Friday, December 13, 2013
Old Fashioned Homemaking
Guest post by Linda Bailey
I grew up with the world’s best homemaker. I was born in the latter part of the fifties when women primarily stayed home and took care of their families. There were two boys and I was the only girl; my mom and dad were grooming me to become a homemaker like Mom. We lived in the Midwest and this was the way a lot of girls were brought up at the time.
My mom was not raised in a wealthy family with privilege; her dad was a house painter and her mom stayed at home. Around the age of seven or eight her dad was called into the army to fight in WWII. Even though she had a brother that was a couple years older she took over the household chores after school because Grandma went to work at the factories. She was getting on the bus with a large duffle bag of laundry to get it done before her mom came home. She was not asked to do it, she just did. When I think about that it blows my mind. She cleaned house, took care of her younger sister and tried to watch out for her brother, and cooked dinner before Grandma came home from work. She stood in the bread lines and went to the store. The house was spotless and she was in full control at the ripe old age of eight.
Being raised by the world’s greatest homemaker was not easy and it did not necessarily mean that I would become the best homemaker. I am extremely grateful for all the wonderful things that Momma taught me but I have also suffered because of her abilities. I was born a shy and introverted soul; I was not aggressive and did not set out on my own to tackle jobs that needed to be done like Mom.
From the time I can remember she sat me up on the counter to watch her make pie crust and fillings from scratch. She taught me how to cook everything she knew how to cook. She showed me how to make a bed, iron clothes, wash clothes, and fold clothes. She also taught me the right way to sweep. I bet some of you did not know there was a right way to sweep, did you? I learned how to wash the dishes in the correct order; we did not have a dishwasher at the time so this was very important. The things that went into your mouth went first because we did not change out the water in between items. The silverware, then the glasses, then the plates and bowls, and then the pots and pans last. And then when you are done you dry them and put them away in their proper place.
My brothers and I were supposed to take turns doing the dishes but my oldest brother found a way to shirk his dish washing duties. He would always leave food on them and they would go up half dry to boot. Mom told me that I had to do the dishes because he was not good at it. Why didn’t I think of that? But he got mopping duty which I did not care for much so we were good. He also had all the outdoor chores which really kind of irked me because I loved being out of doors. But back in the day it was not work for women.
I was taught the right way to clean a bathroom too and I absolutely hated cleaning the toilet, especially with two brothers! There is a right way to vacuum and a right way to fold towels, there is a right way to do everything in the house. Mom not only knew how to do it right but she was fast as lightening. So much so that we kids learned really quickly that if she told us to clean our rooms a couple times that she would end up doing it for us if we waited long enough. And by long enough I mean like thirty minutes tops. She flew around the house and she could not stand it if something was not clean.
But, and realize when I tell you this that I love my mother dearly, even if you did clean your room, sweep, vacuum, dust, fold, etc. she would come behind you and fix it to make it look perfect. I realize now that I am much older that it was something she could not help. I also realize that she had a less than perfect childhood even through a set of circumstances that could not be helped. I would think that many people during the depression and WWII found themselves in similar situations. Regardless of the reason behind my mom’s compulsiveness, it made it hard on me growing up and as an adult female with my own family.
I never felt as though I measured up to Mom and I never felt as though I did a good enough job cleaning. And when Mom found herself alone after my dad was gone I invited her to live with me when I started my family. Since Mom was there and she was in her element I just kept working because there certainly did not need to be two of us at home except the fact that I missed my babies terribly. She was so good to bring them to my work at lunch and I had a good job and was able to get lots of time off. When they started school I was able to be there for the parties, assemblies, and all the important school functions. But I knew she could do a better job than I ever could with the house and the kids.
I am telling you this not to feel sorry for myself but to give a heads up to all those mothers out there who go behind their children and do the work over again. Or those mom’s that take on their children’s chores because they are not fast enough and they can not tolerate anything that is less than perfect. It makes most children lazy and for some of us it can create feelings of inadequacy and inferiority. Not only did it do that to me but I was also unable to make decisions. Because I was shy and quiet my mom being the strong woman she was tried to help me by making decisions for me. I am in my fifties and am just now getting the confidence to decide some things for myself and not look to Mom for all the answers.
I have also learned that even if I am not as fast as Mom or as good at cleaning as Mom that what I do is enough. It has taken me all these years to figure out that I am okay how I am and also that Mom was not deliberately trying to make me feel inadequate. I knew that in my heart because her attitude was never wrong, but I did blame her in my twenties and thirties for making me feel and act the way I did. I wasted a lot of time blaming instead of concentrating on what I could do to change the way I felt. But then most of us do when we are young: looking for someone to blame.
I am so very thankful that my mom taught me all the right ways to clean and take care of my home. I am also thankful that she cared enough about me to try and protect me and help me as a child. She did not realize that she was handicapping me in some ways. And I realize also that I passed some of this down to my own children. My oldest girl has always been just like Mom in the way she takes charge and sees things that need to be done and tackles them. But my son who is seven years younger than my daughter has always been slow to do his work and half does things. Not only that but he would make such an issue out of doing anything that it was just easier for me to step in. Shocking as it sounds I did a lot of things for him that he should have done for himself. I took a lot of responsibilities from him that now that he is a young adult have disabled him to a degree. So now that I see how it all works I have a greater appreciation for Mom and how she did things with us kids. And the fact that she was twenty three when she had all three of us kids I am even more compassionate towards her and the way she raised us. I did not start having my children until my late twenties.
I wish I would have understood Mom earlier and understood the way I was feeling. I wish that not only for myself but for my children as well. And I hope that by telling you my story that those of you just starting out with children might be able to watch out for these pitfalls of being the perfect homemaker. As your children grow up they will thank you for being a little less perfect and a great deal more concerned about training your child for their good.
This post is contributed by Linda Bailey from housekeeping.org. She is a Texas-based writer who loves to write on the topics of housekeeping, green living, home décor, and more. She welcomes your comments which can be sent to b.lindahousekeeping @ gmail.com.
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