I have been married for fifteen years. I have been a stay-at-home mom for eight years. If I count from the time I gave up on the PhD, my profession has been "housewife" or "homemaker" for five years.
And I am really, really bad at it.
I am a good cook and a good mom. I don't doubt those things, for the most part, except on emotional-trainwreck days, and we all have those. But the homemaking and housekeeping part of this life? I consistently stink at it.
In terms of career, if I had worked part-time and then full-time at the same job for fifteen years and the end product were this bad, I would feel obligated to look for a different job. Clearly this is not the one I am suited for.
I have friends who keep very clean houses and I often wonder how they do it. After a moment's consideration I usually remember that one or both of these things are true: 1) they have fewer than four kids at home or 2) they don't read books.
Maybe I am maligning those friends. Maybe they clean furiously without rest for eight hours each day and still take an hour to read Proust in the evening (full disclosure: I have never read Proust either). But when I compare my home to theirs (which, I know, is a deadly stupid thing to do - no good can come of it), it is slightly mollifying to remember that the things I would have to give up to be that tidy are things I would never be willing to give up.
But. But, but, but...
I am still really bad at this. My kitchen is always cluttered and seems to always have cocoa ring stains on the counter. For days at a time, my floors are actually crunchy. My mom-in-law, who is a lovely and generous person, always makes the place more orderly when she visits, and always does it without (verbal OR non-verbal) comment, though I am sure it must exasperate her (another full disclosure: her son, to whom I am married, is even worse at tidiness than I am, so clearly sometimes it skips a generation). My own mother refuses to go into my basement because the tasks to be done there overwhelm and depress her, and she often gives me gentle pep talks about how I need to address certain chores immediately and regularly so they don't pile up and feel too big to ever finish.
I clean, of course. We could not function if I didn't. When I wrote up my NaNoWriMo schedule, I became aware of how much I clean. I don't rest much. My kids get very excited if I sit down before evening reading time. But while I do enough to keep us clothed and relatively non-germy, it is not enough to be tidy. Here I am at 39, a decided lackluster performer at my chosen career. Maybe the house will be cleaner when all the kids are in school, but only if I never homeschool, and part of me still holds on to that dream. And I am wondering what comes next.
What about you? Are you of the cleanliness-is-next-to-godliness school? If you could give up cooking or cleaning, which would it be? How does the state of your home affect your life in general?