Tag Archives: Family

Airing My Dirty Laundry …

7 Mar
A dirty job ....

A dirty job ….

I recently had a conversation with friends about if we won the lottery what kind of paid help we would have. One friend wanted a personal chef and another wanted someone to straighten her hair every day. I want someone to do the laundry – and do it well. Let me be perfectly clear: I.Hate.Laundry. While all of you reading this may not share my total aversion to the task, no one really loves to do laundry. It’s dirty, it’s thankless, and no sooner are you finished than something else is dirty.

I believe there are two categories of household tasks: those that can evolve into hobbies because there is something creative or pleasurable about them; and those that will not become hobbies because no one in their right mind would spend their free time doing them. Laundry is in the latter category. No one decides to separate lights from darks and spot treat stains for fun.

Household duties that can be considered hobbies have whole industries devoted to them. Think about decorating and cooking – there are magazines, websites, TV channels, stores all to support these hobbies.

There’s no Houzz for laundry. No one posts laundry pics on Pinterest. There’s certainly no laundry channel (although I remember hearing extreme ironing events a few years ago.) Laundry isn’t even shown on television (other than in detergent commercials.) I have watched every episode of Downton Abbey for five seasons, and I have never seen one of the servants do laundry. Cook, clean fireplaces, style hair, get charged with murder – yes, all of that has happened on Downton. Laundry, if it’s been done on Downton, I missed it.

A quick Google search for “laundry” pulls up a list of local dry cleaners and Laundromats, the website for the clothing company Laundry by Shelli Segal, one blog posts on how to organize one’s laundry room, and a 2010 article from Wall Street Journal on Americans using too much laundry detergent. From this list it’s clear that laundry is not a hot topic.

People enjoy receiving cooking-related gifts such as herb infused olive oil, juicers or Williams-Sonoma gift cards, but can you imagine giving someone a bottle of Clorox? Similarly,  your friends appreciate it if you invite them over for dinner – but inviting folks over so you can wash and fold their towels while they sip margaritas, well, that’s not going to happen.

My husband happens to be a good cook, and someone who enjoys cooking. He also is good at doing laundry, but enjoys that less. His recipe for sautéed mushrooms or his technique for rack of lamb may earn him praise from our friends, but no one exclaims “And look how clean his golf shirt is too!!!!” No one asks him for his advice on the best unscented fabric softener. Laundry is a thankless task.

As much as I dislike doing laundry, NOT being able to do laundry is much worse.  I learned this the hard way when our washer died over Thanksgiving two years ago, and it took me more than a week to replace it.  I decided I would take a week’s worth of sheets and towels to our dry cleaner for wash and fold service. I was very excited about picking up two loads of neatly folded sheets and towels until I was told the bill was $60.

So, my next step was to take our clothes to the Laundromat at Cameron Village Shopping Center do the laundry there. I was so clueless at the Laundromat that I stuffed a huge load of dirty clothes into what I thought was a front loading washer that was actually a huge dryer. I figured out my mistake when I could not find a place to pour in the detergent. The guy beside me literally said “You don’t come here often, do you?”

I said at the beginning of this essay that if I could afford it I would hire someone to do the laundry. Well, I had that once – sort of. When my children were younger, I hired a sitter to watch them while I worked, and she told me in the interview that she would do the children’s laundry. Hallelujah!  The answer to prayers!

I soon discovered that although our sitter was very willing to do laundry, she was not very good at it. She did not sort by color, and she washed and dried everything on the hottest setting. My two-year-old’s clothes were now the perfect size for my newborn. Being a nice Southern girl, I didn’t want to hurt her feelings – or be disrespectful since she was 30 years my senior — so I began to hide all the boys’ clothes in the hamper in my room. When it started to overflow, I stuffed dirty clothes under my bed so she couldn’t find them. In my postpartum haze this all seemed like a perfectly good solution.

I imagine there are people who can hire competent people to wash their clothes – for example, Kate Middleton probably has good help. But there are lots of important and influential people who can’t escape the drudgery of laundry. One such person who comes to mind is Carol Greider, a molecular biologist at John Hopkins. A few years ago she received a call at 5 a.m. from Sweden that she had won the Noble Prize for Medicine – when she got the call she was NOT in the lab, NOT sleeping, and NOT out on a run – instead, she was hard at work – you guessed it – folding laundry. With that said, I need to go get a load out of the dryer.

Summer Lovin’ Happened at Last

3 Sep
A view of Badin Lake on Labor Day weekend

A view of Badin Lake on Labor Day weekend

Usually by Labor Day weekend, summer has worn out its welcome with me. I am tired of the oppressive heat and humidity, the mosquitoes, spending hours in a wet bathing suit, painting my toenails, and air-conditioned buildings that are too cold. My hair and yard are both fried from the sun, and I am ready for fall.

My love affair with summer began to fade at the same time summer vacation ended. I started my first job out of college at a small town newspaper in June of 1994. After about six weeks on the job, one of my colleagues – also a recent grad – commented that without summer break, summer just felt like one long, hot semester. How true.

Summer has continued to feel like a long, hot semester for me. The joy of summer as a child was the change of pace and freedom. Freedom from school, freedom from schedules, freedom to waste time. Long days at the pool, adventures in the woods, staying up late, and sleeping in. The luxury of getting bored, rereading favorite books, and day dreaming.  It was truly a vacation from the routine of the other nine months.

Summer as a working adult does not provide much of a break, and the pace of life sometimes even picks up. The hot months get busier as we try to cram in vacations, swim team and family reunions while keeping up with responsibilities at home and at work. So with Labor Day upon us, and preschool beginning next week, you would think I would be ready to say “so long” to summer. Most of my friends are. Public schools started August 25th, and now it’s just the little kids at home watching too much Nick Jr. and leaving moms fantasizing about the free time preschool will provide.

But I feel differently this year. I only work part-time now – very part-time actually – and I have children who are old enough to really enjoy the simple pleasures of summer. Drippy popsicles, afternoons at the pool, picking blue berries, and running through the sprinkler.Running through the sprinkler

In June I had lots of plans for the summer. Backyard cookouts, twilight play dates, working hard with my four-year-old on writing and reading – most of this never happened, and that’s okay. Our summer has been slow. I’ve had time to stop and smell the sun screen. This summer we’ve done less and enjoyed it more and in the process rediscovered the allure of the warm months. So I’ve developed a bit of a crush on summer again. Maybe next year it will be a full-blown romance.

 

Returning to the Movies and Giving Away the Crib

26 Aug

The Personal Debate about Having a Third Child

A friend emailed me recently to see if I wanted to go to a movie that night. A movie? In the theater? On short notice? How self-indulgent. How wonderful. Let’s do it. The last film I saw in the theater (other than “Winnie the Pooh”) was “The King’s Speech” in January and before that it was the first “Sex and the City” movie in 2008.Movie Tickets and Popcorm

You see, parents of little children do not go to the movies. At least, not very often. It’s one of many things you put on hold while your children are young. It’s too expensive to pay a sitter and buy tickets when you can wait a few months and see the same flick at home when the kids are in bed. It seems more worthwhile to use your “sitter time” to go to dinner and have a conversation with your spouse rather than to sit in the dark with strangers. Same goes for girls’ night out. On the rare occasion that you can get three or four friends together, you probably want to gab over a glass of wine, not watch a movie. Seriously, do a group of guys over the age of 16 ever go to a movie? I don’t think so.

Going to movies is on the list of things couples take for granted before having children – like an uninterrupted phone conversation, working late, and having clean carpet. A new baby is the biggest lifestyle change most people ever experience. And there is really nothing anyone can tell you to prepare you for that. I had one friend who tried. Throughout my pregnancy she shared how brutal the sleep deprivation was and how isolated it felt to be home alone with a new-born. I didn’t believe her. I tried to avoid her. I thought my experience would be different.

I know that part of the challenge was my husband and I were older when we started our family – I’m 39, my husband is 42, and our children are two and four. We were used to working hard, but also having lots of leisure time for dinners out, weekends away, football games and concerts. We knew that our lifestyle would change when we had a family – but we didn’t appreciate how drastic the change would be.

My 35th birthday was a month after my oldest son was born, and I when I blew out the candle, I made a wish that I could simply take a shower every day. Was that really too much to ask? There is something maddening about not being able to meet one’s basic needs – like sleeping, eating, showering and using the bathroom – when you want/need to. I honestly wondered how anyone managed to handle more than one child, but I figured that out myself a little sooner than I had planned.

My second son was born when my first child was 23 months – we wanted another baby, but maybe not quite so soon. During my pregnancy, I was bracing for an extreme life makeover like the first time. But it didn’t happen. Not to say it wasn’t busy and challenging having an infant and a two-year-old, but it wasn’t a seismic life shift.

That’s true for a few reasons. When my second son was born, we had all the gear we needed – and then some – so we didn’t have to research/shop/register/buy anything. We also were very accustomed to having a little person who needed us around the clock, so the demands of that were not shocking – still exhausting, but not shocking. We had grandparents who had moved to town and were ready to help at a moment’s notice. My part-time sitter for work stayed on during my maternity leave. Between grandparent and sitter help, I could run errands without loading an infant and toddler in the car, meet a friend for lunch occasionally, keep up with the laundry and take a nap during the day. Not everyone is fortunate enough to have paid or family help, but usually by baby #2 parents have figured out a workable division of labor that allows mom to get out of the house once in a while.

The most significant difference with baby #2 was that my husband and I had confidence that we could take care of an infant. It wasn’t the humbling process that turned me into a self-doubting emotional mess the first time. I started to see how people managed to have three or four children. My friends with three children say they loved the 0- to 12-months period with their third child – they were more laid back, more confident, they savored that fleeting time with an infant, and they knew – eventually – their baby would sleep through the night.

I could certainly make an argument in the vein of – have more children, after all, you’ve already given up going to the movies. I now see the economies of scale, and more importantly the joy, of a larger family. But will I have baby #3? Probably not. My age is definitely a factor in that decision. There are many advantages to being an older parent – including having more patience and knowing that you’ve already seen lots of movies and had lots of fun. The obvious disadvantage to starting a family later in life is the risk associated with what doctors call “Advanced Maternal Age” (that translates to having a baby at or after 35). If I was getting married at 39 and wanted children, I would absolutely go for it – and I would advise friends to go for it – but since God has blessed me with two who are healthy, I am going to quit while I’m ahead.

If my age were not an issue for health reasons, it would still be an issue for energy reasons – I just don’t have the “get-up-and-go” I did at 25. With that in mind, I would be concerned about giving my two- and four-year-old boys the time and attention they need while caring for a new baby, working a little, and trying to be half-decent wife. There’s also no doubt it would be really hard for me to go back to sleepless nights, showerless days, breastfeeding struggles and pounds of postpartum weight to drop. I don’t know want to face all of that again.

So I am going to embrace being the mom in a family of four – not a family of five or six. I am going to embrace – but NOT without a twinge of sadness – turning the nursery into a playroom, giving away the crib and not buying diapers. Our baby days are over, and we’ve turned the corner into the world of preschool.

And selfishly, I am also going to enjoy – at least every once in a while – that I can sneak out to see a movie.

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