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!