My dear mom set the standard for me. Her home was always clean and tidy. Unfortunately I learned the standard, but did not learn the system. Her clean house was very important to her (and I’m grateful I grew up with order), but it wasn’t always easy for the rest of us to attain.
My two sisters and I learned how to work while growing up. In fact, I fear I was not as skilled as my parents at holding my own children to a regular schedule of work; meaningful work that would have benefited the family and eased the load on my husband and I. In my heart I longed to develop this, but in practice, I was not consistent.
My sisters and I had regular chores that were expected of us. We laugh (and marvel) today at our after-dinner routine. My mom would not even say a word; she would just get up and remove herself to the living room, her hard work done for the day. My sisters and I knew then that the kitchen was ours to clean. We created our own systems of what was fair in regard to who did what jobs, but we knew the standard and would not dream of leaving the kitchen until the work was done to our mom’s expectations.
During summers my dad carefully left a list of jobs on the counter for us girls before he left for work. These were outside jobs on our 10-acre truck and hobby farm. We knew they needed to be done before he got home that evening, but more accurately they needed to be done before we did anything of our own choosing that day. We laugh (now) about the hard nature of many of these outside jobs that my dad required of us, but acknowledge that we usually rose to the occasion and in the process learned life-long work skills and unwittingly had our character developed in the process.
It is a great regret of mine that I lacked courage, creativity, and intentionality in equipping my own children with a similar skill set. I did not give them consistent opportunities to do hard things for the benefit of the family, thereby leaving to chance the development of that sense of accomplishment and satisfaction that comes from a day’s work done and done well. Who knows, perhaps this teaching will skip a generation and somehow my children will acquire what I lacked to teach and train their own children; that they would expect of them meaningful, regular jobs to the benefit of the child himself and to the family as a whole (see June 14 and 15 posts).
Well, while my sisters and I did our outside jobs, mom was working hard managing her housework and her gardens. Unfortunately, this meant we did not learn her system for effective housekeeping. What’s more, early in my marriage, I rejected the critical model my mom had employed which brought about results, but made for a rather uptight family, always sure we were not meeting the standard.
Expectedly, I floundered in my housekeeping. I maintained my home with a lick and a prayer, putting out fires rather than being systematic. I was suffering from an impossible standard with no tools to attack my duties in a logical, manageable manner. Later I learned that I was suffering from a condition called C.H.A.O.S—Can’t Have Anyone Over Syndrome! You can maybe imagine, then, how it seemed the clouds lifted and the birds and angels began singing when I stumbled upon a website that would finally give me hope and direction.
It is this website I will introduce in my next post.
[Illustration: We Help Mommy, Eloise Wilkin, c. 1959, Random House, Inc.]