Friday, January 17, 2014

My Battles with Housewifery (from a "Mary")

I've been wanting write this post all week and really it's been flitting through my mind through months but when I start writing it (in the past few months) it would start coming out whiny and such and I'd delete it.

But today I really wanted to write something about how I'm trying to be a housewife, sort of, and I was
looking at some other blogger's posts and suddenly something hit.

Mary and Martha!

That's it! That's the angle to write this from!

If you're not familiar with the story in the Bible of Mary and Martha here's a link. In summation Jesus visited their home, they're sisters, and while Martha was slaving away in the kitchen preparing food for their guests, Mary was sitting at Jesus' feet listening to his teaching. Martha gets fed up of not having help and asks Jesus to send Mary in to her, and Jesus gently reprimands Martha instead saying she's worrying about unnecessary stuff and that Mary's picked the better (to learn from Him.)

Truth is I am and have always been a Mary. Now I don't mean I don't ever worry and I am always righteously listening to Jesus. But truth be told I just don't get the Marthas much. They are so stressed, they worry, they nitpick, they judge and it makes me want to retreat to Jesus. I feel always hassled to give up what is "better" to focus on their unnecessary (but not necessarily wrong- I mean, feeding Jesus and his friends was a nice thing to do) stresses. Truth is most Christian women are Marthas. I love them very much, don't get me wrong, as I'm sure Mary did! And Martha owned the home, and I think Marthas are often the more accomplished and successful in many ways. I envy the Marthas a lot, I never seem to get my act together when it comes to practical stuff. (I always thought it was funny but also perfect for our generation that Martha Stewart has that name. Seems to be an association there!) But for me the practical drudgery type tasks like getting food on the table and keeping a clean task hold no appeal.

Ryan accuses the kittens of making the mess worse. Truth is he's
right... but they also make me laugh and de-stress me, so they make
the housewifery less of an ordeal and make up for it!
Sure, I like good food and I like the place to be clean. But if I am too busy doing something awesome like reading a thought provoking book, fellowshipping with amazing brethren, spending time with family, writing on my blog or whatever and I have to have cereal for dinner because there's no time for something fancier that's cool with me. If I spend five days doing worthwhile stuff out of my house except dashing in to change clothes, sleep and eat something and toss the dishes in the sink so by Friday the house looks like a tornado went through I don't freak out and look around saying "GAH I can't live like this!!" Instead I look around and laugh and say "When did that happen? Ah well, wouldn't have traded this week for anything..." For those of you who care, I'm an ENFP which on one site has in its description 'Because ENFPs live in the world of exciting possibilities, the details of everyday life are seen as trivial drudgery. They place no importance on detailed, maintenance-type tasks, and will frequently remain oblivous to these types of concerns. When they do have to perform these tasks, they do not enjoy themselves. This is a challenging area of life for most ENFPs, and can be frustrating for ENFP's family members.' I'm the stereotypical head-in-the-clouds artist or absentminded professor type.

However, my husband is a Martha.

Oh how he is a Martha.

Now, one thing you should know about Martha. She also had amazing faith! See this Mary and Martha had a brother: Lazarus. If you're unfamiliar, Jesus brought Lazarus back from the dead! But before he did, he was approaching their house and Martha heard he was coming and ran out to meet him and says that she believes if he'd been there Lazarus wouldn't have died, that she believes even now God would do what Jesus asks and then proclaims Him to be the Son of God. That revelation, when Peter gave it elsewhere, Jesus proclaims could only come from the Father! You can read that story here. The tale of Mary and Martha is not one where Martha= bad and Mary= good. No, they are both wonderful women of great faith and it'll be awesome to meet them someday. It's just they have different personalities and therefore different weaknesses.

Housework is the #1 thing Ryan and I fight about.

My husband, Martha, can't concentrate if the house isn't clean. He freaks out that he's starving if I serve cereal (or other easy peasy stuff) too often. So he heckles me about it. And the truth is, I totally agree that stuff should be my department. For one, Ryan doesn't really know how to make anything but cereal on his own. (I have now taught him how to make eggs and tea, but before meeting me he didn't know how to make that.) Secondly, Ryan's the one with the full time job who is providing financially the roof over this house. Also, as the husband he's the head of the household so if he's thinking something is important it'd be wrong of me not to listen... not that I ever really haven't thought this stuff wasn't important. I just think other stuff is more important, so sometimes the dishes and laundry pile up and we eat the same food several days in a row.
I *do* try though.

Now here's where I can't possibly project my own weaknesses on Mary. Probably Mary was an accomplished cook; I have no idea. But I suck at housewifery. Yep, I said it. I'll put in four hours of work in a row and it'll look like someone else's 30 minutes. I think mainly this is because I get distracted halfway through. I go into the kitchen and see the full sink and start washing dishes, but then while I'm washing a mug I remember that mug I left in the living room, and while I'm retrieving it I notice the sweater Ryan left on couch. So I take it to the hamper in the bedroom and kittens distract me asking me for food. So I give them food and notice their litter box smells. I scoop it and take the trash out and then stand there and go, "What was I doing again?"

"Good enough" has always been "good enough" for me, but Ryan was raised by a Martha who thinks there's no such thing as "good enough" there's only "perfect" so mentally he's rejects the standards I feel are reasonable for him to hold me to... And the truth is I stress out when I clean. Like I feel it emotionally and even physically due to the effect of stress on the body. One hour of cleaning exhausts me like three or, no really five hours of another activity. It wipes me out. I am not exaggerating. I just don't have it in me to throw myself into cleaning with any sense of pleasure or satisfaction. My issues with it run deep. I can appreciate the beauty of clean things, but the work involved in achieving that look makes me feel as strung out and emotionally spent as someone else might after spending hours consoling with someone in the throws of grief or depression. I do think it feels similar, actually, having been around both, but I prefer dealing with the emotionally bankrupt because at the end of that I feel like I've really accomplished something. After a day cleaning the house I feel like crying because I know that in a day or two there will be no evidence left that I did it in the first place and I'll have to do it again! It seems like the definition of "vanity! vanity!"

I actually thinking cleaning (or rather, the need to clean) is the clearest, least able to be ignored mark of The Fall on this world. Nothing, nothing, nothing will stay clean/pristine/whole without caretaking. Everything gets dirty, rusts, breaks. "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal." Only two things we encounter are eternal: people and God. So I'd much rather invest my time in one of those than in making sure my counter shines! (See these are the Mary thoughts I have while I'm angrily scrubbing the pot I've already cleaned three times this week.) Still, I know that when I clean I am investing a teeny tiny bit in a person: Ryan. And maybe in being welcoming to a guest, but we rarely have people over.

another cute pic of the kittens being "in the way" 
Still Ryan is really the only reason I stress myself out over this stuff... and because of that, I have to battle within myself not to resent him. Because I'll be over the moon joyful about the amazing day I've had writing or perhaps witnessing to someone online and Ryan gets home from work and erases all my joy with a dismayed look at the couch covered in laundry that hasn't been put away or the floor that needs to be mopped or whatever.

Because while I don't really care about cleanliness and fanciness, I do care about Ryan and his opinion of me and his overall happiness. But the truth is the only days he's really happy with how the house looks is days when I've done nothing else. And I don't think God's called me to clean and cook day and night. Honestly I believe this blog, other writings, shining His light through social media, praying intentionally, and being available to others for conversation is actually a deeper calling of God on my life. So while I want to please Ryan, I need to please God first, right?

Luckily, intellectually and spiritually Ryan agrees. He tells me not to neglect my writing. But emotionally he gets freaked out and upset if he sees the house a mess. He really can't function if it gets under his skin. The other day we stayed home on a Sunday morning because he got up before me and started cleaning the bathroom while I was asleep and it wasn't done to his satisfaction in time for us to leave, and so instead of leaving it half done and finishing it that afternoon, we didn't go. Seriously?? I admit I was really frustrated him. Not only did he take away my chance for fellowship and friendship, but also his "having" to clean the bathroom seemed like the biggest condemnation of his satisfaction with me as his helpmeet.

I just do not have it together enough to both be a successful writer and a successful housewife yet. There are just not enough hours in a day! And not enough cohesiveness in my brain. I do think I am capable of it, but I think it'll be like getting fit from being a total couch potato: you don't just get up and run a marathon. It's a day by day stretching of your limits, and there has to be rest days. And there will be a few setbacks. But if you endure, you'll get there, right? At least, you'll get to "running a marathon" within the limits of your body and your life. And truthfully due to my issues with cleaning and my personality type I think I'm never going to be a prize athlete. But I do think I'll get to the point where I can cross the finish line... but Ryan has expectations of fast time and that's laughable. But I'm trying. I'm also trying, in as gentle and non-resentful way guide Ryan to lower his standards, that is, to coach him away from being too Martha in this. Jesus did tell Martha Mary picked the better way, right?

I do honestly think we're getting better, at least by an iota. I think Ryan's starting to realize he's got Martha's issue (for months he was convinced he was the normal, sensible one and I was the crazy one.) I totally already knew I had issues, my struggle was not with denial but just with managing those issues.

See, I can make yummy things. ;-p
Of course this is how much I'm struggling without any kids under foot and come June we'll have a little one! So I'm trying really hard to just get better and more efficient at this housewifery battle, but it's hard. I keep trying to look up advice and stuff but guess what? It seems to be primarily written by Marthas. Sigh. Of course. So just reading it makes me tense because it seems so beyond me or too naggy. But I'm persisting because maybe some of it will be useful, right?

But I think that is totally another post, and one I'll probably write soon. But I think I've finally gotten this one down. This blog is in many ways calling on you all to witness my life and the truth is this is a huge thing in my life. It's a battleground and it'd be silly to not let you know it's been going on. And it's gotten worse since I got dengue and couldn't even lift my head. I am only just recovering from that really.

You know how I know? It was only this past week that I caught up on laundry. Yep, that's right, I had dengue back in September but hadn't caught up on the laundry until this week! At first it was just fatigue and exhaustion, from the dengue and then realizing oh wait, I'm pregnant and it was first trimester exhaustion. Then I was *nearly* caught up before Lydia's visit, but then water went out in our building for five days (yep, that happened. It sucked.) So we had at least a week's worth of laundry  piled up when she arrived... bringing with her clothes that needed to be washed. I think we had even more laundry piled up after she left than we had had before she came because adding her clothes in (and she wanted to get them all cleaned before she packed them up, understandably) put our own laundry on the backburner. Also, our cats went through a deciding to pee on the bed phase, adding more laundry to the pile. And then the winter fog came, making everything take forever to dry... and the layering of the winter means we're literally producing twice as much laundry each day then we do during the warm weather. Sigh. So I only finally got it caught up this past week (THANK GOD!)

But obviously the dengue and first trimester fatigue wreaked havoc on me, housewifery wise. I was actually starting to get into a rhythm, I think, pre-dengue, but I totally lost it and haven't found it again yet. So that's one of my focuses right now. I want to get managing the house down to the, well, mangeable level. So you know, when the baby is born we all don't die of being buried in laundry and dishes. Haha.


  1. After long time I really enjoyed reading your post and actually whats going on in your life, Ah! its a long story so well told. And Hey guess what I was about to ask you to take that personally test Hmm its good i was guessing you would be an ENFP but i was not sure as i recently took that test and found out I am INFP and I realized why our thoughts match so much. It took me so long to understand that I am weird. Now I am trying to respect my own weirdness and others too. Normal is too mainstream its good to be weird and when you have found friends who are weird like you, its really priceless. In many ways I think I also think like Marry but I hope that doesnt hurt the Marthas but only thing that we should learn is not to judge the other person with our standards. I am also learning and practicing this things. And honestly a great thank you for the confidence you have and the courage to share whats going on in your life. But I only hope Ryan would read this and not be angry on you ;-)

  2. Since housework is one of the most common things couples fight about, I assume you two discussed the subject before you agreed to get married. What did you decide then?

  3. Oh, my dear friend. I thought before Ryan married you, 'poor boy, he has no idea what he's in for!' Aww, but you are each helping God to perfect the other by being different. The important thing is that you are both learning and growing little by little.
    As far as housecleaning (you know it's a struggle for me too!!) what has helped me the most are basically Winston Churchill's words: "Never, ever, ever give up!" I put things like "clean bathroom" on my phone calendar, so even when I ignore it (and sometimes I do...for months), it keeps reminding me that this is something I have decided is important and now is the time to do it, other things can wait until after. So I have to make a conscious decision each time to prioritize something else over it, and that helps strengthen my resolve to stick to the cleaning priority. I also limit my cleaning session and say, as much as I get done in that time window is enough and I will be satisfied, next week I'll tackle the same task from a different angle (for example, this week I mopped the floor but next week I'll scrub the tub.)Consistency is much more important than perfection - I think working on building a habit pays off a lot more than working toward a certain standard. Just some thoughts.
    Hmm...what if I'm not a Martha or a Mary? Maybe I'm a Lydia. ;-P

  4. Have you considered making a schedule for cleaning? Throwing one load of laundry in every single morning first thing? These things are not as difficult to overcome as you're making them out to be in your head. I don't think you're a Mary. Maybe a martyr.

  5. I'm an ENFP, too. I can't say that I struggle with keeping things clean but rather keeping things neat. I have learned that tossing a load in the washer helps tremendously. That and cutting down to twoto laundry baskets so that it cn't pile up after being washed. My goal is to wash and put away a load. day. When I do this life is so much easier for all involved.

    When my daughter was in cloth diapers I had to wash. load of diapers everyday in the beginning in addition to my regular load.

    I reward myself with project time when I get things done. But I also give myself n hour or two after my child goes to bed to do things that are rewarding to me, be it sewing, reading, etc. Tht time is mine every day to do as I please, not to clean or work. But I clean something everyday, and I work from home.

    It's all about balance.

  6. You really need to make a cleaning schedule. Pick one major task (the bathroom, floors, windows, etc.) plus one load of laundry per day. Honor your husband (and yourself) and just get it done! The baby will absolutely turn your life upside down, so you NEED to develop some good cleaning habits before then.

  7. No one likes housework, no one would rather scrub the kitchen floor than play around on the internet and crochet useless trinkets. But people get on with it and do what needs to be done so they aren't living in squalor. I am appalled that you would leave filthy clothing around for months without washing it.

    You have nothing else to do besides taking care of your house. Until you sort out your visa situation and get a paying job, THIS is your job. Your husband is totally right to be flabbergasted at your attitude. I cannot believe you're bringing a baby into this situation when you can't even take care of yourself.

  8. I have to agree with the above person. What are you doing all day that you can't do laundry for months on end? You aren't even posting every day on your blog.

  9. Whoa folks, you misunderstood. There wasn't any laundry sitting around for months without being cleaned. Instead, it was just say there was 4 loads of laundry in the hamper, right? Well I'd wash two of them on Monday, then it'd rain or something (our drying rack broke so we can only dry outside) and by the time those clothes were done it's Wednesday and not only do I have the two loads I didn't do still in the hamper but in wearing new clothes, new laundry has been made and so even though I finished two loads, I still have four loads to go... I'd nearly get finished, and something new would happen. Like the cats would pee on something or our water went out for 5 days straight or something like that and it'd build up again. But this was not the SAME laundry. It's just my hamper never was empty since I had dengue until recently NOT that there was stuff lying around since then that hadn't gotten cleaned. Relax.

  10. As for discussing the subject before we got married, yes we did, and I was very honest about it. Ryan probably thought he was being honest too, but Ryan didn't understand. He represented himself as being messy as well and that he liked the idea of not getting nagged about being clean all the time the way his mom did... however, he thought when I said "messy" I meant like one or two things out of place, which I'm much messier than that. There's also a culture gap in that Indians have a higher standard of cleanliness than Americans with less convienience items than most Americans (for example no dish washers, dryers, and you have to bend over to use the broom.)

  11. Shusant- I told Ryan what I was writing about when I was writing. :)
    Lydia- Yeah, you know I'm persevering!

  12. Knowing there was a potential culture difference, did you give examples to explain what you meant by messy? Did you talk about how often you take care of various household tasks like cleaning the bathroom, washing bed sheets, etc? It sounds like you weren't communicating very well, and communication is the most important part of any relationship.

  13. Yep. I actually showed him photos. If you were talk to Ryan I think he will agree that on his end was most of the miscommunication. I was 100% transparent about it, but he just didn't absorb what I was saying.

    This being said when I wrote this post I remember thinking (I wrote it right before I went to bed) there was SO much more I could say on this subject but this post was already long and I'd continue this subject later on... I'm not sure if I will or not though. Perhaps it's naivety but typically bloggers picture the person they're writing to in their mind when they write blog posts and I picture a friendly readership. While some of you have had friendly things to say, there has been enough nasty comments to make me decide whether or not to continue to be open about this matter or just close this door. I'll be praying about it.

  14. Oh, and I had no knowledge of the culture gap before I moved here. I did know I was more messy than the average American, but I had no idea how much messier I was than the average Indian.

  15. I imagine that some of these comments don't reflect the response you were hoping for, but I don't think they're unfriendly. I think that your readers care for you and want to see you succeed. You have a community here.

    Honestly, though, it sounds like you're making excuses . . . and ruminating doesn't seem to be creating much progress toward solving an issue that you've really got to tackle before you add a baby to the mix.


Thanks so much for comments, they delight me! Please keep your comments civil and while I read every comment, I reserve the right to delete ones that are especially negative. Thanks!


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