Our Fractured Days

I’n not the kind of person who likes to work in small segments of time. I can understand that some people prefer to put in an hour here, twenty minutes there, on their different tasks, but I want to set aside hours and days to get things done to the end. While I may enjoy the process – cooking and sewing come to mind – I much prefer to get it done and have the finished product.

Of course, my days are fractured and segmented – Nicholas still is unable to do many things in the house he once did, so I must do them for him. There are the daily household maintenance tasks in the kitchen. There’s the phone from time to time – but I’m not a phone talker, so calls are usually brief.

The biggest interrupter right now is the real estate showings. The house is on the market, and the estate agent needs to show it two, three or four times in a week. I understand. It has to be done. But then I have to rearrange everything around that. The dishes need to be cleared, the baths look presentable, the laundry folded, the floors vacuumed. I can’t be in the middle of a large messy project of sewing or baking. I can’t procrastinate the housekeeping. So if I’m inspired to write, bake or sew, I may have to delay.

Most people work outside the home, so showings aren’t a problem for them. They are gone anyway, the agent has the key and lets the clients in. But we all work at home. That’s unusual these days. Home is not where people work, it’s where they kick back, watch television, play. It is quite a shift since a hundred years ago.

That attitude is apparent as we look at advertising. The home is a cinema, amusement park, restaurant. It is a place of leisure. As a result, this advertising leads people to believe that they don’t have to work at home, that housework and cooking are onerous chores, just an extension of their daily drudgery.

Do we as a culture hate work that much?

I get satisfaction from my work, both in knowing what I am doing or in learning something new. I am pleased with the results or I do it over. (Yes, I rip seams and unravel knitting and sometimes cut a piece off the loom before it is finished because it is not meeting my standards.) I am not looking for the shortcuts or the easy way. I want to do it right the first time, but I’ll backtrack even if it means extra hours.

I’m not going to call it pride in my work, as I don’t look for praise or thanks. Good work in all things is an offering to God. It is the sacrifice that Abel made and Cain didn’t. We shouldn’t be afraid of it or avoid or shirk it.

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11 thoughts on “Our Fractured Days

  1. Do you know the looks I have gotten when I admit I LIKE housework? I do like it and the only thing that frustrates me with doing it is the fact that anymore I must rest frequently. I much prefer to dig in an go at it until done! And my home is not a showplace or model home. Like as not you would come in and find my sewing machine sitting on the dining room table with at least one project going. I like the little gift given me some time ago by a neighbor who is now gone to heaven. it says “This house is blessed by God but He doesn’t clean it. If you come to see me, come any time. If you come to see the house, make an appointment.” Doesn’t mean my home is filthy, but lived in as in worked in.

    • My feminist friends are the same way – they equate housework with slavery! So who is going to clean their houses, hmm? I certainly do not maintain a model home. We have a room to use just for sewing, and I do not vacuum the scraps and lint, nor put my projects away. The office here is a workign office and it has books and papers and sometimes boxes of things out. I do like that saying!

  2. I was having a similar discussion on QuakerQuaker about aprons. Apron is like a bad word and I wonder whether it’s because we don’t see house work as important. What do I mean? When I have this conversation with people about having aprons we get to that part of the discussion when I ask how many items of clothing had they ruined by not wearing an apron and they concede that they wear their rattiest clothes to work at home. The ratty clothes choice makes me speculate that those are the clothes we feel house work deserves – we apparently dress better to drag the trash cans to the street. It strikes me that there is contempt for home economics. This is probably why one of my friends thinks I’m crazy.

    I am one of those people who likes to work in short intervals. This is probably why I like to teach and was a terrible fit in corporate America. I find being able to multitask appeals to my short attention span and I find I get a ton done this why, while if I am stuck on one task only I fidget.

    • I am an apron maven. I go out in aprons. One morning at church, I looked down at my prayer book andrealized I was still in my denim apron. But as one older woman said, “There are worse things to wear to church than your apron.”

      I just wrote a blog post about hospitality and the church. Maybe our general contempt for the homely arts is reflected in our inability to welcome people into the church. We tend to focus either on the bricks and mortar (important and expensive, a place to hang brass plaques) or the higher aspects of theology ( a place to make one’s name known a a scholar, and probably see some advancement in the ranks as a result). I cannot imagine that we would take pride in our day to day hospitality in the church, and consider for bishop someone who set up a community food bank and garden, but failed to obtain a doctorate or sit on synod committees. (Probably too busy for either, out there in the world, doing the hands-on work.) Doctorates and committees have their places, but I prefer to see people fed and housed, provided with drinking water and a clean place to wash. A free clinic will convert more than a Sunday School.

  3. I think thee removed the church blog? I tried to comment and could not find it. I think our contempt for homely arts is part and parcel of our “improving” and moving up in the world. In public health we’re trying to convince people to breast feed their babies. It has fallen out of favor for specific demographics. For example, Black American women are less likely to breast feed than others. Speculation is that there is a stigma that hearkens back to the wet nurse and mammy days of slavery. However I think there is more to it than that since we’re seeing the same trend in other women of color. I think perhaps breast feeding seems primitive and backward and therefore the antithesis of economic and social progress? I was speaking to a student from Puerto Rico and she said that women don’t generally breast feed there, they use formula. Here’s the irony, lactose intolerance is as widespread there as it is among other brown people without a cattle-raising heritage. So what results? Women have to use soy formula since their babies are lactose intolerant. Imagine – we have come to a pass where women forgo the breast to feed soy solids to their infants?

    Similarly I think that we’ve moved away from home arts because it is somehow primitive and backward, hearkening to a time of the oppression of women and the dearth of choice. Similarly to the Puerto Rican women feeding their babies soy formula as a sign of progress we are now encumbered by our own signs of progress; stress, heart disease, obesity, children run amok for lack of supervision, etc.

    • Yes, I did, to be rewritten. I got too personal, I think.

      As for breastfeeding – I would think that women of colour would see it as a strong feature of their ethnicity. You realize that there is a minority of (wealthy mostly white) women who have had breast augmentation who can’t nurse their own babies, and so are hiring wet nurses (mostly minority women with a toddler)?

      So much for progress. We live in dirty houses and feed our babies liquified beans.

  4. Hm. This comment isn’t in reply to this post, but the one you took down. Welcoming in the Episcopal church is nearly nonexistent, in my experience. It’s something that needs to be said, and I’m sad to see that you took it down.

    • I did take it down. It was a bit too whiny and personal. I’ll rework it sometime this week. It does need to be said. I’ve said before – at least we could serve good coffee at coffee hour!

  5. I like working and I like having a nice and tidy home. I do not enjoy the cleaning itself but I like when it is done. As it is at the moment I do not have much energy and I am afraid I do not clean and tidy as much as I would like. At the moment I prioritize, I work and I cook but the rest is done when I have the energy and not necessarily as soon as it is needed. R does some of the house work fortunately but I would like to do more myself. I see nothing wrong in a couple sharing housework, in fact I see that as the ideal system but right now it feels like I do not do enough. I work of course and he does not right now so he has the time and energy I don’t but I feel bad and not like I am not pulling my load.

    In this country I would not say that people look down on someone who likes housework and keeps his/her house nice and tidy, in fact I think they are admired but being a housewife who does not work outside the home at all is seen as backwards. Her it is more that doing it all is the ideal. Being the good and loyal worker who cares about moving up in her work while still being the perfect mom who cooks everything from scratch and picks up the children from kindergarten first and keeps a home that would fit a designer magazine anytime. Impossible of course and women always feel guilty. If you work together as a couple you might come closer to this ideal but we are not perfect and we will not reach it in full so why strive for it?

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