Genies, rugs, wishes, and work

I just shampooed a $1,000+ area rug in my driveway*.  It’s wool and silk.  I hope I didn’t ruin it!!  But, it was really only valuable to me if it was CLEAN.  Thus, one pass with (homemade!**) detergent, plus FOUR rinses.  The water was still black in the water-collection tank, and the rug could probably benefit from another four or five rinses, but my arm is about to fall off, and the fingers on my right hand are trembling from endlessly squeezing that dumb trigger to release the water.

For years, I had admired the rug in the lobby of  the office of my husband, Martin.  It’s the sort with deep, thick pile, and I could imagine sinking my toes into it.  Lovely, intricate design, too, though it appears that the exact model has been discontinued by the manufacturer (similar one at right).  But, my tastes almost always exceed my budget, so I’d simply gaze at it with a sigh and a dream…

Then, the company decided to redecorate its lobby, and offered all the items for silent auction to its employees.  Martin got the rug for $30.  Thirty bucks.

However, the thing was pretty dirty;  I doubt it had ever been cleaned.

As I was shampooing the rug, in the driveway, in 115°F weather, I got to thinking about how the rug sort of ties into some thoughts I was having about Yogi Bear.

My children were watching Yogi on Boomerang this morning, and a particular episode aired where Yogi and BooBoo found a genie’s lamp.  It got me to thinking that the whole idea that one could find an object that would grant all one’s wishes probably originated in the same quarter of the brain from which sprung the idea for lotteries.  In other words, the bit of one’s mind where you find yourself dreaming that someone would just drop several million dollars into your lap, thereby solving all your woes.  In other other words, the concept of something for nothing.

What a fallacy.

While spending some time studying simple machines with my older boys in science*** this year, it was impressed upon me, yet again, that you just can’t get something for nothing.  Sure, a block-and-tackle pulley system is going to make it loads (no pun intended!) easier, in a sense, to raise a heavy object a high distance.  But, the trade-off for the ease of function is that one has to pull and pull and pull and pull.  Yes, you obtain a mechanical advantage with the pulley, but you spend more time and pull more rope over a longer distance to obtain it.

Same with walking vs. running.  Did you know that you burn the same amount of calories walking a mile as you do running?  Running is faster (and harder on your knees).  So, you gain time — and perhaps also gain knee surgery — but you expend the same amount of energy.

My thought train, as I was endlessly shampooing the above rug, led me to think about being a stay-at-home mom.  Since we (essentially) live on one income, there are a great many things that I need to do with my own power, since we don’t have the money to hire it out, or buy it ready-made.  To wit,

  • the only time we ate out on our recent 11-day vacation was when someone saw us in church, admired our family, and slipped my husband a $50-spot with the instructions to take all of us out for lunch.  Otherwise, I made everything myself in the kitchen of wherever we were staying (or at home, in advance).
  • We love hand-me-downs and Freecycle.  I probably purchase new 10% of my children’s clothing, tops.
  • Since we started having children, lo these 13 years ago, we have never paid for someone else to do our yardwork.
  • I’ve never hired a maid or a cook, though I’d like to!
  • I spend extra time both in preparation, and while shopping, often driving to four or more grocery stores in one trip, so I can use coupons and store sales to the best advantage of my family’s food budget.

Really, the above list could go on pretty much endlessly.

The point is, I “pay” for being at home.  We have to economize.  Often, my “exercise” comes in the form of some difficult manual labor!  And, I can’t purchase $1,000+ area rugs!

But… I can purchase a formerly pricey rug, now used and dirty, and then spend a couple of hours in hard work cleaning it up.

Do you know what I mean?

It can be looked at from the other perspective, too:  If I worked outside of the home, I would likely have money to drop a couple hundred bucks each season at Old Navy, and my kids would be stylish and cute at all times.  I would be able to purchase $5 loaves of pre-made gluten-free bread.  Someone would come in and clean my house from top to bottom each week!  And so on…  But, at what price?

I know this sort of veers into another topic, but whilst purchasing groceries the other night, the cashier, the manager (it was at night;  he was helping to bag), and myself got into a conversation about mothers being happy that their kids are going back to school.  Truly, it was all I could do to hold back the tears.  I certainly have my challenges in parenting, and things often don’t go as smoothly as I’d prefer, and, golly, I’d like a few hours to just kick my feet up and read a novel, but I like my kids enough to want them to be home with me!!!!  Oddly, many mothers in America see their children as an interruption to their real life.  ~Ahem!!~  YOUR CHILDREN ARE YOUR REAL LIFE!!!!  I don’t want to pay the price of having someone else**** raise my own children just so I can have “me” time and have a house that perpetually stays clean because no one actually lives in it.

There’s no “something for nothing.”  Sure, you can have extra money, but it comes at a price!  Sure, you can have hours of “me” time, but that comes at a price, too!

Everyone pays a price;  it just depends on what your priorities are, how and where that price — time, energy, money, whatever — gets paid.

I will remember that, next time I look wistfully at commercials for “all inclusive” resorts or maid services, and the next time I see a cute outfit in a magazine that I could never buy…  🙂

————————-

* The actual price tag on it says $898, probably purchased a decade ago.  But when I was looking up the same carpets by the same manufacturer, the same model and size — even discontinued clearance ones — are today selling for $1,100 or more.

** I have re-worked my homemade laundry detergent recipe, and should be posting it, soon.

*** “Simple machines” would actually fall under physics, but it was in their science textbook;  thus, we studied it.

**** “someone else” meaning, the school system.

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About Karen Joy

I'm a partially-homeschooling mother of six -- 3 boys ages 19, 17 and 15 years old, and three girls: 11, 8, and 3. I like birding, reading, writing, organic gardening, singing, playing guitar, hiking, the outdoors, and books. I very casually lead a very large group of homeschooling families in the Phoenix area. I have a dear hubby who designs homes for a local home builder and who is the worship pastor of our church. I live in the desert, which I used to hate, but now appreciate.

Posted on July 15, 2010, in Family, Homeschooling, Housework, Introspective Musings, Motherhood, Shopping, Summer Plans, The Dear Hubby, The Kids, Travelling, TV. Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. Good stuff! I totally agree…

  2. Karen, even when I worked full time I couldn’t afford a housecleaner, awesome clothes, etc. Most women I know who work full time still clean their own houses, plan menus, cook, clean, and live on a pretty tight budget. Of course, I don’t know any movie stars! ;). The middle class is stressed for time, and lives on a budget- home worker or office/home worker. Having been a full-time homeschooler, a full time worker and home keeper for 15 years, and now at home and attempting to work from home, my perspective is that it is a luxury to have so much more choice in what you do with your time. Though we are working when we are in our homes, it is work we can control, the schedule we can control, we can take breaks when we need to, there is purpose directly (other than just a paycheck) that we can take pleasure on (such as a freshly baked loaf of bread) and, because we so love the people we r serving, there is joy in the work. I find the difference phenomenal, and consider it a luxury to be home- though I may end up wearing used clothing only. Peace and contentment mean so much. I think of single moms or women in great debt whose husbands r out of work – women who have to work 8-5 Monday-Friday and clean and cook and who have no time to discount shop or plan budget menus – and my heart breaks. They r my heroes.

  3. I just hurt for the single moms, women whose husbands are out of work, those in deep debt, and those whose incomes combined with their husbands don’t bring in enough and create situations where they HAVE to work. They don’t have time to create budget friendly menues, or shop discount stores. They still have to clean their houses and cook and do wash – they work really, really hard. Most women I know who work full time still do all the home stuff too – middle class incomes don’t often allow maids, yard workers, etc. Most folks are under a pretty big work load.

  4. newbeginnings09

    This is an especially moving post for me, Karen. I loved the part about children going back to school. My house is loud. I haven’t seen the kitchen sink empty all summer. I have resorted to bribing them with candy just to find the living room floor long enough to vacuum it. and I love EVERY.SINGLE.SECOND. I’m the unlucky mom who would prefer to homeschool (and has) and lost a battle to my ex — did you know in some states, you don’t need CONSENT to get divorced? For the marriage, yes, but not for the divorce! — so my children are now in public school. I hate this. It’s a daily battle of shame and rage and frustration.
    I also work, or do for the rest of this month. And as I struggle hourly trying to see what God wants for me to do now, I just wish I could stay home. Yes, it is incredibly hard work. You do, of course, pay for it in the many luxuries you can’t have, wouldn’t dream of outsourcing (america should take a SAHM for it’s finance manager, we’d be debt free shortly!) and gorgeous getaways we only dream of, if we’re lucky enough to dream in the 4 hours of sleep we get a night.
    But. Being a working mom right now, after 11 yrs of staying home, I still pay all the bills, cook most of the meals, check homework, make dr visits and appnts, buy groceries, run errands, give baths, shampoo the carpets (LOL, not $1000 rugs tho!) and work 70+ hrs a week. And although my job is ending (the business is closing), I’m still the sole capable breadwinner in my home, and I am baffled at what to do next.
    What this has to do with your blog, I dunno. It’s 11pm, my toddler is climbing my leg crying because she has a wicked cold, my preschooler is yelling I need a new drink, my older two are spending the night somewhere I don’t like, I’m trying to make a grocery list for the 6am shopping trip for 6 for a month of groceries and toiletries, and my husband is nowhere to be found, so you’ll have to forgive me. Except to say, I loved your post. Good job!
    Ade (who needs a maid and a chauffer and a drop dead gorgeous millionare hubby, but never, ever a nanny)

  5. Julie Trebing

    A M E N, SISTA !!!

    Good for you, Karen!! The angst of being a SAHM is definitely real — the “I CAN’T have / do _____ because I’m a SAHM and we live on one income” vs. the “I CAN have / do _____ because I’m a SAHM and memories and lack of regret is much more important to me”. Still, it’s hard sometimes……. Totally there with you. I, along with your friend Ade, can sympathize and totally respect those who MUST do it alone for whatever reason….. I am so very sorry, sisters. It is an INCREDIBLY DIFFICULT job, no matter if you have help or not, but NOT having help makes it that much more frustrating and petrifying…. Know that God sees.

    I’m proud of your thrift and your diligence, Karen. I might have entertained the thought of shampooing the rug on the driveway,….. but NEVER in 115 degree heat!! ARE YOU NUTS?!

    -Julie

    • I haven’t actually read all of the replies thoroughly; I’ll give them better attention this afternoon. But, yes, there are definitely women who must, for one reason or another, go it alone. My own mother became a single mother of four when I was 15; it was necessary.

      I’m more thinking of the the mothers from 2-income families I’ve met who say, “I would like to stay at home but I can’t because….” and that “because” is from the RV in storage, and the 4 ATVs in the garage, the the pool that they just went into debt to build. Or, the people who grind themselves into a hole with debt, because it’s the “American” thing to do, and then the mother “MUST” work simply to pay off the debt! IOW, there are a lot of 2-income families who, with better planning and decision-making beforehand, could avoid the situation altogether, OR with better planning and decision-making, dig themselves out of the hole faster.

      OR… along the homeschooling lines, the *COUNTLESS* women who have told me, “I would LOVE to homeschool, BUT…” then they give a reason that is a challenge, yes, but not insurmountable. Or, the reason they have is based upon an unfounded cliche (like the whole “socialization” thing). I’m not saying every family can and should homeschool, but I have met a great number of mothers who feel led to homeschool, but talk themselves out of God’s leading, due to x, y, and z reasons.

      Just because something is challenging doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be done!!

  6. Gotcha Karen – your point, I believe, is that character counts, and it influences our lifestyles! And, no complaining when our choices create our climate! Love you!

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