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vintage housewife
"Such is the life of any Homemaker, and we're all homemakers now."

I admit that I was poisoned in early childhood from living in a normal family where the dad went to work each morning and the mom stayed home to "homemake," an occupation that seemed destined to drive the incumbent crazy. It worked as well as it worked for as long as it worked. My mom, who had always sort of leaned in the direction of crazy anyway, eventually instigated a coup and took a job outside the home, a financial necessity and a real challenge for my father to accept. By then, the kids were fully capable of picking up some of the homemaking duties, and we somehow survived. Since then, I've lived exclusively in homes where the homemaking duties were shared, though never without some tension. We each thought of ourselves as somewhat equal contributors, though in practice, one person tended to have more than their fair share foisted upon them, often due to their own sensibilities. Often, individuals overestimated what they personally contributed, thereby under-contributing, fomenting some strife. Typically, the expectation falls on the wife, however otherwise occupied she might become.

I try to do my fair share of homemaking, with varying degrees of enthusiasm.
Each class of chore carries personal baggage. I love to dust mop, for instance, but despise dusting shelves and tabletops. The Muse rather likes to dust, though often struggles to find the time to keep up with it. I usually vacuum, mop, and cook. She prefers to sort the laundry because she adopted a cryptic laundry sorting scheme. Parts of the place inevitably get neglected. For a while, we hired house cleaners to come in and square away the place, but The Muse found their work unsatisfactory and not just because they left the place smelling like a Super 8 motel room. Home keeping seems a very personal notion. Each contributor holds a well-ingrained standard for how it should be accomplished and can't help but feel as though they inhabit a barn if that standard isn't maintained. It was easier in the old, old days, when any shortcoming could be blamed on the Homemaker. Now it seems we all share culpability either in subtle finger points received or our own self-imposed guilts.

Keeping up with the weekly maintenance on a house necessary to sustain it as a home might be the most onerous occupation. It's basically thankless work, uncompensated and largely under-appreciated. It's the sort of work that speaks to the character of the contributor. We all seem to pass through periods when picking up a dust rag might actually kill us. We slack sometimes the way the old idealized Homemaker never would. The paging nature of the overall effort allows for more slack in the system but also enables more slacking. Homemaking might be the only effort where not feeling like doing something fully qualifies as a good enough excuse, since the slacker seems to share in the resulting punishment. I learned in college that one should never choose a dedicated slacker as a roommate, for they can only complicate everyone else's life while blithely never noticing their impact on everyone else's quality of life.

We try hard, though never quite hard enough. In early Spring we might dedicate a whole weekend to perform a concerted cleanse of the place, producing a real Home for the few following days. The dust will return, seemingly with a vengeance, however, and the obligation will never really leave. We've all visited people who maintained off-limits rooms, places where their accumulated Homemaker shortcomings could quietly repose out of sight of any outside observer. When I catch myself falling behind, I can't always find the motivation to respond. Then, we live in a house for a while, sometimes in a genuine pigsty. These moments eventually pass. I recognize that whatever else might distract me, I am always (though not always first) also a Homemaker. I rarely wear a red gingham apron, and not only because they make my butt look big. I usually plug in my headset, crank up a recorded book, and set to the work like a disembodied zombie. I regain consciousness about the time I'm emptying the vacuum. The Muse will notice what I missed more than what I accomplished. Such is the life of any Homemaker, and we're all homemakers now.

©2019 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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