No rest for the weary

You would think that now that I’m officially unemployed, I’d be free as a bird, but no, there’s more to do. I’m predicting no break until I go on my first summer trip in late June. The last couple of weeks have been busy ones around the Geeky household. The semester ended. I went away for a week. Routines were broken. I’m staring at a stack of mail that’s much taller than it should be. The refrigerator needs to be cleaned out. There’s lots of laundry to do. And there are two presentations to contribute to. There’s writing to be done, a business to build.

I’ll admit to wanting to ignore it all and just kick back for a while, but there are deadlines–even for the household stuff. The kids’ birthdays are in two weeks, which coincide with a visit from the in-laws. The house can’t remain in its current state of chaos. More importantly, the chaos makes me anxious, so it needs to go. I’ve felt mildly out of control for the last few weeks and I need to regain that control.

Sharing the load

Via Laura at 11D, I found these two articles about managing the household load and how angry many mothers are that men seem to not take on their fair share.  Given that this conversation is quite fresh in our household as my work is morphing–changing daily, we’re both starting to realize–these were timely articles.  And the advice by the commenters pulled out in the second article is spot on.  Women need to ask for help and they need to find a way to do so without sounding bitter or pissed (most of the time).  As Belkin says at the end, a primary reason we don’t ask for help is our sense of responsibility for our choices:

A final reason for our reluctance to ask for help, I think, is the feeling that we made this bed, so it is ours to lie in. We chose to have these children, or marry the less than egalitarian spouse, or be a mother and hold down a full-time job, or leave a the paid workforce to take on more of the load at home.

I was feeling pretty bad this last week when I couldn’t keep up with both the house and the work, especially since most of the work I was doing I wasn’t getting paid for. I was in this bind of, “I’m not bringing in cash so I should contribute more on the household front, but I don’t have the time, but if I do the housework, I can’t get the business going, but . . .” And I *chose* this course of action, of quitting a regular paying job for this crazy life, so I was thinking I couldn’t ask for help. And I know plenty of women, myself included, who just assume that they’ve married these enlightened men and the men will just figure it out. Well, I can tell you, Mr. Geeky is quite enlightened and there’s quite a bit he’s figured out all by himself, but I still have to ask him to do laundry. And I have to let go of being mad that I have to ask. Because no one’s a mind reader. He has no idea that while I’m working on a project, in the back of my mind is the nagging thought that Geeky Boy might not have any more clean underwear.  Now I think men could ask more often if there’s anything they could do to help, but you know, I’m not gonna wait around anymore for that to happen.  And maybe, if I ask for help more often, my husband and kids will start to ask.

What counts as work

And why aren’t there enough hours in a day. Yesterday, I had a lot planned. I had the usual morning routine. I worked on my web site all morning and then had a skype call at 11 to discuss a presentation proposal. I met some colleagues for lunch to discuss some possible work. Lunch lasted a bit longer than anticipated. I had planned to drop off some recycling, hit the grocery store and be home around 2:30. I was going to clean the dining room/kitchen, including taking care of a couple of much-need organization projects. Instead I wasn’t home until 3:00. By then, Geeky Boy was home and I was completely and totally exhausted. If, what I do getting the kids ready for school and in maintaining the house count as work, I had been working (with a 1/2 hour break for a shower) since 6:30, or 8.5 hours. So a full day. If the work I do for the family doesn’t count, then I only “worked” for about 5 hours.

On both fronts, I *still* didn’t get everything done. Everything always seems to take longer than I think. Sigh.

Not really working yet

So, I’m not really doing anything one might categorize as “work” yet. Which is okay since I hadn’t planned on doing anything in that category until say, December-ish. I am reading. I hope to start doing some writing next week. Mostly I’m trying to get my health back and my house into maintenance mode (rather than “can’t even find a pair of underwear in the morning mode”; not a good mode, trust me).

Yesterday, I went for a walk and raked leaves. It felt good to be outside. It also felt good to accomplish something that had visible results. Being a complete weather wimp and it being a chilly 38 degrees today, I’ll not be venturing outdoors today, but I do hope to squeeze in some yoga on the wii fit. There’s also grocery shopping and laundry to be done and a little work on the kids’ rooms (a harrowing experience, let me tell you). In between all of that will be some reading (I have about 4 books going). Last night, instead of having our heads in our computers or glued to the tv, we played a game of Boggle (which I won). Much as I love technology, sometimes it’s good to step away from the keyboard. I’m trying to find the right balance. It’s awfully easy to do nothing but hang out online when there are no meetings to go to.

Productivity on the home front

Most of the time at home, I’m treading water, just managing to keep the family fed and clothed. Ever since I started working on the dissertation and pretty much dropped any regular routine in terms of cleaning, etc., the house has gone to pot. I pretty much kept to my usual routine of coming home, making dinner, eating, and then either vegging out or doing some writing/research. I did not do housework–none. I left it all for the weekend. But then, on the weekend, I’d feel after a hard week at the salt mines, I needed to spend time with the family and/or veg out. This weekend, I decided to start truly digging out, one small area at a time. This weekend’s target was the kitchen cabinet where we store food. I labeled all the spices, rearranged all the cans, threw out stuff from 2003, and now have a good idea of what food I have and don’t have. Like oregano–I don’t have oregano–good to know.

The house seems overwhelming taken as a whole, but spending just a couple of hours on a small project like a single cabinet or countertop (and yes, I could spend an hour on a countertop) makes it seem more manageable. Maybe in 5 years, I’ll have tackled the whole house.

And we’re back . . .

Boy, it was hard to go back to work today. My eyes are bloodshot. My head is heavy. And it’s only 8 o’clock. I kept myself alive by drinking lots of caffeine and busying myself with tasks that didn’t require a huge amount of thought. I stayed offline the entire break and so I came back this morning and marked all of my feeds as read–mostly.

Two things started to get to me over the break: the amazing amount of clutter in my house and my lack of exercise. We had my family over for Thanksgiving and of course, did a major cleaning of the house. As we did so, I realized how much stuff we’ve accumulated. We have a small house, so it’s very noticeable. We now have furniture and all kinds of stuff to get rid of and it’s not easy. Purple Heart comes for clothes about once a month. Given how much the kids are growing, we almost always have something for them. But the bigger stuff is more complicated. We could pay a service, but that’s kind of pricey. I’ve called Salvation Army, but it takes weeks, so we’re not on the schedule yet. Today, I cleaned out some of the kids’ toys and old videos. Much of that can go to Purple Heart too. I threw away a lot. I’ve vowed to spend 30 minutes a day clearing stuff out.

Another problem with the clutter is what comes into the house and what we generate. There’s mail and school papers. I’ve tried different systems and I just haven’t found one that works. I think I just need to suck it up and deal with it at least once a week. And then there’s recycling and trash. I can totally sympathize with Anjali’s post from last week. We do have recycling pickup, but it’s a crazy schedule. They do one thing a day, twice a week. So, one Monday is paper, then plastic on Thursday. The following Monday is glass, then cans on Thursday. They used to print a schedule, but they quit doing that, so I’m totally confused. I seem to always miss plastic so it’s piling up, and they don’t do colored glass. You have to take that in. It’s crazy.

The exercising problem is somewhat related to the clutter problem. I am not a hearty person. I don’t hold up well in cold weather. I used to, but I’ve become wimpy in my old age. So, I want to exercise inside. I could join a gym, but I’d rather be in the comfort of my own home. Problem is, I have no place to work out. There’s not enough room in any room in our house. We’ve shifted furniture around to the point where nearly every square inch is covered in furniture. I may have to cave and go to the gym. Sigh.

It doesn’t help that I was completely slothful over the break. I ate. I drank. I watched football. I did not run around, exercise or tackle the now four-foot high pile of laundry. One of these days, my house *will* be clean.

Working 24/7

As I was gearing up for the weekend and planning how I was going to juggle multiple soccer games, an evening out, and general housekeeping, I realized that essentially I could work 24/7 and still not get everything done. Rather than being discouraged by this, it was actually comforting to know. I have always been of the mind that if I spent just a little more time cleaning this or organizing that, my house would be perfectly neat, my bills would always get paid on time and my family would always still have quality time together. This is so not true. In part, it’s because of our family’s own habits. We aren’t good at putting things where they go or consistently marking things on calendars or giving enough notice for the school bake sale. In part, it’s because we’ve been gradually downsizing our living spaces while accumulating more stuff. In part, it’s because both Mr. Geeky and I put in overtime in our other jobs. All of those things are mutable, but not in the short term. I’ve decided just to accept that it’s likely these things will never change and so I should just work around it.

My feeling that I’d need to be constantly working to keep up with housework increased as I actually tackled some tasks for the weekend. I even made a list. I crossed things off the list and yet still wasn’t that much closer to house perfection. I reorganized some cabinets, washed three loads of dishes, five loads of laundry (and actually put them away), put away the summer clothes (finally), shopped for winter clothes for the kids, and went grocery shopping. I also managed to play board games with the kids, attend two soccer games, take the kids out for breakfast, go out with friends, and watch football, none of which I could do if I were aiming for house perfection.

I could have done more this morning in the hour and a half I’ve already been awake, but then I couldn’t have read the news and blogs or written this blog post. Priorities, priorities. Sure, it’d be nice to look around and see no clutter, but I think my brain would be completely empty at that point.