“What do you do?”
What an excellent question, person I’ve just met. You’ve noticed I’m not carrying a baby and certainly don’t look like I’ve had one, and you’d be right. You’ve probably figured out I have a college degree, so naturally you’ve assumed I must have some kind of employment, given that I’m not living at home with my parents. Of course, it will come out that my husband’s in the military, so it’s understandable if I haven’t found something yet. But there must be a something, right?
To answer your question, I’m a teacher. I had a teaching job that I loved with most of my heart and soul, and I left it because I loved my husband with all of them. But I don’t have my Master’s and I’ve never taken any education courses and thus can’t get my certification and in any case the state market is currently flooded with teachers desperate for work. I could tutor or volunteer in a school, sure, but it’s summertime anyway. And as previously mentioned, my husband’s in the military, so until I have a sense of how long I”m going to be in any one place it’s hard to look for work. What’s the point of starting a job in August when I’m going to leave in October? This is especially poignant when it comes to what I’d really love to do, mentor, because it’s not fair to a child to start building a relationship and then cut it off two months in.
“Jo,” you say, “those sound an awful lot like a whole bunch of excuses.”
They probably are. I’m making excuses to cover up how much I miss it. I’m talking around why I’m not doing what I love, why I’m not doing something that’s work yes but so rewarding and awesome that I ultimately would do it for free (maybe I should put that on my resume), why I’m not doing something that comes fairly easily and naturally to me.
Instead, I am doing something hard hard hard, something totally against my natural inclinations and desires, something I do not because I love it but because I love and it must be done: homemaking.
“Jo,” you might laugh, if you don’t know me very well, “keeping house is hard? It’s just you and your husband and your dog. There’s no toys and no highchair and no diapers. It’s two adults. Come on.”
I know. I know. But I’m the kind of person who, when left to her own devices, leaves dishes in the sink for days on end, does laundry once a month, maybe vacuums twice a year if I remember to. I enjoy cooking, sure, but if I were on my own I wouldn’t bother with it, and anyway I’m good at scrounging up meals that satisfy my moderate appetite, or at stretching meals by eating the same thing for three or four meals in a row. A large part of me prefers piles of papers and things to any sort of organizational system, because at least the piles mean everything’s out in the open and I know where it is. I can spend hours playing video games. Paying bills makes me anxious. And I’ve never had any particular eye for decorating or making things look nice and neat.
Now, I married a man who regularly had to pass white glove inspections during college (which he admits is a standard higher than he cares to emulate on a regular basis), who is good at tidying up, but he works all day and I don’t and so we agreed, when discussing the situation, that I should probably be the one to do the majority of the housework. This system would be awesome if I could carry on as I did in my married-bachelorette days during his deployment, but it turns out he has different expectations about when the dishes will be done and not having papers lying everywhere and oh my goodness does the man go through clothes.
And it took me longer than it should have to figure all this out. Granted, the problem was exacerbated when he first came home by my then-untreated hypothyroidism, which left me tired and achy all the time, able to do maybe one activity a day. But then I got better and didn’t increase my activity level until eventually my dear husband explained to me that piles of paper drive him crazy and putting away clean dishes in a prompt manner would be very helpful.
And it’s not like I haven’t had to compromise with roommates (okay, a roommate) (who, as my mother says, is A Saint) before, but when you’re married you’re sharing literally every space (and so have to learn to create individual spaces within that sharing, another post) and so every space has to balance both of your expectations. For example, my husband can handle piles of my clothes on the floor so long as they restrict themselves to my side of the bed. (And of course he has his own piles on his side, the hypocrite.) (Ah, marriage.) On top of that, being the one with the more laid-back expectations, I was going to have to be the one to make a change, in part because if we ever want to have people over there’s a good chance that they are not of the piles-of-paper-everywhere variety either and in part because I love my husband and he doesn’t have the time to take care of everything.
And I’m trying trying trying to set good habits for myself now because I know it will only get more chaotic as time goes on. And I also know it’s good for me to view this as something I have to do because I am a person who requires structure and external motivation (I learn much, much better in a classroom setting than on my own) and also because I don’t have anything else I have to do and it is very easy to fall prey to that anxious trapped feeling of having nothing to do or look forward to. And my reaction to that feeling is usually to want to hide from it, which just makes it worse.
So I force myself to get up as soon as I wake up in the morning, to wait to turn on the computer until the kitchen is clean, to sit and write my blog post before catching up on all the social media, to find things to do around the house and spend at least half an hour working on them in between keeping friends company while they grade papers and walk paths that I might have trod, had I not chosen this instead. Some days I am better at it than others. This morning I even managed to go to divineoffice.org and do morning prayer while preparing tonight’s dinner (oh yeah, you jelly). When I get frustrated or bored halfway through I remind myself that I am not doing this for myself, that there are people who would love to be able to do what I do, that I am not doing this for myself, that I am blessed to be able to give my husband and myself a place to call home.
It is hard work and I am trying (“most trying person I’ve ever met!” thanks dad jokes). But at the end of the day it’s for love and that, somewhere along the line, makes it all worth it.