Thursday, November 29, 2007

Rolling a ball of laundry up a mountain

With all credit to my friend Christina for inspiring this idea

Recently my aforementioned friend Christina and I were discussing the drudgery of day to day life, especially for stay at home moms.
She said, roughly, that her husband doesn't understand the total monotony because he goes out to work everyday, works on a project to its completion then moves on to a new project. Never returning to the old project.
Whereas for her (and me and millions of other SAHMs) we wake up to the same house, same dishes to wash, same clothes to launder, same kids to scold, teach, bathe and feed, same exact messes to straighten up. Same same same.
There is no endpoint in the task.
Dishes are washed, dried and put away. Only to be taken back out, used, dirtied and left in the sink to "soak" by husbands and kids. Soak in what? Air and filth I suppose.
Clothes are washed, dried, folded and put away. Only to be worn, grimed up, worn out and tossed in a heap on the bathroom floor.
Our work is ephemeral, it is but a wisp of smoke. It briefly fills the air and then dissipates into nothingness.

Yesterday I picked up the same exact Strawberry "Corncakes" coloring pages from the kitchen floor at least five times. Then I caught the culprit (Dylan) in the act of pulling them down and almost went berserker.
The sound of my mother's voice filled my head...
"Remove the source of irritation..."
But I couldn't bear to put Dylan out in the cold or throw away the drawings, so I resigned myself to picking them up for the rest of the day.

I did two loads of laundry and THREE loads of dishes yesterday.
But then, after dinner there was even MORE laundry and MORE dirty dishes.
"Wheel in the sky keeps on turnin'"

When I lived alone, this was not such a problem. I'd pick up something, it'd stay picked up.
I'd wash a dish, and the dirties didn't magically multiply at the scent of water and soap.
At the end of the day there is nothing I can point to and say "Look at that, look at what I have done. I have cleaned a counter and it will remain clean for all time!"
It will be covered in jelly and chocolate milk tomorrow morning. Or ice cream blotches tonight.
In the life of a stay at home mom, there is no Parthenon. No monument for all time of our work. A vacuumed floor does not stay clean for long. Inevitably, the second you switch off the vacuum and feel accomplished, hubby or children will traipse in with rocks in their shoes and leaves falling out of their hair leaving a mud trail from the front door to the fridge where despite being packed to capacity they will find "nothing to eat".

There are never enough clean socks, clean forks or Pop-Tarts. There is always one less than what you need. Always.
No. There is no daily pat on the back for a stay at home mom. This job isn't a sprint to the finish, it's a long long loooooong distance race with hurdles, and moats and alligator pits.
You don't get to see the enduring fruits of your labor until you are old and gray and you visit your own children's homes and see them struggle to keep all the underwear clean and all the noses wiped and all the bellies full.
And then you see that your children and their children are filled with all the love, intelligence and happiness that you hoped for them, despite the endless daily grind of parent and adulthood, or maybe even because of it.
And there is your monument.


Anonymous said...

Isn't the fact that your kids aren't dead on a day to day basis (either by your hands or their own) accomplishment enough?!

Jessica said...

It's definitely a point of pride!

Judy said...

You are so right in all that you say. But I am a voice from the future telling you that when you get to that point in time when your kids are all grown and happy and putting away their own underwear, it is fantastic! I just arrived at that moment.

Only the other night I was at my 25-year-old son's house. I had just finished eating a delicious dinner cooked and served by my son and his girlfriend. My boyfriend and I were lying on the couch in front of the TV (at their insistence) while they cheerfully cleaned up the kitchen together and I actually had the thought that "This is it! I have arrived. All the hard work as a single parent is paying off right now." It was one of the best moments of my life.

And I'm only a little old and partially gray.

Tigerlilly said...

Thanks for the fantastic blog! I am stealing it and (with your permission of course) posting it on my blog for all the SAHM's to read!!

Our monument is something we can not see yet.. but with faith, it will be a grand one!


Jessica said...

Yes, steal away! My pleasure to share!

debdills said...

love the camus/sisyphus reference. =)