Monday, March 23, 2009

Amazing Like Ma

Every few days a wagon went by, driven by strangers going across the neck of the slough and northward to town, and coming back. Ma said there would be time to get acquainted when the spring work was done. There is no time for visiting in the spring.
Little Town on the Prairie, by Laura Ingalls Wilder

I have always read the 'Little House' books and been in awe at the superhuman talents and energy of Ma and Pa as they carved a life for their family in the wilderness. I couldn't imagine how Ma did everything she did without collapsing from exhaustion, and a comparison between her achievements and mine always left me feeling very inadequate. But recent readings of the books with the girls, with an eye to Ma's housekeeping practices have thrown up sentences like the one above, and have helped me to realise just how she did all that housework and cooking and gardening and sewing. She did nothing else. She did no visiting for entire seasons. She never left the house except to go to church. She did not take her girls to school or ballet or piano lessons, or to the orthodontist. She did not go grocery shopping except for twice a year or so. And I am pretty certain she never lay on the couch for an hour reading an Agatha Christie novel. She simply stayed at home and worked.

For the last couple of years I have been coming to much the same conclusion - that to do one thing well, you have to stop doing some other thing. No one is superwoman. There really are only twenty four hours in the day. In the years when I studied, or ran my bookshop, as well as parenting little children and homeschooling, the house didn't get a look in. Last year I finally decided that my priorities were homeschooling, learning to keep house, organising the renovations, and fixing up the garden. So I quit everything else. I still do feel a little guilty that I am doing nothing in my community, but then I am bringing up my children to be responsible citizens, which is an enormous contribution to society. And it won't be forever. A friend asked me the other day whether I felt a little constrained, or under stimulated in my new role as a completely stay-at-home mother, but much to my surprise, I really don't. Mind you, the challenges I am facing are still relatively new (Dusting? What is that?).

So this is my year for Staying Home and Sorting the House and attempting to be domestically amazing like Ma. Although I don't expect miracles. I am still taxi extraordinaire for extra curricular activities, and I am so totally going to continue lying on the couch reading novels.

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