Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Quotidian Mysteries

I am reading a new book. Well, it is really more of an essay. It is centered around the concept of "quotidian." A simple definition of this is, "Occurring every day; belonging to every day; commonplace, ordinary." The subtitle is Laundry, Liturgy and Women's Work. How very appropriate.

It is hard to find words to describe it, but basically, I think it hits a sore spot for me, and applies a balm to it. I live in a world that degrades women, and where jobs that traditionally fall to them are sneered at. Cooking, cleaning, caring for children. One study recently published indicated that women in their sixties take longer to recover from heart surgery than men, simply because they resume their household duties sooner than they should.

Why do they do this? Because of two main reasons: First, many of them do not have others in their lives who will do the basic, every day tasks that need to be done. either because they do not think about it or because they think it is beneath them. Many of these older women do not have husbands who are willing to help in these ways. They have been brought up to see it as "women's work."

Second, because they have found their identity in being traditional housewives, with all that this entails. I am not knocking it either. But hang in with me for one final thought...

We pay the men who collect our garbage more that we pay the women who care for our infants in daycare. This is not a man versus women rant, either. The point I am making is that the jobs that are seen, the jobs done in public (in this case, collecting trash) somehow seem more important to most than the jobs done in a household, the jobs done in private, the ones not seen.

But look at the alternative. If I were to go out and get a high paying job, I would not have the time (or perhaps the desire) to do the everyday, menial tasks. I would then pay another woman (who might be very grateful for the income) to care for my babies, sweep and mop my floors, wash my dishes, and cook my meals. Those needs do not go away, no matter how high we rise. In short, there will always be laundry and dishes to do.

Much of what women do, or more personally, much of what I do, is behind the scenes. I cook meals, do dishes, wash laundry, fold tiny pairs of socks and pants and underwear. I write out grocery lists and make menu plans. I try to be supportive of my husband as he struggles to do more than can be done in twenty four hours every day. I try not to pout when he has another paper to write for the college classes he is taking. When that means I go to bed alone while he stays up working, researching and writing. Again. More importantly, I pray not to resent the fact that he is getting his degree, while I am changing diapers.

This may sound ghastly, but it is real. I love my husband. I honestly do not know even one single, solitary person out there whose husband helps as much as mine does. I suppose he is a very liberated man. I can thank Jenny for that, in some ways, because I have a husband who has never hesitated to change a diaper, fold a loud of laundry or load a dishwasher. I am quite confident I will not be one of those sixty year old women struggling to recover from heart surgery because her husband would not pitch in.

Having said all that, I fight the urge sometimes to want to do it all, and the discontent that comes when I find I can't. Could I take college classes? Yes. My husband would support me in anything I wanted to do. But at what cost? Maybe I am just like all the other strong, amazing women who went before me, who kept putting things off until later, because all the things happening right now were just a little bit more important.

In my heart, I know Trever's accomplishments are mine too.

Just sometimes, the quotidian gets the better of me.

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