If you’re into new year’s resolutions, mantras, manifestos, and other Gretchen Rubin-type happiness hacks, you should pick a one-word theme for 2018. Choosing a theme is supposed to help you salt your year with a single focus, and you can even pair it with short- and long-term goals for extra effect. My theme for 2018 is two words, and it names what I have not been able to do since having my first baby five years ago: Embrace Domesticity. I love this so much that I had it printed onto a new kitchen mat.
High Hopes for Domesticity
During my maternity leave three years ago, I told myself I would become domestic, that I would not do anything except take care of my children and my home. I had always wanted to be the kind of woman — think Madame Chic — who cleans in an apron and has dinner in the slow cooker by 9am. I loved the idea of school-age kids walking into the house to the smell of freshly baked cookies. I even bought kitchen gloves.
But I couldn’t do it. It was too hard. Instead, I kept working, writing, and finding other excuses not to do chores. In the rare moments of quiet, I took naps or read instead of keeping house.
But this year I’m giving myself another chance to embrace domesticity, to make a home I can love, to teach my children to fold their clothes and make their beds. I want the tranquil life that seems to come so easily to many women. But I know it’s not easy — it’s positively draining. I know, for instance, that these women get up earlier than their children, which is about as illogical a decision as natural childbirth. But I chose natural childbirth. Twice. Like Momastery says, we can do hard things.
As a working-outside-the-home mother, I have rationalized the fact that my home has been my last priority. The exception is that I actually do cook all of the food for our family. But I only wash dishes during Lent, and not even then do I clean any surfaces, especially the stove. Forget about the floor.
Since my husband and I have the same career as college professors, he has no excuse to get out of kitchen duties, and he has done them more or less without complaint for the last five years, except for the few times that we hired a house-cleaner who, each time, left our house looking and smelling brand new. But since she disappeared, the inside of the microwave is dirty, and the toaster is worse. The glass doors are covered in fingerprints and the light fixtures don’t hang high enough to hide the haloes of grime. Our only pets are dust bunnies, who live in every corner, which makes life tricky for my son who might be allergic to them.
But that’s all in the past. This is 2018.
A Fresh Start
This year, I am beginning by washing dishes. Standing on my whimsical mat, I have successfully washed dinner dishes every night since about a week before the new year. As a feminist I know that it’s not my job to do the dishes since I cooked the dinner, but I really like them done immediately. I love to see a clean kitchen by the time we put the kids to bed, so the only logical option is for me to learn to love it. To lean into it.
Now, while the kids bathe, I light a candle and get to work: I put away leftovers, wash the dishes, wipe down the counter and the table, vacuum the floor crumbs with my new Swiffer Sweep&Vac, and shine my kitchen sink like I’m Flylady. By the time I blow out the candle, the kids are ready for tooth-brushing and books. This whole process takes maybe 10 minutes, and it makes me feel so competent that I’d even do it if it took 20 minutes.
The other chores on my 2018 Embrace Domesticity list include making a schedule to clean the two bathrooms regularly, including the showers and floors, and to keep the living room clutter-free. I already hang my clothes and make my bed every day, so the bedroom just needs to be regularly relieved of our dead skin cells. I want my kids to put away one toy before taking out another, and to respect work surfaces; that is, not see them as perfect for storage.
I am not sure how to make my kids love cleaning, but I suspect the answer lies in my loving it, or at least my embracing it. Or, at least my not yelling at them that they’re using too much vinegar. I think this trick might involve Sunday morning cleaning dance parties or something that pairs, in their little memories, cleaning and fun.
If you have any advice, I’d love to hear it. Good luck in 2018.