on balance

waiting for Jenny

Well, Jenny’s room is ready, and Molly says it passes quality control.

The rest of the family also have a place to sleep. Now I just have to clean the floors for Finn and deal with all the churchy bits (booklets, sermon; messy sacristy which may get ignored again).

The experience of preparing for this visit had taught me a lot about the balance of my life. I began cleaning on Monday so that I could get it over with and get on with the rest of the week. I seem to have been cleaning ever since. I have occasionally thought about feeling guilty for how little normal work I’ve done this week, but each time I did, I remembered that the reason my house takes a whole week to clean is because there are so many days where I let domestic tasks fall by the way side so that I can tend to other things.

But clearly, the fact that my house takes a week to clean means my life is off balance. I’m not talking about polishing silver, here. I’m talking basic cleaning, and things like putting up curtains after only two years of living here (and even then, it was done with safety pins pending a trip to Glasgow for the right sort of curtain rail.)

I’ve never been terribly good at ‘normal life’. Which is a shame, because I think that one of the things the church has to offer our overworked, under-focused society is a model of life that is worth living. Christianity offers a vision of balance: we need both Mary and Martha; compassion and challenge; celebrations and quiet places to pray. We also claim to believe in sabbath rest. Not that we do it very much…

As I walked round Tescos last night (wondering: ‘what time is the last ferry??’) I was very aware of how many people routinely do their week’s shopping at 8.45 pm. And all the more aware of how many of those people were small enough that they couldn’t see over the top of the trolley. I’ve blogged about this before, but little kids really shouldn’t have to stay up late to go shopping.

But what options do their mothers have?

I wonder if the church could just say no to it all — to the perceived needs and patterns that throw us all off balance. I wonder if we could be brave enough to find another way. Protect and defend at least two evenings a week and a full day at weekends to do simple, holy things: spend time with friends and family, prepare and share a meal, read a book, go for a walk, pray.

And then, if we could do that, could we give up an evening to enable someone else to have time off? Could those of us without families find a young working mother and say, ‘you stay home tonight. Play with the kids. Give me your shopping list, and I’ll come back once they’ve gone to sleep.’

It seems it should be possible.

And yet it so often proves impossible. Even as I write, I know that I still have a couple of hours of work to do before bed, and that some things that should be done will not get done. Time to read Benedict again. Though in fact, remembering to apply it would probably be more useful.

9 thoughts on “on balance

  1. You see how it goes wrong? I wrote this and though: pew sheets, hoovering, then TV. The rest I’ll do early tomorrow.

    Then an email came reminding me of something that needs to be done urgently and should have been done weeks ago. I knew this. It was on my list for today (and the day before, and the day before). But I really did have to do the kitchen and make the beds first.

  2. Next time perhaps you would consider ‘calling in the troops’ to give you a hand with the mundane stuff -many hands making lighter work so to speak!.
    It really would be a pleasure and a privelidge.

    Just a thought from an ignorant ‘newbie’, if we had a single male priest would we be doing this already as a matter of course?

    Now don’t get cross boys, its just a thought, and I AM new, so do be kind!!!

  3. Sharon, if you’ve never read the novels of Barbara Pym, you should! They are full of women vying to ease the domestic burdens of anglo-catholic (and therefore single) clergy and inviting the new curate to tea.

    I used to go climbing with a male colleague who, when I talked about juggling work, home and days in the hills, would tell me I needed a wife. He had something, I think!

  4. In your case, Sharon, could I suggest bribery? You simply say to them, ‘you clean the house while I bake the bread.’ (and then, if the house is clean, you let them have it rather than giving it all away.)

  5. I went on thinking about this after I went to bed (sad, isn’t it?). The first luxury I bought with my returning-to-work money was someone to do two hours’ cleaning a week, and I went on doing this till my latest one retired (really!) and we decided to share the jobs now that the family had flown. Some of my compadres in left-wing politics mocked my bourgeois pretensions, but I always felt there were better things to do than tidying up and as long as things were clean (as opposed to tidy) it was ok. And I was paying someone the minimum wage to do something I hated. After all, it can be such a waste of time – you tidy up and in no time at all the floor once more looks like a hamster’s nest ‘cos you’ve bought another newspaper …..

  6. Hi. I came here from Chris’ blog… I did exactly the same as she did when I went back to work, in employing someone to clean for 2 hours a week, for precisely the same reason. Trouble was I felt so guilty about the whole thing, and also valued what she did so much, that I actually had to pay her more than the minimum wage, to salve my conscience!
    Dorothy

  7. I am that somebody – I clean for the employed (and the the old, and the lazy) – I’m profoundly grateful for the work, but I reckon it is cleaning karma from all the all the years I dodged it as somebody else’s work.

    I still hate cleaning with a passion.

    But the more serious point is how to free up time for life. It gets harder, doesn’t it? As I am currently re-evaluating all my priorities, I’ll let you know when I solve the problem. Or fail to. Like the rest of us.

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