My Mother's Mondays

Most of us face Mondays with at least a little bit of dread, heading back to the daily grind after enjoying the freedom weekends bring.  I actually had a good day today, the tone in the office being so much lighter, even if the phones were ringing off the hook and papers continued to pile up at record speed.  (Remember how they used to tell us computers were going to lighten our workload? All that really happened was that they provided increased capability to do so much more with all the data and information!)

As I tossed a load of laundry in my washing machine tonight before settling down for a little blogging, I thought about my Mother's Mondays and how different they were from mine.  I wonder if she she sometimes dreaded the drudgery of her chores too.

For all my growing up years, Monday was my mother's scheduled laundry day - the days she washed the previous week's accumulation of the family's soiled clothing and linens.  It took her nearly all day to complete the task, and this was only the washing and drying part.  Ironing was another daylong process, it took place on Tuesday!

When I was very young my mother had an old-fashioned ringer washing machine.  Some of you might be old enough to remember them.  Laundry had to be manually wrung thru the ringer device to squeeze out the soapy water, then deposited in a rinse tub, swished about, and rung out again, before being hauled in baskets to the outdoor clothesline where it was hung up with wooden clothespins to dry in the breeze.  Nothing smelled better than bedsheets fresh off the clothesline!  Living in South Dakota, laundry day in the winter meant the clothes often froze stiff on the line, or had to be hung in lines strung in our basement laundry room, taking much longer to dry.

My mother, like most, had her favorite brands of household products.  Clothing was washed in Tide or Cheer, whites were bleached with liquid Clorox bleach, and everything was softened with an ample dose of Downy fabric softener.  To this day I can pick someone out of a crowd if they use Downy in their wash, the smell remains that strongly in my mind.  Downy was synonymous with fresh and clean.  I still use it in my front-loading energy efficient machine, but sadly must opt for the fragrance/dye free version as the scent now kicks my allergies and asthma into high-gear.

As we grew older Mom got her first automatic washing machine, and not long after that her first electric dryer, though she kept her ringer washer for several more years, preferring it for soaking items or washing blankets and such.  With a family of five, including three daughters, the laundry still piled high and required the better part of each Monday to be washed, dried, folded and put away, or sprinkled with water and placed in the large plastic laundry bag to await ironing on Tuesday. 

My mother ironed nearly everything, including my dad's cotton handkerchiefs, and our sheets and pillowcases.  I am so thankful I live in a time when most clothes are "wash and wear" and can go straight from the dryer to the hanger.  The button-down shirts my husband wears to work in the winter are dropped off at the cleaners or "ironing lady" to be pressed. How my mother must groan at her daughter's avoidance of domestic duties! :-)

My mother, a "housewife" using the label of that era, took great pride in taking care of her family... a spotlessly clean house (mine is not), freshly laundered clothing, and good meals on the table three times a day at 8,12, and 6 PM without fail.  It's true that she didn't have to schedule these duties around an 8 hour a day job. I leave the house at 8 AM and am rarely home much before 7 PM.  That doesn't leave a lot of time for domestic duties, and it certainly doesn't leave the energy or inclination to accomplish them. A load or two of laundry gets done each night, a bit of cooking, and basic surface cleaning on the weekend.  It is rare to have all the laundry done  up at once, or the entire house white-glove clean, although I remember things being that way when I grew up, and I truly wish they still were.  Clean feels so good!

I am not at all convinced that "woman's liberation" liberated our lives all that much.  I think in many ways we had to learn to settle for less, while being responsible for doing a great deal more.  My mother would have welcomed the opportunity for a job, at least part-time, outside our home, but my father wouldn't hear of it. That would have diminished his role as "breadwinner" of the family.  Mom had worked as a telephone operator in Portland Oregon during WWII before she met and married my Dad, and I'm sure at times she must have missed the socialization of a work environment.  I, on the other hand, would welcome the opportunity to be a stay-at-home "housewife", and to be able to make the care of my home and family job priority number one.  Funny, isn't it, how in our lives the grass most often does appear to be greener on the other side of the fence? :-)

Note: This post was written for Monday Memories.  Drop by and share one of your memories with us anytime this week!


  1. Josie,
    I so enjoyed reading this post. as it broguht back memories of my mom and the wringer washer when I was small. I remember her ironsing everything as well. Grandma always had special days as well. So if I was visiting grandma or at home this were chores for certian days of the week. I even remember the sprinkle water man grandma used. mom s I dont remember her sprinkle bottle but grandmas I do!
    Times surely ahve changed maybe not so mcuh for the better. I sometiems long for those days.
    I think like you think the grass appears greener sometimes on the other side.

  2. You are absolutely right Jos. I remember so many things you write about, when I was really small. After that, my mother became a "career woman", a necessity as she and my father split. After that, things changed. I too, think our lives would be easier if we went back to those days. Perhaps not physically easier, but certainly less stress and pressure.

    Thanks for a great post. Happy Tuesday, friend. :)

  3. Gosh, this brought back so many memories. My mom and yours did things almost exactly the same. In the summers, I helped mom guide the clothes out of the wringer into the rinse water...and helped her carry the wet clothes up the basement steps and out into the yard to the clotheslines. When I got a little older, it was MY job to iron the 'flatwork'. How I hated it!! She also made me responsible for ironing our cotton bras and my dad's cotton boxer shorts. iron has cobwebs on it! LOLOLOLOL
    Like a lot of women, I've been on both sides of the so-called fence. I started out working and did so for many years after I was first married. Then stayed home when the first baby came along. I stayed home for 7 years and 2 babies and by the end of those 7 years I was antsy to go back to work. Maybe it was because my marriage was not the best. I yearned for the fun times I used to have at work with co-workers. After I started back to work....I found myself wanting to be home so I could do more there. I was so torn and I still am. Retired yes...but I still work 2 days a week part-time and on some of those days that I have to work, I dread going...but the money is good and I know the job won't last forever plus I won't be able to work as well the older I get. Everyone can use extra money, especially now. Just don't wear white gloves when you come to visit me. lol

  4. These are beautiful memories Josie! My mother worked from as far back as I can remember. She was a teacher before she married my father, and continued to work throughout my growing years even into her senior years.

    And still, she kept the house spotless.

    It's the spotless house I just haven't figured out how to achieve -- though it was nice tonight to come home and find the lawn people had been to mow the grass and the dog pooper scooper uppers had also come and done their weekly cleanup!

    sometimes, it's easiest just to hire out what I dont' want to, or don't have time to do!

    In spite of my mother's ability to do it all!

  5. I do remember how wringer washer and put rubber diapers through that wringer diapers and explodes and I ruined a couple of shirts
    Did you ever get anything caught in a wringer?or ruined a couple of shirts?

  6. Bethe - funny you should mention the sprinkle bottle! I had totallly forgotten about it and now I can see my Mom's clear as day in my mind. :-) Funny how those everyday objects are so engrained with our memories. I can also see the glass jars she used to store her brown sugar and powdered sugar. I'm sure they originally came with something in them. How I'd love to have them now! I do have my Mom's old clothespin bag though. :-)

  7. Jamie - working moms were more rare back then, and certainly it was harder on them and you kids. I think most of us became working moms out of bare necessity. And while I don't wish for the hard physical toil my mom did for so many years, I would sure love the freedom of being in charge of my own days, and being able to do special things for the people I love.

  8. Val - Ahh yes, hauling those heavy baskets of wet laundry up the stairs, and handing pieces to my mom as she moved down the clothesline hanging them up - ugh! I didn't have to do much ironing, and I can't say as I ever became really good at it like she was. I only do it under duress now! I can't remember the last time I pulled my iron off the shelf! BTW, if you wear white gloves in my house they will be quite furry when you leave, compliments of long-haired shedding furkids. :-)

  9. Louise - in some ways it seemed to me like my mom could do it all so much better and more efficiently than me too. Oddly, I kept house better, did more regular meals, and had the laundry more under control when I had two children at home. I think I "semi-retired" from my domestic godess role after they grew up. I also learned that the world does not end if you leave a dirty cup or bowl in the sink at night. My mother was quite convinced it would! :-) I don't feel at all guilty about farming out the ironing, or having someone come in now and then to do a little deep cleaning. Life is short and time is too precious to spend it all chasing dust! :-)

  10. Hi Ane! I sure do remember things getting caught in the wringer when I helped my mom, it happened easily, and buttons would get torn off, or a hole made in a shirt. I can remember my mom fussing if something proved too bulky or the rollers jammed and had to be worked free. Washing clothes definitely wasn't an easy chore back then, but my mom could remember washing them with her mom in a tub of heated water with a washboard, so I guess to her it was a vast improvement! :-)

  11. I grew up in a spotless home. There was three of us girls, and our mom trained us well, and gave us 'responsibility'. She would rather be cleaning than out having fun. She doesn't have regrets. I keep a neat house, but not so clean. I have no problem living like that.

    I remember my mother having a sprinkler head that she attached to a Coke bottle. She'd sprinkle dry clothes with water and roll them and put them in a huge plastic bag that she'd keep in the refrigerator. On ironing day she'd take them out and iron.

  12. I remember my mother doing exactly the same Cheryl... sprinkling clothes and keeping them in a big plastic bag in the refrigerator prior to ironing. Wouldn't our kids look at us strangely if they found laundry in the refrigerator?! My daughter would probably think I'd lost it entirely! :-) How greatly life changes from generation to generation!


Your comments are always appreciated... they make me smile! :-)