The Fruits of Less Labour

It’s been hard to write lately because Gina is on an absolutely perfect sleep schedule and sleeping in her own bed.  HURRAY.  Except her own bed is next to the computer and so I can’t come in and write while she’s snoozing and when she’s not, I rarely can write.  So I have a backlog of things to rant about but I think that the fact my dishwasher broke down is a sign I’m supposed to pick this one: Labour Saving Devices.  Yes, labour with a u people.  (Side note: My new calendar for the school room is for use in either Canada or the US and therefore has a Labour Day and a Labor Day sticker to choose from…. soooo excited for a little subversion) Anyway moving right along: Labour Saving Devices.  Things like dishwashers and laundry machines and even electric mixers.  They do save labour, but I think there is a sort of price.  I think housekeeping used to be much more of an art form.  It took real skills, developed over a lifetime to be a succesful home economist.  Aside from doing dishes and mixing things smooth with only a wooden spoon and getting the stains out of your whites you could throw in making clothes and household furnishings.  Come to think of it, they aren’t devices but modern cleaning supplies make a big difference too.  I just scrubbed my bathtub clean with a pumice stone and I tell you what I learned all about the value of elbow grease.  All these ways to save labour are really about saving time, and saving time is great if you’re working at a job and trying to come home and get your home in order before you go back to work again.  There are days though when I really do wish that my labours took up more time.  Staying at home just to babysit machines which need buttons pressed and knobs turned once an hour is not very fulfilling.  When I do have a project like the tub that requires some serious time and effort I emerge feeling victorious in a job well done and also I have a lot less day to fill.  Also, I think machines can make it easier to do a poor job.  While I’ve been doing the dishes old school I notice that my dishes are sparkly clean in a way they aren’t coming out of the machine.  I do not possess the magical skills for getting stains out of babyclothes either, but so long as there’s a machine that’s going to make things passable rather than perfect, I’m going to use it.  So the downside of less work for me is threefold: 1) Less pride in a job well done 2) Less incentive to work to GET a job well done 3) Way more time on my hands than previous homemakers must have had, which translates to: lots of Boredom.  What’s my point with all this?  Well, I’m not a Luddite.  I shared these thoughts with my husband about 24 hours before my dishwasher quit, but you can bet I want to get that dishwasher up and running again, or retire it for a new one.  I guess it’s just part of a list I’m building.  One day, my pie in the sky dream is to write a little book for women like myself who are trying to juggle some old values with a new era.  Just to sound deep and intellectual I’m calling us “neotraditional” women.  Thing is, you can’t put us in boxes very well because part of the new era is that there’s a lot less commonality.  Every family runs quite differently because there aren’t as many societal rules about how things should go.  Still I would say this is one thing we have in common, at least my point number three.  There are definitely women who don’t have 1&2 because I’ve seen their immaculate houses and they should be proud.  Still, boredom seems to be a real curse of the stay at homes and then the question is what to do to about it.  I wonder if this is part of why women obsess so much over their children.  Hover parents.  There is a lot more attention available for them when you don’t have to say,” Bobby go play with Susie mommy  has to hang out the laundry”.  I wonder if it’s part of why kids are over-scheduled with extracurriculars; I know I prefer days where we have to run around doing errands because we aren’t stuck staring at the same four walls all day.  I wonder if this is part of why many women aren’t interested in staying home, because they want fulfilling work for themselves and don’t see any of that at home.  I wonder if it’s why some women spend too much time on facebook or start navel gazing blogs….hmmmmmm actually there’s no wonder about that last one.

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5 Comments

Filed under Homemaking, The Blog

5 responses to “The Fruits of Less Labour

  1. Veronica

    I agree and sometimes I want to do things old-school but then I realize I have become lazy from the ease of housework. I bought a swiffer recently. I dont need a swiffer…I have a broom and a mop and rags and a bucket. Why did I buy a swiffer? Does any one want to buy a second-hand swiffer?

  2. Tree

    I hear you! I don’t have experience with all of these, but as you know, I like to do my baking from scratch and usually without electric mixers, which takes longer but feels so much more satisfying in the end! Granted, it doesn’t always come out the way I would like, but inconsistency is the price I pay for being an amateur. The more practice I have, the better I’ll become, and the end result is absolutely worth it. 🙂

  3. John Janaro

    You are in a very particular phase right now when you have “just little kids.” It’s a tough time for educated young women with aspiring minds. Is it possible to fill that time with things that develop your mind? I think it must be. You should feel a sense of accomplishment about everything you write. It doesn’t have to be navel gazing; it can be broadening one’s horizons. You are “working” (I should say, laboUring) on the development of your own humanity–and I don’t mean this in the “self-fulfillment” sense, but in the sense of developing your capacity as a person, which means your capacity to GIVE yourself. It’s maternal too, because the more profound you are as a person, the more rich will be the educational experience of your children. Educating is about so much more than materials and activities and information. It’s about forming them as human beings. And they have been entrusted not to some “ideal mother,” but to *you* in particular, and every positive aspect of your human particularity is meant to shape them into the persons God intends them to be.

    So if life gives you time, struggle to use it to read and think and write, even if it doesn’t seem particularly “productive”–that’s not the point. It’s producing something in you which will build the cultural environment of your home and have a profound impact on your children.

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