Thursday, May 7, 2009


Mother was a stay at home mom. It was the era. She did try to work once. She bought the clothing she needed to work at the chicken place. Chicken place? No, not Kentucky Fried. This was the place they slaughtered chickens. It was called Peterson-Biddick. What her job was will never be known; it lasted three days.

If mother would have worked out, a jewelry store would have loved having her as an employee. She may or may not have been great with people but she knew her china, stemware, and diamonds. Another job for her would have been someone who booked travels and cruises. Although it is a service she would have been "in the know" and that is what she seemed to do best. She could have had a housekeeping business but working for her would have been the toughest job anyone would ever have because her standards were very high. Later, when she started volunteering it helped her understand the mix of people and how they all learn and think differently.

Although it is hard for us to understand stay at home moms of the 40's and fifties, that is just the way it was. Although it seems rigid, certain house jobs where done each day.

Monday: Wash
Tuesday: Iron
Wednesday: Mend
Thursday: Groceries
Friday: Clean house

Along with specific jobs, she also cooked three meals a day. Key word: COOKED.




In our modern world of house chores, we use automatic washers. Many people wash daily. Although I do not choose Monday as wash day I still see a need to have some sort of organization concept on the jobs a house needs and deserves weekly. Our household has no need to wash more that once a week. BUT we each was once a week. Tom washes his work clothes and I do the rest. In another life, it seemed the machine ran 24/7 and I should have counted the times Bud stripped off his baseball uniform standing by the machine.

Mother washed Mondays and Fridays. Monday was clothes which she dipped in starch after they were washed and Friday was bedding and towels. Although she had a dryer, the only thing that she used it for was towels, everything else was hung on the line to dry or freeze dry or hung in the basement to dry. There were always clothes lines near the back door. Once dried, they were sprinkled and rolled up to dampen the clothes for ironing.

I do iron on Tuesday. Tom's dress shirts are pressed, pillies are removed, strings are snipped, and buttons checked. The best I can do is seven long sleeved shirts in an hour. Starch front, collar, and cuffs.

On Tuesday mother ironed. The board was up when I left for school and she was just finishing up when I came home. Everything was ironed, starting with the handkerchiefs and moving up to bras and boxer shorts. The last item ironed was daddy's work pants. There was no steam iron, spray starch, or permanent press. Daddy's dress shirts were sent to the laundry for full starching and folded. Starched so heavily that one had to puuuuuuuuuuuushhhhh your hand through the arm.

While mother may have mended, I use Wednesday to clean the upstairs and change the bed. I do not iron the sheets. The bathroom gets cleaned and the extra rooms upstairs with little traffic get dusted. Since we have radiator heat, I dust our bedroom every day.

As for mending, this may have meant mother darning socks which she never did. If there were buttons loose or a seam needed doing, she would actually do it before the item was washed. But grandma mended. She had a funny looking wooden utensil she would put the sock over to keep it taunt while she weaved and repaired.

There is much to be said about the duties of a grandmother or mother. Along with the household duties, grandmother, for example, had chickens to feed, a garden to tend, and canning to do in the fall. Consider that grandmothers did all of it without the appliances we have today. Farm families had livestock to feed and cows to milk. Day started before sun up. Everything was cooked from scratch, and for grandmother's the only 'free' meal was something she had canned, including meat. Without refrigeration and preservatives to keep foods fresh in the summer, it had to be made daily. How many of us have even considered baking bread on a daily basis?

I was raised in a house with the highest quality of cleanliness. It was never messy and everything had its place. Because the house was mother's responsibility, she took pride in caring for it. I was amazed as she grew older and it was just the two of them there was more stuff sitting around. More, but not a lot. Yet, she followed her pattern of washing and ironing as long as she was able. And yes, she took pride in her position as a stay at home wife and mother. And when you think about it, isn't that the goal we all want to achieve? Don't all of us want to hear our selves say we have a sense of worth and a sense of pleasure?

It is a hard comparison, isn't it? How do you compare a working mom with a stay at home? You don't. A working mom can only hope the jelly on the kitchen floor doesn't stick to her shoes on the way out the door; a stay at home mom cleans it up right away.

The best solution we might hope for is a good timer to beat the clock, a co-op attitude toward the house, a fresh sense of organization to set up what needs to be done and the energy to do it. But it still doesn't change the fact that a child is worth more swinging on a swing than mopping up the jelly.

The best story Old Trunks ever read was about a lady who was pregnant with her second child. She and her son had gone to the market on a snowy day. The mother was fussy about her house. When they came home, the door was locked and she couldn't get in, (never mind the fact that she should have had a key, it really has nothing to do with the impact). She helped her son through a window, (never mind the window was open in the winter, it has nothing to do with the impact). It took way too long for him to get to the door to let her in. WHY? Because he scooted on his belly all the way to the door because he knew he would be in trouble if he got the freshly waxed floor wet.

The child will remember the time spent; the floor won't.


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