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What I Do With My Day

What I Do With My Day

Do you ever wonder what has happened to your day?  In the evening, RD Husband comes home, and he’s got a whole day at work to show for himself.  And I’ve been running around, but I feel like I can’t say I did one major thing or another.  All this work, and at bedtime, I’m like, “What did I do today?  I KNOW I was busy!”

So, as an exercise for me as much as anyone else, I’m going to catalogue what I did today, Monday, November 15.  Maybe it’ll help me feel like I did something.

6:30 am… Woke up and fed the dog, let the dog out, made breakfast for the kids.  Had some bagel myself and got dressed, got the seven-year-old dressed and got his backpack ready.

7:30 am… Left four-year-old with RD Husband and drove seven-year-old and two additional carpool kids to school.  Arrived at school at about 7:52.  Went immediately home, and didn’t arrive until 8:33.  Fruitless sitting in traffic.  Argh!

8:33 am… Made the four-year-old’s lunch, got his shoes on, and drove him to preschool.  Arrived home about 9:15.  Good grief, I’ve already been in the car for an hour and a half.

9:15 am til about 11:20 am is a bit of a blur.  I wrote two blog posts, finished packing up some barrettes, ordered the seven-year-old some new school uniform shirts, gathered some nature for the next Martha Challenge project, let the dog in and out about forty-seven times, and threw in two loads of laundry.  I did a little more farting around on the interwebs, but none of it was frivolous– mostly looking for supplies for the barrettes or catching up on piddly tasks.

11:20 am I left for the westside, which is about a 20 minute drive, to go get more ribbons for my barrettes.  By the time I got to the store, picked out my stuff and paid, it was 12:15 pm.  Gotta get the four year old at 1:00 pm.  I wanted to drive through a Mexican fast food place for lunch, so I found one on my GPS.  Drove a little out of my way to get there, and discovered there was no drive through.  When I went inside, the line was INSANE.  I left, kinda miffed, and just headed back to my ‘hood.

12:40 pm… dropped barrette orders off at a friend’s house, jammed on over to the drive through I know, got a quick burrito for lunch and picked up the four-year-old.  Home by 1:15 pm.

1:15 pm until 2:25 pm… another blur.  I sat outside with the four-year-old while he played around, fetched the dog back into the yard about fiftinity times, called the fence guy about putting up a fence for the dog, vacuumed sand off the floor from the four-year-old’s shoes, moved laundry around, got the mail, clipped the cat’s toenails, and got the four-year-old dressed again to leave.

2:25 pm… left to get the seven-year-old at school, but first a quick pit stop at Trader Joe’s.  We needed:

  • yogurt
  • butter
  • walnuts
  • kid vitamins
  • juice
  • frozen veggie sausage links
  • eggs

Don’t you love the randomness of people’s shopping lists?

It was the fastest Trader Joe’s trip in the west, since we arrived at 2:41 pm and I needed to get the seven-year-old at 3 pm.  Ish.  We hustled out of there and headed to school.

3:04 pm… arrived at school and waited in carpool, then headed home.  Arrived at 3:27 pm.

3:27 pm… unloaded the groceries and unpacked, folded laundry, talked to the garage guys (we are remodeling our garage, yay!), folded laundry, got twelveteen games down for the four-year-old, folded more laundry, cut tags off of new underwear for various family members, put those in the laundry, tidied up the kitchen, put away the sewing machine and tried new pants on the seven year old.  They fit!

4:45 pm… started planning and making dinner, helped the seven-year-old practice trumpet, monitored his homework and reading time, and then… at 5:30 pm, we ate.

We had butternut squash ravioli supplemented with leftovers from The Cheesecake Factory last night.

And that’s boring enough, right?

Lest you think this was all I did, it wasn’t!  I also, at various points, but in places I can’t remember:

  • scooped the cat litter
  • wrote a few emails
  • cleaned out lunch boxes
  • fetched quarters for the seven-year-old’s “experiment”
  • put the vacuum away
  • washed dishes
  • bleached cutting boards
  • vacuumed ants (ugh, I HATE ants)
  • picked pricklers out of the dog’s face
  • cleaned up this:

Which took about twenty minutes because it was two Monopoly games, an adult one and Monopoly Junior, mixed up as mixed can be.

Now, I know this probably all sounds like a whiny rant, but really, it’s more of a meditation.  A meditation on the relentlessness and invisibility of housework.  Which I should know a lot about, since I wrote my whole PhD dissertation on it, basically.  Except there I was talking about nineteenth-century women like Dora Copperfield, Maggie Tulliver, or Sue Bridehead.  And if you know who those ladies are, I heartily salute you, o erudite one.

I guess that’s what bothers me most about running a house.  You only notice it when it’s being done badly.  I’m afraid to admit, I like my recognition.  And I can’t even recognize what I’m doing on a day to day basis.  But I certainly would notice if I stopped doing it.

Now, I’m going to get all pensive and theoretical on you, so stop here if your eyes are about to roll.  But I feel like there are some interestingly antagonistic paradigms working themselves out (or not) through the pressures of modern American women.  There’s the old Victorian pressure to run a house invisibly, so that one can look leisured but still have a perfect home.  This idea mixes with the American Puritan compulsion to be hard-working, always doing, which I think pushes some of us to add more stuff to our plates.  And then, we’ve got feminism in all its waves, encouraging women to leave the home for career, suggesting we can do both, or, lately, showing highly accomplished career women leaving the workplace in order to stay home with children.

The result is a mix mash of competitive parenting (if you haven’t read Judith Warner’s take on this in Perfect Madness, you should), overly scheduled lives, and mass hysteria.  Cats and dogs, living together!

And, of course, people like me who work all day and then don’t feel they have anything to show for it.

What do you all think?  Let me know in the comments.  I’ve gotta go iron some napkins.

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  • November 15, 2010, 8:36 pm Becky

    Awesome post. Please tell me you aren’t really ironing napkins. Though I too have felt the urge to do it.

    Also, I don’t remember Sue Bridehead doing a lot of housework. Am I crazy? I only read that novel once and it was kind of traumatic.

    I think that your analysis of the competing paradigms of domesticity helps me understand something about myself vs. my peers in the ‘hood. With your help I have diagnosed myself as subscribing to the belief that I should appear to have leisure, like everything looks great accidentally. (Yes, that is crazy.) Whereas many of my peers seem to be in a race for the title of Busier-Than-Thou. Like, ohmigod you just can’t believe how busy they’ve been since sunup, and when I inquire about what they’ve been doing, it turns out it’s the usual round of childrearing and domestic affairs that we are all doing. But they want to seem busy busy busy all the time.

    In the case of some of them, I think they’re afraid their husbands will make them go back to work if they seem to have too much of a lock on the housekeeping. I’m not kidding.

    Was I rambling? Again, great post. I hope your post kid bedtime includes some relaxation.

    Reply
    • November 15, 2010, 8:44 pm bethpc

      Dude, I was ironing napkins AND sheets. I know, it’s a disease.

      Yeah, that’s the thing about Sue. She hated it and she sucked at it, but in the end, she’s pulled in, too– back with gross Phillotson scrubbing the stairway and telling her neighbor she MUST school herself in her housework! While Jude lays dying alone in some dump. Man, that book is HIGHLY traumatic, you are NOT kidding.

      But I digress.

      This busier than thou thing is a suburban illness, don’t you think? I mean, somehow it gives meaning, I guess? It’s like the one-upsmanship over how bad things are going. It doesn’t really make sense.

      I think I perhaps fall into the busier-than-thou group, but in some ways I’m just stunned by how busy we ALL are. Like, isn’t it supposed to be easier than this? And I feel like we make it harder in the race to feel important, competent, whatever.

      Now, no more ironing. WINE.

      Reply
  • November 15, 2010, 8:45 pm Lydia

    That is a ton of stuff to do on one day! Frankly, I’m amazed. However, I have no children so I really have no concept of really how much work they involve.

    Are there not buses for school, there? I would hate all that driving!

    Reply
    • November 15, 2010, 8:48 pm bethpc

      No buses for us, since we are at a private school. We do carpool, which helps some days, but I always have to pick up in the afternoon. It is a drag, indeed.

      Reply
  • November 16, 2010, 12:19 am Earthenwitch

    I have heard of Maggie Tulliver – does that mean extra point? :)

    Delurking to say I share your pain in terms of the invisibility of housework; it’s the awful going-on-going-on nature of it that gets me, in that you have to keep up and just having finished for now does not mean Having Finished. That said, I do love having a vaguely ordered house, and I do know that if I stopped doing the things I do, it would be pretty obvious.

    Yay! for PhDs and domesticity. Or something.

    Reply
  • November 16, 2010, 1:40 am Paola

    Beth, as a SAHM, I can totally relate! In fact, sometimes I’ll do a load of laundry at the end of the day, just to have some physical evidence of some kind of work that I did, even though I have been running around doing things all.day.long. Especially this year in Milan, since I have to use public transportation or walk for everything I do…everything takes forever. Luckily, Giovanni is soooo appreciative of it all and says it all the time. I’m the one who is hard on myself. I need to learn to give myself a pat on the back every once in awhile!

    Reply
  • November 16, 2010, 11:25 am abbyglassenberg

    This is one of the best blog posts I’ve read in a long time. You capture so well what it is really like, day-to-day, to be home in the suburbs with two kids. The driving and wasted time in traffic, the taking down and putting away of toys, the endless tidying that having kids involves. In our house, there are also numerous tantrums and fights between siblings so I’m forever intervening, distracting, sending someone to time out, giving someone an ice pack.

    And, what I also love about this post, is that some portion of your free time is spent looking for craft supplies. When I do have time to myself, that is what I do, too. I try to sew something, or locate some long-lost fabric, or ship an order or update my shop. The dance between that and the rest of my life is what keeps me going. You sum it up in such a realistic way.

    Reply