12 February 2010

Housewifery and him called god

So no big secret  - I am not a housewife, even though I was in a solid dutch training camp from the age of 4. Yes, 4. I remember crying to the point of needing a glass of water because I had to make my bed. I think I was imprisoned in my room until I did it.  I recall my father had to come in for a pep talk - i think it involved making beds in the Air Force...i can't imagine I was expected to turn out hospital corners, but tuck under i did, and i thought the job terrible and eternal and worth a good cry.

I was the oldest daugher of four. This meant I baked from the age of 10, producing about three items consistently every saturday for the weekend festivities. Born in a dutch Calvinist household the festivities meant after church coffee - often with friends or family invited over after church...later when we were Anglican for a while, my husband and I puzzled over how the "Anglos" would go home for a Sherry and Sunday Dinner...with not a drop of coffee inbetween. Even though our lives and routines are very different, we still have this ingrained habit to sit Sunday mornings and relax with lots of coffee.

Back to training camp. Whenever we came home from school on fridays, the house would be turned upside down with cleaning. You know how you might clean up the house real well once a year or after you change things around? Well thats what happened...every friday. The house would smell of vinegar and Mr. Clean and we could not sit anywhere or breathe, for that matter, without my mother raising her eyebrows in a "respect my hard-earned clean" look.

By the age of 10 (the threshold age of housewifery?)the dusting and the bathrooms were left for me to clean every friday. I did not mind this so much as long as I could listen to ABBA on the stereo. One of these bathrooms was referred to as the "boy's bathroom" as only my brother's used this one. Why I, at the age of 10 had to clean their bathroom? - well, I know, and so do you. I was in training to clean up after men and boys.  I should have protested, but i did not... until I moved out of the house and came back a 20 year old blossoming feminist:  -  are you serious you want me to clean the boys bathroom? they can clean it themselves the wusses, who do they think they are? gods?

Now, I was really a feminist at the age of 5.
Considering I was raised in a household where duties were very much divided along the gender line, I can only guess that I got this feminist sense from somewhere within...
I certainly was not reading copies of Mother Jones.

I recall being told to help wash dishes after dinner. I remember watching my dad and my brother descend the stairs to the Rec Room to watch TV,  while I stood there with a tea towel in my hand. My mom and I were left to clean up.  As I was small, I remember being on the counter trying to dry the dishes - and asking my mother why the girls always had to clean mother tried to explain that my dad had a long day (and, truthfully, he did work long physically demanding hours as an electrician) and he needed a break...

but how about Edward? all he did was play "Ernie n' Bert " with me all day...
...well,  boys go to work and girls stay home to take care of the house... 


All I can remember is a haze of alarms going off in my mind when I imagined being at home all day, stuck - - - so Edward doesn't hafta do dishes cause he's a boy?

 (Milton Bradley maintaining the gender line)

So housewifery got off to a shaky start for me, but by age 10, of course, I was little miss muffin tin.  And when I was around 20, I was back to my five -year-old self... Now, at 41,  I bake and cook for my boys, as much as I can manage between my own schooling and projects, I menu plan on the fly in the grocery store,  I clean bathrooms, I vacuum occasionally, do dishes rarely, and fold clothes never. Not bad, since all the gaps are filled in by male members of the household.

But old habits die hard, just like our leisurely coffee on Sunday mornings. It  is difficult to ignore little miss muffin tin when she tells me I am a slob.  And even more difficult when I hate my dirty house.  Like Kathy Jenkins mentions in her Feb 11 post on her blog, a clean house feels good - like cleaning your body and mind.  And I have to admit, it does feel like a clean slate, like you can start over again  - but I just do it when I am inspired, or if it gets to emergency levels, nothing like my mother's routines.  There is something to be said for her discipline, and the act of preparing for a day of rest, a day to renew oneself, start again - a practice, like yoga or meditation or prayer.

Though I would never betray my five year old self again, and I have given little miss muffin tin a copy of Mother Jones, I still somehow feel as though I let something go. And I am afraid i will need to use some discipline to get it back. 

My mother's so going to love this post dang it.

My brother Ed, despite his early training, now has 5 kids and knows more about simultaneoulsy doing dishes, changing diapers and stirring a pot of oatmeal than anyone I know. 
Take that Milton Bradley.


  1. Ah, I remember those domestic-goddess-in-training days well! The difference was that at our house "the boys" went to the barn to do chores and since I wasn't that interested in getting dirty, I didn't protest too much. And the fact is that I exceled at domestic-goddessness. I loved the Saturday morning baking/cleaning sessions, the cleanliness is next to godliness spirituality.

    Has this domesticity served me well? Considering I am 41 and live alone, money management and career guidance would have served me better... But wait, I must go, my inner domestic goddess is calling - my floors need mopping....

  2. Brilliant post Marcella.

    I am an oldest daughter and found myself having those discussions with my mom frequently. She told me that the boys did snow shovelling and lawn mowing. Funny, I remember doing both of those chores in addition to the kitchen etc.

  3. hmm, where was John?

    We know where Michele was, however :)

  4. Cousin Icegirl: I do remember thinking similarly when I was cozy and warm in the house and my Dad had to go outside to fix something and work with tools and metal and wire...that I did not pine for.

    hmm, yah. I could have used more money managementadvice (save and don't spend) and career guidance - (how about being a nice Christian school teacher?)

  5. You are a hoot! I really enjoyed reading your blog Marcine

  6. Thanks for mentioning my blog in your post! There's a little present waiting for you over on my blog. Happy Valentine's Day!

  7. I can't believe I missed this post!!

    Hey, I had to do my share of CLEANING UP AFTER BERT after Yvonne and Linda abandoned me to move into their own homes.

    I was just moaning this morning about how much I hate housework, even thinking about making it a post... I am okay at vacuuming, cooking and laundry. The rest?

    I think I probably do associate it with slavery and my housewife-in-training past.

    Thankfully, my mom wasn't too much into housekeeping herself, so I don't think we got into it as intensely as your family.

    Or maybe she was just tired by the time I came around.

  8. hahaha - you make me laugh - funny, my sister Heidi said something similar - when Ed and I were out of the house, her load increased immensely - all Kevin did was dishes...nuthin else -

    Yep. bet your mom was tired, and more laid back...mine still is never too tired to clean however - my mother and I are such opposites

    BANE of my existance, but it feels so good when its organized and clean...and I have been on this rollercoaster too long - I have to submit myself to a discipline - manageable - or I will continue to rot over this

  9. Note: After reading this post My brother Ed emailed me (he occasionally ghost reads my posts)and said that he baked a spice cake (my mom's recipe) "off the top of his head sans recipe in my honour...well thanks Ed.