Saturday, March 12, 2011

Household Help

Have you ever heard that only a couple generations ago almost everyone had some sort of paid household help: a servant, maid, cook, handyman, chauffeur or any combination of the above? You either had household help or you were household help. Does this make you feel sorry for us poor 21st century people who have to do all our housework ourselves? Why don't you walk with me down to the servants' quarters in my home and I'll introduce you to the servants I have working for me.

Here is Mrs. Washer and Mr. Dryer (they both bobbed their heads and gave you a cheerful smile). They're married and together they do all my laundry. I give the clothes to Mrs. Washer and they come out clean. She passes them to Mr. Dryer (I usually have to help with this, though soon my children will be their little helpers) and when he's done with them they're crisp and dry. In the kitchen we have Mr. Oven. Unfortunately he's not a French Anatole and our food is only as good as I make it, but his fire never goes out and he never takes a day off. His right-hand helper is little Master Microwave who keeps busy doing the little jobs. Miss Vacuum is our upstairs maid. She's a lazy creature whom I have to push around. We also have Miss Fridge and Miss Freezer (they're attached at the hip, but it's a functioning relationship) and their older brother, Big Freezer. They take care of most of my preserving so I don't have to slave away all summer putting up food to eat later.

All of these servants require management, but the servants of old did too. Mine never bicker, they don't get offended, and (as long as I pay my electricity bill) I don't have to feed them or pay them.

Okay, enough of the cheesy personification. All I really wanted to say was that we just "hired" a new "servant." Meet Miss Dishwasher!

When I first got married we lived in your average apartment which had your average quality dishwasher. But I was the oldest of six kids. It had been years since I didn't have a sibling old enough to take care of the dishes after meals. Suddenly I was in my own home and not only did I have to clean up the kitchen after meals, I had to make the meals themselves...and vacuum...and clean the bathrooms...and do the laundry...etc. Sure there was just me and Eli, but I still had to figure out how to balance all these responsibilities. Quite frequently the dishes were just piled into the sink until later and the dishwasher sat empty.

Then we moved to the old red house. No dishwasher there. My only helpers were ye old soap and water (and a helpful husband). Suddenly it wasn't so convenient to just leave the dishes for later because then they would pile up! Living there helped me build habits of cleaning up after myself and doing the dishes after (almost) every meal.

Now our family has grown beyond two plates, two cups, two forks, and a pot and pan or two. There are three little people using dishes, dropping crumbs, and needing faces and hands washed. Meal prep and meal clean up both take more time and I have now have many new responsibilities like teaching letters and numbers. My nice landlords, after deciding to keep renting this apartment even after we move out, put in the new machine this morning (thanks Mom and Dad!).
Dear new housewife Self,

Your responsibilities are really quite simple. Before you know it there will be more dishes and no dishwasher. Seriously, how long does it take to take care of that little stack?


A busier You


  1. I've been thinking about the whole "servant" thing a lot lately. You said just what my mom always used to say -- that all the machines we have nowadays are replacements for servants. I think that they're a great replacement in one sense, but in another sense, it gets rid of another job that young people can do. (It's hard for a 13-17 year old to find work!)

    Just this week I paid one of the young ladies at church to come and clean my floors for me. It made me so happy to have all my floors and carpet clean without spending an hour and a half doing it myself. And in the grand scheme of things, it really wasn't that expensive. It saved me time and gave her some money. I kind of like the old fashioned way of having servants... :-)

  2. Congratulations on the new dishwasher... they certainly are wonderful aren't they? =)