Wednesday, February 6, 2008

The Big "Duh"

Yesterday during the kid's karate class, I got to talk with a mom who is a scientist (biologist) at Cal. She has a little girl a bit younger than Aee, so I asked her my current Burning Question: "Where do you find decent literature for her that isn't fluffy, but is still modern?" which led to the inevitable, "What did your parents do to encourage your love for science?"

My little Aee has a strong passion for anything science-oriented and I am seeing that slowly die as she reads various fluff books and generally absorbs these invisible little undercurrents that still exist.

Bio Lady: "Well, my mom worked as a biologist and I saw her passion for her work."

Me: (after a long pause) "But... usually when people come home from work, they are tired, having given their best to the job. Wasn't your mom tired when she came home? I worry that my kids will only see the fatigued side of me and grow up wanting to avoid my mistakes."

Bio Lady: "Sure, yeah, I'm struggling with that now too, but it was different back then. My mom got home at 4 or 5 every day without fail and she had a full-time maid so dinner was on the table when she walked in the door."

Me: (jaw dropped)

Bio Lady: "I got to hear about the cool stuff she was doing."

Me: (picking up jaw) "Full-time maid?"

Bio Lady: "Uh, yeah, full-time."

Me: "Full-time?"

Bio Lady: "Full-time."

In my mind I see the To Do list:

* Laundry
* Dishes
* Ironing
* Vacuuming
* Grocery shopping
* Fixing the faucet

Literally about 300 To Do items all clearly and prominently scrolling through my mind's eye. Holy cannolli. It IS a full-time job!

If you sat me down with pencil and paper, I could list them all out in a heated timed-test fashion, grouped in whichever way your request.
  • Tasks by frequency? List: Daily, Weekly, Monthly, Yearly
  • Tasks by type? Cleaning, Maintenance, Food supply, Scheduling, Exterior (yard + vehicle), etc.
  • Tasks by duration? Quick 30 second tasks, Five minuters, Half-hour tasks, Half-day tasks, Full weekend tasks.
About 300 unique, varied and distinct tasks to run a home, all ingrained in neural pathways that at too well-worn.

Later that night, Vee and I went on a run. I talked to him about it and his reply:

Vee: "Well, yeah, Mom. Think about it. Caring for a family and a home is about 8 hours a day. Think of all the shopping, cleaning, cooking, and all that needs to be done. Work is 8 hours if you're lucky. We like to see you for about 4 or 5 hours after school and somewhere in there you need some time to yourself. And then, maybe some sleep."

Me: (running in somber silence)

Vee: "Do the math."

We talked about how the work is scalable, about how housework can take the time of several full-time people if you make it and it can also take nearly no work (but there are consequences). I rehashed all my old beliefs that having a smaller home, streamlined work processes, and having the whole family help were valuable work arounds.

But, the bottomline is that I'm trying to squeeze a Too Big job into too small a space.