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The Sisyphean Nature of Housework

Standing in the middle of my kitchen, I surveyed the damage that a long weekend has caused. How could my somewhat neat and working-on-becoming-organized house look like it is the victim of vandals, looters, and general havoc-wreckers?

From the laboratory that is often known as the kitchen, I have the (sometimes) unfortunate ability to see the kids’ playroom and the family room. Standing at my kitchen sink, I looked from one room to the next and I wept. No, I sobbed. No, actually I supposed what I did would better be described as a total breakdown, with the additional flair of having my head spin in circles (a la Linda Blair) while I spewed (not pea soup, but) fresh brewed coffee all over my what-does-it-matter-because-it-is-already-filthy kitchen counter top.

House cleaning – especially when it falls after a long weekend – is a task only rivaled by Sisyphus. You know the poor schmuck I am talking about, right? He is that “hero” of Greek mythology who was condemned to roll a great boulder to the top of a hill. But every time he, by the greatest of exertion and toil, attained the summit, the ever-loving rock rolled back down again. And again. And again.

The more I think about it, I really don’t see a difference after all. I mean, oh sure, he has a big boulder to roll up a hill that will always roll back down before he reaches the top. Forever. That is his life. His eternity. His reality. But let’s face it, for me (and for many moms, housewives, stay-at-home-dads, caregivers, [fill-in-your-politically correct term here]) that is how daily life can feel.

(What do you mean I have to clean the kitchen, do the laundry, AND feed everyone? Didn’t I do that yesterday? And the day before? And the day before that? Haven’t I done that every day of my life as a mother, and yet it is never finished?)

Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that I dislike being a stay-at-home mom. I don’t. I just have those days when the never-ending, ongoing, hard tasks exhaust me simply by thinking of them. The never-ending task of cleaning the house and feeling good about it, only to turn around and see it once again become Disaster Central makes me crazy.

Oh sure, the best way to take care of that is to actually get up and clean the place. However, since I am working full time from home I decided on something better. I have started the Chore List. Every child has a chore and a day they have to do it. It is posted on our refrigerator, and they know what day they have to do what task. Besides the fact that I am now receiving a lot of help, I am gaining something else – if my kids miss their chore on a given day and I have to do it, they get to pay me for doing their chore. They really don’t like that. And I get the pleasure of getting paid because they made the choice to not do what they knew they should.

It is a win-win for me.

My kids know the basics like making their bed, sweeping, and mopping. So, I realized that now is the perfect time to crack down. I have a teen and near-teen who want money and a daughter who wants to be like her mom and help.

Do you ever feel this way? Does the Sisyphean nature of housework ever overwhelm you? If you have kids, do they do chores? I would love to hear your input on this one.

For now, I am going to go enjoy a hot cup of coffee and ponder why I didn’t start this much sooner.


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