After our housekeeper quit right after we got back from R&R in August I took some domestic tasks back on myself. As we all know very well by now, none of those tasks included scrubbing toilets because I don't scrub toilets. But they did include doing my own laundry. I always had little respect for women who let their housekeepers do their laundry (yes, sometimes I'm a judgmental jerk) until I let mine take the task off my hands. Then I realized that's it's really nice not having to spend two hours folding and putting away laundry every week and I justified myself by taking the children on a walk instead.
But when Asli abandoned me I got that task dumped back into my lap along with ironing Brandon's shirts - six a week, something that I've never done.
So I did what any mother should do: I enlisted the help of my children. Now lest you think that they were willingly enlisted and we live in a fairy-land where we all sing songs everyday and blow each other kisses and never speak above a pleasant murmur, we don't. Maybe we occasionally visit the outskirts of a place that is neighboring that place, but we don't live there. We live in a place that is a lot more loud, messy, and rude called reality. Anybody who claims to live anywhere else is selling something.
But one of the wonderfully great things about living in our particular reality is that I can be the loudest and the rudest of the inhabitants, I am bigger than most of them, and they can't get away from me. When I made castles in the air about homeschooling while Kathleen was getting to the age where I could put foundations under them, child labor was always a major portion of those castles. Some of the earliest parts. Since I direct everyone's time I can direct everyone to help me.
Before I start getting nasty comments (well, that would be if anyone other than friends who wouldn't be nasty anyway actually read this), I would like to point out that we all have different views on work and childhood. I have a good friend with six children and a very busy husband who is one of the nicest people I've ever known. I don't think I've ever heard her actually speak above a pleasant murmur, and she lives to serve other people. I look at her and think how many good qualities of hers I don't possess and and am working on. Since she never wants to put anyone out of their way she ends up taking a large portion of the household responsibilities on herself. Childhood is precious and only happens once and so children should be allowed to enjoy it. That is her view.
That's not my view. I try to let my children enjoy their childhood, but I also give them responsibilities. I need the help and they need to learn basic household responsibilities. And I need the help.
So, every Monday I haul everyone's laundry upstairs at 5 am and start the first load. During my exercise, breakfast, school, and lunch, I change the loads every hour. By the time I wake up from my nap, everything is dried and sorted into baskets (I do this after each load). One for me, one for Kathleen, and one for Sophia. In my basket I have my clothes, Brandon's clothes, Joseph's clothes, sheets, and large towels. Kathleen has her clothes and Edwin's clothes. Sophia gets the small towels, washcloths, and her clothes. Everyone folds the contents of their baskets and puts them away. Then we repeat the next Monday.
Having the girls fold and put away their own clothes has required me to let go of my OCD tendencies. I like the clothes to be folded in a very particular way, and the girls don't even come close to it. I also like drawers to be neat and every time I see long-sleeved shirts co-mingling with short-sleeved shirts and pants in the skirt drawer and unmatched socks hiding in the underwear I have to close my eyes and turn away. "It's their clothes," I chant to myself, "their drawers. I have nothing to do with them. I don't fold them, I don't put them away, I don't wear them, and I never have to look in them." Then I resist the urge to rearrange everything.
Occasionally I'll give up and rearrange Edwin's because he didn't have anything to do with the haphazard stuffing of pants and shirts into the wrong places (usually Kathleen is running up against dinner and finishes sloppily) and really he needs to be able to find his clothes, right? Last week when Sophia caught me at it, she rearranged her drawers too and I had a small thrill of moral victory. Keep things neat and maybe they'll also learn to see that it's a good thing.
But for now, I'll take my victories where I can, and the biggest victory all is forty-five minutes. Forty-five minutes to fold my basket and put everything away. Then laundry is done until next week. And that is a wonderful thing.