“Give That Woman a Medal”

I have a new friend who’s always writing letters to the editor about what kind of Hell the country is headed for now. I find I agree with a lot of what he says though I lack his edge, meaning the anger that allows him to fire off searing missives to every paper in the county.

He sent me one, is how we met.

He thought I was an on-staff journalist in whatever paper it is where he reads my column each week; he didn’t know I was one of those slacker freelancers who are half the time writing from a bed piled high with half-eaten bagels, orange peels and a doting housepet or two.

Anyway he knows what I do now. And this is what  he had to say regarding Tuesday’s post about the woman who used extreme measures to get her sons and husband to pitch in with the tasks of daily life:

“Every household is as different as every country,” he began. “My mother had 11 children.  She cleaned, cooked, did everything mother always did then, including going down cellar every morning to get the coal for the stove, for heating  the house, for cooking. My two oldest sisters would do the dishes…. SOMETIMES. My two oldest brothers did nothing as far as I can remember. Nobody had chores except…. my mother! No sense talking about my father the gambler. (He lost OUR shirts as well as his own!)”

He went on to say that when the 11 grew up and left home they did finally become conscious of what they should have been doing. His feeling: they just didn’t know before: “We didn’t know because nobody told us and since no one told us what to do, it was left  to our housekeeper/cleaning-woman/mother to do everything. We did all go to work at 16 to support the old man’s habits and addictions. Finishing high school was out of the question. ‘ Education’ was not a word we heard; college was a disease. 

“So give an A+ to that lady you wrote about in your column,” he ended by saying. “She deserves a medal!”

Again you can read here  about the method of ‘that lady’ whose best move in my book getting rid of all the old dishes and bowls and cups and cutlery and giving each of family member his own small color-coded set.  That way if one ran out of his color he couldn’t poach the other guy’s without being exposed. 

Genius, no? She also stopped washing their clothes unless she jolly well felt like it.

When our kids lived here I started every day at 5am with a load or two of wash. We’d been poor enough so that having a washer and drier in the home still seemed to me like the height of luxury so I didn’t mind Dishes though? Dishes are a whole other thing.

If I lived with a guy who left his dishes around or kicked off his socks and walked away from them I don’t know what I’d do. Luckily, Old Dave is great around the house, though we did have some bumpy times early in the marriage. (The man’s mother used to IRON HIS UNDERPANTS. AND THEY WERE BRIEFS!)

Women have memories like elephants so I have a thousand stories about the Chore Wars but tell ya what: I’d much rather hear how others divvy up the jobs.  Send an email if you’re shy about posting a comment publicly and let’s see what we’ve come up with among us over the years.  

7 thoughts on ““Give That Woman a Medal”

  1. My mother used to iron my dad’s underwear too. My daughter has 3 boys, now adults. But when they were younger, she used to do the household laundry, fold it, and place the clean clothes on their beds for them to put away. The boys never put their freshly laundered away, but invariably mixed the dirty laundry with the clean, and left it where it fell. Sheila then taught them how to use the washing machine, and they washed their own clothes –just at the last minute before nudity took over. Like you, I was so happy to have a wringer type Maytag (those many years ago) and finally, a DRYER, that I enjoying laundry heaven every Monday.

    Who is your correspondent? He sounds like that McCourt guy from the ould sod.

    1. His people are from the Ould Sod I think! His name is Joe Bell. I treasure him. He’s an Eleanor Roosevelt fan .

      we all took the work done by our women family members for granted I think…

  2. I had a friend with 3 kids. This lady worked and was always so frustrated by the amount of stuff always lying around the house, so she hatched a wonderful plan. She got her kids together and said that she was increasing their weekly pocket money (by quite a lot). The kids of course were thrilled, but she said that there was one condition. Anything she found lying around the house that belonged to them she would put in a box and at the end of the week if your had any items in the box they had to buy it back out of their pocket money. Of course having this huge allowance was offset by buying back all the stuff in the box. After a couple of weeks things began to change. The house was tidier and her scheme was working. I can’t remember how she then went on to address getting the amount of pocket money back to a reasonable amount but I thought this was a brilliant scheme. Anyhow thought I would pass it on in the spirit of this constant juggle many of us mums have.


    1. Jacqueline I like this idea quite a lot for how positive it is. Gratitude must play into it somehow don’t you suppose? You never do know what will happen when you jiggle the mobile a little huh?
      Thanks for this helpful little weigh-in.!

  3. Hi Terry, As you might remember, I am the youngest of 13 and we did our best to help out Mom and Dad in every way possible. Ok, that’s a lie. But I do remember having definite chores and a huge ten cents allowance every Saturday if I kept the garage floor swept and neat. I also participated in at least one of Dad’s family businesses as we all did. He had a wholesale candy business, managed Burbeck’s ice cream stand, had a small variety store and a summer beach store at Hampton Beach. My seven brothers and five sisters were never bored. It wasn’t perfect but we never questioned that “things” had to get done and we did them. Mom was the model and the hardest worker by far. Dad died before I finished college and rarely complained, another great model.

    Three cheers for great parents!!!

    1. You were lucky to have such hard-working role models,,, Your household reminds me a little of the Cheaper by the Dozens stories only those kids were insulated by wealth and so missed the great lesson of what it was to work side by side with the adults…

  4. In my house growing up, my mother did most of the work certainly. However, when my Dad retired, suddenly he began to do laundry and prep dinner. Not bad for a guy born in Ireland in the 20’s! My household, though, is thoroughly one of the 21st century. Heck, I work 4 days per week. There’s no way I could do all the housework and keep up that schedule and take care of my elderly mom too. So, without much discussion or arranging, my husband and I have each gravitated to what we do the best and most naturally. I take care of all the social stuff (RSVPs, planning events) and pay all the bills. I organize all the pediatrician visits (and there are lots w/3 young children). He does the dump run, a fabulous opportunity to socialize in our town. Ha! He mows the lawn and does all the laundry. He changes just as many diapers as I do and does most of the kids’ baths. I’m sure he wishes I would empty the vacuum cleaner more often. And, I sometimes wish that he would get breakfast for the kids a bit more. But, overall, it works just fine the way we do it. 🙂

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