One day my sister wrote, "I am busy, but I can't figure out why I have nothing to show for it. I do a lot of driving and a lot of errands. (I really need to organize myself.)"
This could go down as the universal plea of the modern woman, if not all womankind. We blame ourselves (“I need to get organized”), our kids (“Juggling the needs of four kids is impossible”), our jobs (“Of course I can’t manage everything; I’m working 40 hours a week!”), our husbands (“Can’t he see I’m floundering? Why does he just sit there, staring at the TV?”)…but mostly we blame ourselves. A friend of mine once said that guilt is written right into the motherhood contract. I’m convinced that one major reason women like to work outside the home is so that, at the end of the week, they can say, “See, that’s what I accomplished!” Even if the job’s not going well, at least there’s the paycheck to point to.
Thus, “So what do you do all day?” falls hardest on the homemaker. I’ve developed a standard answer, “I lie on the couch, watch soap operas, and eat bon-bons,” as a self-defense mechanism, since that is often implied in the question. We can always do better, of course, and we should never stop trying. However, I believe we are too hard on ourselves. It seems that even the most organized, efficient people I know tend to have paid help and to use the television set as a nanny.
Homemaking, especially when it involves children, is a creative process, like writing a symphony. I’m particularly sensitive to this now, because of the trials and tribulations of my musician friend whose employers valued the results of her creative work, but because they couldn’t put it in a box, eight-to-five, in an office, they thought she was wasting time. I also understand the problem better since I’ve been doing so much more writing. Creating a newsletter, an article, even a letter, can require hours and hours of hard work—yet when people ask how I spend that time, I’m at a loss to explain. Even when you take the time to quantify your activities, people will say, “It can’t possibly take so much time to do that!”
Add to this a fact which everyone who has tackled a major project knows: There’s always much more to do than anyone realizes, and almost everything takes longer than you think it should.
Take heart, sisters: you are not alone. I have to warn you, though, that it doesn’t get any better with time. Everyone thinks, “Once I quit my job, once the kids sleep through the night, once they’re toilet trained, once they’re in school, once they can drive, once they go off to college…then I’ll have time.” I haven’t tried the “empty nest” phase yet, but I’ve been through every other, and have found that my activities always expand to overflow my cup of time.
But if I could just get organized....