WARNING: To those with serious housework phobias, the below post may cause permanent psychological trauma.
When I was a girl, I dreamed of being a mum. I used to draw pictures of what my house would look like, right down to the picket fence, the horse stables and paddocks, the pot plants in the house….. I
was am a dreamer!
Eventually I grew up and my dream of being a mum came true. I was going to be the best mum EVER. Sorry to all you other wannabes, but this one is mine. I’ve got it nailed, okay?
Alright, maybe not, but I certainly had the passion for it. Surely no one else loved their children as much as ME.
When I first got married and my husband was studying part time as well as working (hmmmmm, some things never change!), I used to dust the architraves. Do you even know what they are? 🙂 I probably only do because my father was a builder, so for those who don’t know, they’re the little strips of wood that go across the tops of window and door frames. Whilst we’re at it, I used to dust the skirtings (the strips of wood that cover the join between the floor and the wall). And yes, the louvres on the wardrobe doors got a good go over, too. Every. single. week! These days I’m lucky to dust, well, anything!
All this to say that my heart was truly in my home. My home was my castle. And when children came along, I was going to be Mum of the Year. Every single year.
Sadly, I don’t think I’m worthy of the prize. Not because I’m not good enough, but because, somewhere along the journey, I started to lose my way. My focus. Life got hard, and I got distracted.
My move to unschooling, and then radical unschooling, has really helped me to find a much better way of being with my kids. But my focus on hearth and home was sorely lacking. I love to go out and about having adventures with the kids, but when it comes down to being a home maker, I was sorely lacking! I think it’s partly because I’m an extrovert and also an ideas person, so I tend to be either out and about …. or at home, with my head in a book or computer, reading, learning and discovering.
Years ago I read a book called The Myth of the Perfect Mother, which talks about four “Green Focus Areas” involved in mothering: Tasks, Relationships, Ideas and Strategies, and how understanding them can help free us from “mother guilt”. We are each strongest in one of these (our personal Green Focus area) and usually have another focus area that is somewhat strong (our Yellow Focus area). Together, they form our Green Light Profile. We obviously also have a Red Light Profile, but if we can find ways of adding a bit of green to our red area, it helps it not to be so… well, RED! For example, a mother whose green light is tasks and whose red light is relationships might choose to look for things they can DO while spending time with their children (eg. crocheting while watching a movie, or doing projects together etc).
I used to think I was purely a relationships focussed person, but after reading this book I realised I am also very strong in the “ideas” area; hence why I often had my head in a book for hours or days on end as a child, and still do today (although my “book” is often a computer now). So for me, my profile is:
GREEN FOCUS AREA: Relationships and Ideas (hence why I love spending time with family and friends, and also reading and learning online and in books)
RED LIGHT AREA: Tasks!
What is housework? Tasks! I seriously get bored with it! I cope better if I’m doing tasks with one of my kids, or if I can listen to an audio book or at least lose myself in my thoughts, whilst completing a task. Whenever we move house, my poor husband keeps finding me reading the newspapers I’m meant to be packing our crockery in!
I tend to live my life in a kerfuffle, busily doing anything and everything outside of the home, or having fun with my children, or visiting with friends, or reading and writing myself into a stupor.
All of that is WAY more exciting than housework, yes?
What I had forgotten was that putting effort into my house helps to create a home. Home isn’t just about having great conversations with the kids, taking them to cool events and activities, or researching better ways of living and doing things, although for me those things will always be WAY funner than housework! It is also about putting effort into creating a warm and welcome space for our family to relax, connect and enjoy ourselves. It is about creating food to enjoy together. It is about me being unhurried so that my children sense my availability. It is, sadly, also about housework. 🙁
There! I said it! I’ve finally admitted that when I don’t fold the washing until it is a momentous mountain we can’t see over, people feel a wee bit frustrated (alright, MASSIVELY frustrated) because they can’t find the missing t-shirt, or undies, or that sock down the crack of the lounge, and they waste a lot of time searching for the all-elusive article. And also, there are rapidly reducing options of somewhere to sit! Although unfolded washing does in a way add another layer of padding, albeit a bit bumpy! (And yes, I know they could fold the washing, but that is the subject for another post!). I’ve realised that when I don’t plan what we’re going to eat for dinner until, well, dinner time, dinner usually doesn’t happen, or it is so late that everyone’s given up and helped themselves to other food and eaten alone. (Yes, I know they could do the cooking, but you also know that’s the subject for another post!) When the house looks really uncared for, my children can feel uncared for, too. When I remember that caring for my house is another way of caring for my family (relationships), or listen to a podcast whilst cleaning and tidying (ideas), it adds a whole lot of “green” to my red light (tasks). And trust, me, tasks like housework need to be a LOT more interesting for me to find the momentum to do it, or at least do more than start it! 🙂
I realised I need to “come home”. To regain my focus on hearth and home, as an act of love for my family, which also creates a space that welcomes friend and neighbour, because there is more likely to be a washing-free lounge to sit on (and trust me, it is VERY embarrassing to realise your male visitor is sitting on a pile of your undies!), space to make and enjoy a cup of tea, and a prepared meal ready to offer the unexpected visitor (or one’s own children).
There is obviously a balance here, and what we each need to learn is often different to our neighbour. One lady we lived next door to was SUCH an early bird with her housework and getting the washing on the line, that the only way I was ever able to beat her was to hang it out the night before and have a 12 hour headstart! So yes, some mums needs to lighten up on the housework, and simply play more with their kids. Others of us need to remember that we’re NOT kids (although we still REALLY like to play!) and we need to rise to the occasion, taking responsibility for creating the home that symbolises our heart for our family.
I recently heard the term “house blessing” in reference to house work. And that’s what I want to do: to start seeing that the practical aspects of being a full-time mum are important, too, not just the relational aspects. And in fact, by putting effort into running our home more efficiently and creating a more ordered, beautiful space, I am blessing my family. I am helping to create that warm and welcome space that invites them, too, to “come home”.
What about you? What is your green light? What is your red light, and how can you make it greener?
DISCLAIMER: It is quite possible that some of us may actually be allergic to housework, and if so, paying a house cleaner also adds LOTS of green to the red area of housework 🙂