Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Monotonous, Repetitive, Mindless Tasks (i.e. Housework): The Pros and Cons


One of my friends, in an effort to help her husband understand what it is like to do housework day in and day out, explained it like this...

"First, you take apart an engine, then you put it back together again. The next day, you take apart that same engine, then you put it back together again. The next day, you take apart that same engine, then you put it back together again. The next day, you take apart that same engine, then you put it back together again."

Get the point?

And isn't it true? We sweep and mop the same floors, wash the same dishes, wash, dry, hang up and iron the same clothes day in and day out. Women (and sometimes men) all over the world do this, unless they have maids, servants or are disabled in some way.

Have you ever wondered why God set life up this way? I have. Many times. It wasn't until recently that I finally figured out the answer... perhaps.

I'm sure most of you never get into heated discussions with your husbands, but, on a rare occasion, I do. And sometimes, just sometimes, we go to bed mad at each other. (Can you believe that we would blatantly disregard the most slung-around marital advice ever given?) The next day goes something like this...

I start my day upset. Then I get the kids ready and off to school, which is a distraction for a while, then I start with the mindless tasks of dishes, sweeping and laundry. During these tasks my brain has absolutely nothing to do but think of all the ways my husband wronged me and how I was one hundred percent correct in how I handled the situation. I tell myself that he should apologize, but figure he won't, so I get madder. Then I think of all the other times he didn't apologize, and that I'm still waiting for those apologies, knowing that I'll never, EVER get them, so I get madder. Then I start thinking how I am entirely maligned by everyone who is supposed to love me. I think of the wrongs been done to me by my sister, my children, even my late first husband, and I become madder still.

This goes on all day long, until, at the end of the day, I am ready to give John a good talking to. Because he's out of town most days, I call him on the phone and say, "What are you thoughts on what happened with us last night?"

His response: "I'm sorry, Dear, did something happen with us last night?"


You see, his mind has been filled with a million things to accomplish, solve, sort out, and organize all day long, so the previous evening's happenings had no room to fester. They simply disappeared. My job, however, permitted me to mull over every last detail of the event until I was blue in the face.

So why do I bring all of this up? Because I do believe that God gave us women monotonous, repetitive, mindless tasks for a reason. Wanna know what I think? This give us tons of mental time to problem-solve.

When I'm not mad at my husband (which, fortunately, is most days), my mind is an amazing machine that is lubricated during these hours and hours of thoughtless tasks. I can think and ponder on how to solve the problem of the kids not keeping the theater clean. I can pray about how best to support our son on his two-year mission for our church. I can think about how best to potty train twins... one at a time or together? I can come up with amazing meal plans, I can troubleshoot pet problems, I can think how to add more fiber to our diets, how to get the 14-year-old boy to learn Spanish faster, the 10-year-old boy to practice piano more, and how to compliment the 8-year-old girl on trying to keep her room clean. As Dr. Suess says...

You can think, think and wonder,
Wonder and think,
Oh the thinks you can think up if only you try!

Some of my best ideas have come from doing monotonous tasks. One of the most monotonous tasks I've ever had to do was when I was teaching the twins to sleep in their cribs. I remember having to turn out their lights, sit on a stool between their cribs, and hold their hands until I heard their deep breathing of slumber. Sometimes this took up to thirty minutes, which was just nothing but me sitting in the dark without moving, staring into space... thinking. The idea to start Mega-Family Blogs was born during those hours, and as a result, I have received innumerable comments and emails about how the listing site has blessed the lives of so many moms with large families all over the world. Some mega-families have even met up in person after finding each other on the website. I never would have thought it, but I am certainly grateful for the mindless time I sat in the dark on that stool if the idea that came to me then has brought happiness and comfort to some!

Now, back to what happens in our minds when we endure a potentially depressing experience.....

I don't know how this began, but one day I realized that I would always think of all of the ways I'd been wronged when I would fold clothes. I would leave my laundry room with such a bleak outlook on life, but try as I would, I could not seem to control those thoughts. Why they came when I was doing laundry, I don't know, but they surely did.

Recently, however, I quite accidentally came across a method of folding laundry that has removed this problem. Do you remember when I wrote THIS POST about doing housework in small bites? One of the things I'd started doing was to fold 30 things every time I walked by the laundry room. This technique has had two major benefits. First, the laundry is taken care of now much more often then it is not, and second, while I'm holding the number in my head as I count and fold the next item of clothing, there is no room for those negative thoughts to enter in. When I first realized this was happening, it was like a light when on. Counting! What a simple way to stave off potentially depressing, disheartening thoughts. I now find that I've started counting other things as well when my brain starts going in a direction I don't want it to. Yes, I realize this could become OCD, so I'll have my kids let me know if I start counting too much. The 4-year-old already has, so I guess he'll be the one to help me keep my sanity. Wait, isn't he the reason I've almost lost it? Oh well, that's a topic for another post.

Thanks for listening!

P.S. My sister and I are finally getting skinnier!

See how we're doing it HERE! :)


Anonymous said...


You're such a good writer!

Love, Mom

Mom2my10 @ 11th Heaven said...

Awwww, Mom, you're so sweet!

alessandra said...

Good for you that you found some pros ;) me not, LOL!

Jamie said...

Oh Jen that was like reading the thoughts out of my own mind! I actually find myself unconsciously cursing out loud at times while I sweep and mop the floors because I get so worked up during that time about arguments I've had with my husband! Haha. That was really good to read, thanks for sharing.

Mom2my10 @ 11th Heaven said...

Jamie, I knew I wasn't alone. :)

Luvmy9 said...

Jen, I count, too, but maybe mine is OCD. Whatever...it helps.

divx torrents said...

The day after you take it, too, that the same engine, then put back together. The day after you take it, too, that the same engine, then put back together.

Brian + Cheryl B. said...

Hi Jen :-)
When I started reading this posting, I thought you were going to take it a certain direction, but you didn't.

While I DO(!) like the direction you did take it, I hope you don't mind if I go ahead and leave the comments that had originally come to mind to share with you.

W-a-y back, when all of the boys were very young, and I had two in diapers and attempting to potty train a third, I'd often get to the end of a day and feel like I hadn't accomplished a darn thing. While I knew I had been ever so busy, had I really done anything?

Seeings how I am such a list maker, I decided one day to make a list of every single little, important or not important, thing I did that day. I taped a piece of paper up in a prominent spot, put a pencil in my pocket, and went about my day.

When Brian got home late that night, he was amazed at just how long that list had turned out to be (more than both sides of one page). And I in-turn got a different perspective on what were important tasks. If I hadn't changed that many diapers, what condition would our sons be in? If I hadn't yet again .....

When I was working part time at the caterers, the Lord brought yet another perspective into focus for me. They prepare food, to cook food, to serve people, then wash the dirty dishes so they can start the whole process over again, all so they can earn a living. And at the end of every day, they mop the floor. A whole lot like house work, huh?

LOTS of jobs involve the employees doing either the exact same thing, or darn close to it, every single day they work. The bonus part with being a stay at home mom is, you do the same tasks over and over and over again, while having the blessing and benefit of raising your own children. "Priceless!"

To this day, sometimes when I have been oh so busy all day, and yet there's no actual eye viewable evidence of it, I again make a list of what I did. Things like sorting through those piles of paper, and taking care of everything there-in. Or catching up and balancing the checkbook. Or figuring out and paying the bills. Etc.. Yes, the doing so still helps me.

Jen, I know your not a big list maker - but you too might find encouragement via this methodology.