5 Reasons I love being a housewife

It takes a genius to be a first-rate housekeeper. -1884

Well, that explains a lot. Mystery solved…now I know why I still haven’t figured this whole housewifery thing out.

In spite of the fact that I haven’t mastered this career in the least and that many people see it as an inferior (or not even a legitimate) occupation, I really, really love my job. So why do I like being a housewife? Why is it the best career for me?

Hours Yes, I’m on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and even on a family vacation, I’m not really off duty. But, that doesn’t mean I’m working all the time. As long as the tasks get done, the details are up to me. That means I can watch a movie while I dust the living room or fold laundry, I can batch-cook meals to free me up from daily cooking, or I can hold off on my plans of defrosting the freezer because I got an impromptu invitation from a friend. (Hello? Friends?!? …I’m running low on friends offering impromptu invitations…)

-Shopping- I can do my shopping at the slowest times, so I never, ever, grocery shop on the weekends or during the after-school/post workday madness. And more importantly, I’m also able to avoid senior citizen discount day at the grocery store. So many retirees with so much time on their hands. The shopping is secondary to the visiting and the free coffee.

I’m also able to take advantage of weekday garage sales that I would otherwise miss if I had to work during the day for someone else. In my area, most garage sales begin on Thursday or Friday mornings. By Saturday, things are generally picked over.

Speaking of garage sales–can I share my big find last week? I was so excited. I’ve been looking for a carry-on sized suitcase for a couple of years.

While not a huge fan of animal print designs, I was won over by the $5 price tag (for the set).

Variety The number of different tasks a housewife does is nearly limitless, everything from childcare to budgeting to landscaping to canning. That’s a sample of what a housewife can do in a single day. I have physical work to do and mental tasks, so I can change direction whenever I feel the need. I love that every day is different and there is always a new skill to learn. There’s no such thing as a bored housewife. I may become restless and discontent, but there’s no end of things to be done.

-Flexibility In many ways, I’m my own boss. Sure, our home is my husband’s too, but frankly, he doesn’t have many opinions about domestic affairs unless I get him involved and want his help or opinion. As long as he has clean clothes and relatively organized home with regular meals, he doesn’t get caught up in the details.  

So that leaves me an independent manager. While I have a variety of jobs to do, I can also tailor this career to my interests. Some housewives never have a garden, but keep an immaculate house and make all their own clothes. Others struggle with organization but know the best frugal shopping tips. I’ll never have weed-free flower beds but I know what it’s in my pantry and chest freezer. It’s a choose your own adventure kind of life, not in a super adventurous, life on the edge kind of way, but I do what I can…

-Satisfaction I was once elected to head up an organization and while it was a volunteer position, it was a job in nearly every way but the paycheck. I struggled and fought to make some badly needed changes to the organization. While I was successful, I eventually moved on and so did the crabbies, who to this day would have preferred to see the group dissolve than change. The organization is now thriving and although I learned a lot and did what needed to be done, my efforts were at the expense of my family and will be forgotten soon by the group, if they haven’t already.

A part of that experience was that I learned I am happiest putting my energy into what matters most to me.  I don’t need the praise of the public to feel fulfilled. My family has never fallen at my feet in gratitude for clean socks and homemade pickles (so far, anyway, my pickles have come out crispier than usual this summer, so just maybe), but I have the satisfaction of knowing that I’m benefiting the people that will be a part of my life for as long as I’m alive.

So those are my top 5 reasons why I love being a housewife. Do you have any you’d add?

It’s that time of year….

…mid-summer, that is. For me and countless gardeners in the midwest, this time of year means that produce is starting to roll in. And that means I have to start doing something with it all. So what does this time of year mean for me? It means–

  • Remembering how long to blanch green beans is knowledge I use on a daily basis.

 

  • Checking for zucchini and cucumbers twice a day because I always, always overlook at least one, and usually more.

  • Meat becomes a minor player at mealtime next to all the vegetables. Not only are we eating multiple servings of fruits and vegetables at every meal (it’s less that I have to process!) but we’re eating all the jars that didn’t seal. And don’t anybody dare to open a jar from the pantry.

 

  • Zucchini. Every day. Zucchini chocolate cake is the only dessert on the menu.
Zucchini bread for a little variety
  • I don’t wash the kitchen floor until I start sticking to it. It’s a pointless job during canning season.

 

  • The refrigerator is always jammed full to bursting. Adding any more produce becomes a game of tetris. (Note the lack of photographic proof…I didn’t think is was necessary to share that mess.)

 

  • Produce all over the kitchen. Cucumbers sliced and salted, calendula petals drying for salves, mint leaves drying for tea, dilly beans fermenting, summer squash accumulating in piles, jars needing to be labeled, bowls of misc. produce I’m trying to ignore…

  • My grocery lists consist of things like salt, mustard seeds, ziploc bags, vinegar, and sugar–in large quantities.

At times it seems never-ending and there is always the temptation to accidentally mow over the beans or to pretend I don’t notice that the kohlrabis are splitting. But it’s also the time of year when I feel like I accomplish a lot every day and save my future self some grocery shopping and meal prep time. As tiring as it is sometimes, it’s work I enjoy.

Soapmaking–still a useful skill

Lately I keep running into people who want to learn how to make their own soap.  Soapmaking can be an art form, most definitely, but it should also be a basic skill.  After all, up until the last hundred years or so, nearly all housewives knew how to make the soap for their families’ needs.  Even though I make soap regularly and sell it here and there, I would like to see more people making their own.  There’s nothing quite as nice as making your own anything.  So, R, I, and T–this tutorial is for you!  (And for you, too.)

This is my version of a fruit/veggie wash soap, using just olive and coconut oils, based on this recipe from the Soap Queen blog.  It’s a mild, unscented soap, and very simple to make.  Although the original intention was to wash produce, these days I use it as a hand soap. It makes my hands so smooth and soft!

Here are the very basic supplies you’ll need–
I love my Bramble Berry mold, but it’s not a necessity.  For the first several years of soaping, my primary molds were Rubbermaid plastic divider trays and a cardboard box that once carried cups of yogurt.  (Just line your molds with freezer paper, shiny side up or a trash bag.)

Lye

Lye is absolutely essential to making soap–it can’t be made without it.  How else can you get oils and water to blend together and harden into a bar?  Lye (sodium hydroxide) can be dangerous stuff, but with a dose of caution, it shouldn’t scare you away from making soap.  Take bleach, for example.  You most likely have a bottle of it in your house, but you keep it away from children, avoid the fumes, don’t use it on your bare skin and use it strictly according to the directions.  Use the same precautions with lye.  Just wear safety glasses on the off chance the lye mixture happens to splash.  You can also cover the counters with newspaper to make cleanup easier.

You can find lye at many hardware stores, in the plumbing aisle.  Make sure it’s 100% sodium hydroxide; for the record, Draino is not.

Measure as carefully as you can.  You’ll definitely want a scale, so you don’t have soap that won’t harden or the other extreme, soap that will strip the first layer of skin right off….or at least feel like it!

The Recipe

14 oz. coconut oil
8 oz. olive oil
3.5 oz. sodium hydroxide
8 oz. distilled water

Weigh out the oils, either altogether into the pan or separately before adding to the pan.  Melt the oils over lowest heat.  I use a stovetop but some use a microwave.  I turn off the heat before all the coconut oil is melted and let the few remaining chunks melt on their own.  You want the oils melted, not hot.

Measure the water into a stainless steel or plastic bowl (don’t use glass or aluminum.)  You’ll notice that as you slowly sprinkle in the lye and stir to dissolve, the mixture heats up.  I usually set the bowl in a sink containing a few inches of cold water so the lye mixture won’t get too hot and will cool down more quickly.   Stir carefully so you don’t splash and make sure every lye crystal is dissolved.

The lye heating up the water
All lye is dissolved.
When the outside of the bowl is room temperature or slightly warm (not hot) to the touch, you are ready to mix with the oil.  Carefully pour the lye mixture into the melted oils and stir it with a stick blender.  You can also use a whisk, but it will take longer to thicken.

You will eventually notice that the mixture thickens and no longer separates.  When you can drizzle a stream of soap across the surface and it doesn’t sink back into the mixture, it has reached trace.   It’s now ready to pour into the mold.

See the drizzle across the top?

Pour into a mold and just leave to sit on a counter until it hardens.  I usually let it sit overnight (12 hours or so).  You will be able to tell if it’s too soft to cut or pop out of the mold.  After it’s cut/unmolded, I set the bars on pieces of plastic canvas to dry and cure for 4 agonizingly long weeks.  After that, you can keep a bar next to your sink and use it to wash your hands or your produce (and of course, impress everyone with your new skill.)

This is just a basic overview and if you find that you enjoy making your own soap, there are many sites to help you learn more about the science of soaping and how to make your own recipes with scents and colors. 

And that’s it!  You have a way to clean your produce and yourself–it’s inexpensive, you know all the ingredients and you made it yourself!  It’s not so hard, huh?

“Doing just nothing at all” 1879-1898

from 1898– Our life is so active, so filled with excitement, that we are much too little given in these days to quiet thought…there are very few of us who would not be the better for sitting down every day for a half-hour, with folded hands, simply for the purpose of thinking, or of letting the mind lie fallow without much effort at consecutive meditation.

I know how many women will smile when they read this, and will say, “This writer does not know what she is talking about” but indeed I do. I have led for many years an intensely occupied life myself, and I never the world would you have gotten through one-half or one-quarter of the necessary things if I had not made a point of quite often sitting down, folding my hands, and doing just nothing at all

from 1896– A day in which no breathing-space has been found is a wicked day. Not only is it our duty to the bodies which God has given to care properly for them, but it is, moreover, a positive duty to our fellow-man. 

from 1879– People do not know how to divide between the needful and the needless; they forget how minutes of rest lessen the total of the day’s fatigue; how little needless motions, liftings, frettings, increase it.

In the summer, I find that 24 hours a day just isn’t enough, especially when I try to squeeze some sleep into it. (Sleep? How unproductive is that?!?) Yard work, home-maintenance projects, gardening, farmer’s market, and of course, all the fun stuff–camping, barbecues, weddings, sporting events, and the vacations we pack into the 3 month window called summer. “Lazy summer days” have become a thing of unrealistic nostalgia.

 

Maybe they did have maids and hired help to help out with the housework. But, these women were not English aristocracy, they were American housewives who freely admitted they worked hard.

Besides, even with help, these women lived in an era with no electricity, internet, washers, dryers, cell phones… And let’s not forget that most blessed of modern conveniences, running water– they had to trot outside to the outhouse several times a day and there was no such thing as a quick shower or a long hot bath.

If they could manage to fit in some rest, I should think it would be much easier for me to do the same. How rare is it to rest and not do anything? How would that change our perspective toward the rest of our day?  This brings up another question, though. If we don’t have enough time to fit in rest, are we doing things that we shouldn’t be doing or things that don’t need to be done?

Sifting through that thought sounds exhausting. Another post for another day.