitch occurred. I was home, so I was the one to fix it. After all, my husband was at work and as he would remind me, “what do you expect me to do from here”. I know he was frustrated when he would say that. He couldn’t help – bottom line. He wanted to, but couldn’t. But it all worked out. I shop once a month for groceries. I plan our meals for the entire month and buy all the ingredients. The only thing we go back to the store and get is bread and milk, and of course, peanut butter. It works. Finances hum like a well oiled machine. Call me Lady Money-Spending.
My day starts out by waking up, getting ready and heading downstairs. I have 3 kids to feed breakfast. I have to make 2 lunches and get things ready for the two older kids for school – this includes checking to see if anything weird has to be sent in, making sure all homework is done, finding missing hats and gloves, etc. The two older kids are great at making their own breakfast. They clean up the dishes too. I get to sweep up the crumbs and throw out the napkins. Then its hair time. A lot of mornings my girls claim they combed their hair. They aren’t really lying – they did comb it. One side of it…. Or only halfway down. So we move into the hair discussion, then teeth brushing. Backpacks are packed and shoes and socks get put on. Then its 5 minutes every morning with my 7 year old. I think she picked up on my obsessive’s. Shoe-lace bows need to be almost the same on each side. Hair can not be sticking out. The line up the back of jeans needs to be in the middle of her rear end (her announcement, not mine). All of that – yet she gets angry when I tell her she can’t wear those pants because they come up to her ankle. Then onto my 9 year old. 3 out of every 5 school mornings, I have inadvertently done something to annoy her or make her angry. I never know when I do it – I usually don’t know what the “it” is that I’ve done. I get the glaring eyes, the “humphs”, and the “leave me alone” attitude. I think one morning my “bad” was telling her she had peanut butter on her cheek. Finally, its getting a hold of the 3 year old to get out the door. She has already taken her shoes back off and stolen her sister’s lunch box. We’re out the door and are either walking or driving to school. Kisses, hugs, and they are off. Then its back home for me and the little one. As I sit at my desk (yes, my desk), I ask her, “what shall we clean today”. She is a little behind on her speech, but by golly she can say “cleaning”. She even likes to help – for about 5 minutes, then she finds a pencil and does her Picasso rendition on the wall. Do I panic – no. Not any more. Why? I know all the secrets to getting various things off walls, fabric, carpets, glass, dolls, etc. Another thing I’m proud off. I’m the life-line for my sister. “Oh my gosh, Erin. One of the girls got black crayon all over the wall!”. “No fear, my dear sister. Write this down.” She’s happy and I’m looking for my name to be in the paper. “Erin saves the day again!”
My days are made up of shopping or cleaning or a little of both. The night before, as I’m laying there falling asleep, my last thoughts are “what needs to get done tomorrow”. Do I dream of sponges, vacuums, and scrubbing bubbles? No. But you can bet that the places I visit in my dreams are clean. I know what I would like to get done during the week. Its kind of a mental list of goals to accomplish. No one knows of these goals – not even my husband. One of these days, I’ll have to make myself a goal chart with stickers. Today, I am planning to clean the upstairs 2 bathrooms, clean the kitchen floor and run to the bank. Already I’ve had to post-pone the kitchen floor. Its purely logical. Its raining today. My floor will be sparkling in the light, until the kids come home from stomping in puddles and tromp across the floor. I won’t do that to myself. So, it gets bumped to tomorrow. The bathrooms will get done. I can’t stand a dirty bathroom. When I was older (high school), I used to help my mom by cleaning the kids’ bathroom. She showed me how and I actually took notes. I should have known then about my destiny. I have since altered the notes, they are all in my head too. My biggest complaint with bathrooms is the off-smell. Not a bad smell, just no smell. I won’t do the toilet bowl scented things – they get too messy. I love the smell of a scented candle but with a 3 year old, can’t leave a candle burning that low. I was in my mom’s bathroom the other day. As soon as I opened the door, I was greeted by a beautiful scent of flowers. That’s what I wanted for my bathrooms! Renuzit to the rescue. Now I can be happy.
Every other day I vacuum. I have a 3 year old who likes to grab cereal and eat on the move. I also have a dog who sheds a little. Its enough where I feel I need to vacuum. When we decided to get a dog, I made a vow to myself that we would never have dog hair all over the place and all over clothing. I wanted people to say, “oh, you have a dog?” That included a house free of wet-dog smell. That’s what my cinnamon candle in the kitchen takes care of. I saved my money and bought a terrific vacuum. The Dyson. The Suck-king. It will suck the lint out of your bellybutton (please don’t try). Its that good. I love my vacuum. Not in the weird way – I mean, I haven’t named him or anything. The vacuuming also includes the sweeping of the kitchen. I use a broom. It can get into corners, under things, etc. For Christmas 2 years ago, I asked Santa for a new broom and got one. I was totally happy! This year for Christmas, Santa brought my 3 year old her very own broom – my little helper.
My kitchen is the center of my home life. I eat there, read the paper there, cook there, etc. My father and I just finished re-doing the kitchen. New cabinets (ones I can now wipe off), new countertop, and a new floor. With the new kitchen came new rules for my family. A special cabinet was put in for the kids’ school stuff. There are 3 shelves so each child has their own shelf for homework books, lunchboxes, etc. There is a drawer for pencils, paper, erasers, markers, etc. Organization. The kitchen counters must be free from anything not kitchen related. I don’t want to find newspapers stacked on it, or toys on it. Back to the every thing has its place. Newspapers that are done with go out to the recycling tub in the garage. Dirty dishes go in the dishwasher or sink. Do not clutter my countertops with them. Try to keep the counters clean. This is where my husband comes in. I understand – he gets hungry. He loves his peanut butter sandwiches. I don’t understand why he cannot clean up the crumbs when he is done. When he gets a sandwich, he obviously needs a drink. Peanut butter can be tricky, you know. So we get our iced tea with sweet and low. Some days its one packet, some days two. How do I know? Because I’m the one to clean up the used packet wrappers and place them into the trash bag that sits 2 feet away. I’ve jokingly bugged him about the crumbs and wrappers. I don’t want to seem like a harping wife. But, again, I’m proud of my kitchen and it hurts when he doesn’t see my pride and it gets stomped on. So silently I scoop the crumbs into the sink, pick up the wrappers, and decide the next day I’m going to move stuff on his dresser in the bedroom. Yes, payback.
How many of us go into someone’s house and look around thinking, “oh, I could really make this place shine”. Ok, so just me. Is it more of the obsessiveness or just the desire to make the world beautiful. Yup, I agree – the obsessive side. One of my jobs in high school was a hotel maid. I did pretty well – learned a lot of tricks and made some good money. I also learned how people can be complete slobs and how others can be organized like me. It was an eye-awakening experience. So back to the visiting of other people’s houses. There are a lot of people who work outside the home and do not have the time like I do to concentrate on the house. I’ve often dreamed of being their saving hero. Of being able to do what they cannot do. Yes, I know there are Jiffy-maids and other maid services. I’d like to think I’d do a better job. My fault would be in wanting to also organize their house in addition to cleaning it. That could cause problems. Is it a gift I have or a curse. Who knows. I recently helped my sister move into her new house. Ok, I didn’t do any of the moving. I cleaned it. She told me the house looked pretty clean. I objected. “Trust me”, I said, “its not as clean as you think”. So that is what I did. Cleaned, vacuumed, scrubbed, etc. I was proud of my work. I know it probably looked the same as before, but I knew it was cleaned. I also had surprised my parents about 3 months ago. They went to NC to visit my brother. “I know!” “I’ll go clean the house”. I knew my mom was busy and with the holidays coming up, I could help her out. I went over with my own cleaning supplies and a note to leave behind from the “Cleaning Fairy”. She called when they got home and asked if I had done it. “yup”, I said very proudly. “Well,” she said, “did you clean the top of the refrigerator?” “Did you get under the couches?” I didn’t quite know what to say. I was shocked. I had done, what I thought, was a super job and she was checking my work instead of saying “thank you”. That was a hard thing to take. We both laughed it off, but it was still hard. My art, the critic, and the failure.
I feel like that every now and then with my own house. There are days when I spend hours cleaning – the house sparkles. My husband comes home and doesn’t notice. Maybe I keep the house too clean where he can’t see the difference. Maybe I should let it go to hell, then super clean it. He’d see the difference then… wouldn’t he? Under-appreciation – its one of the side-effects of being a SAHM. Its not just in the cleaning, but in many other things. Fixing a pair of jeans that your daughter adores. You had them over and she says “oh, ok” and throws them on her bedroom floor. You spend the extra money you have on a new shirt for a child instead of socks to replace your holey ones. You get a “cool” and then she doesn’t wear it. Does the negativity stop us from our “jobs” or from thinking of the kids and husband before ourselves – No. I look back and realize I did the same thing to my mom. It is only now that I fully appreciate everything she did for me. Thank you mom. It is with that thought that I keep doing what I’m doing. Someday my 3 girls will look back and say, “Crap – mom didn’t have to do all that and we never said Thanks”. A late Thank-you is better than none at all.
I am the Queen of my castle. I am also the
cook, serving wench, servant, and wizard (making cookies appear out
of thin air and finding the eluding glove or shoe). I love my
castle. It is my canvas upon which I express my deepest
thoughts and feelings. My castle is me. My castle
represents me. I’d do anything for my castle and for the
inhabitants of the castle. All I have to be proud of is my work
here. I’m not writing doctorial theses to save the
world. I’m not fixing 30 computers that were attacked by
a virus. I’m not pushing that paperwork that gets you a
loan or a new car title. I am a housewife, a homemaker, a
SAHM. Now, off to tackle the bathrooms. Wish me luck.
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