I get it now. Being a home maker is backbreaking work. I mean, a homemaker in North America. By the end of the day, my idea of a reward is a hot shower or sitting on a couch to watch some mindless movie to fall asleep to. There’s hardly anything left in me to give to Edric or my kids because I am tired.
It hasn’t been stressful cleaning, cooking, and doing the laundry. But it has been physically exhausting. I suppose this is why I have taken long pauses from writing as of late. Plus it isn’t very inspiring to talk about house chores. Who wants to know about how I sort dark and light clothing? It’s somewhere in between maddening and necessary. Everyday I look at the pile of laundry that the kids throw into the hamper and I am like, “You’ve got to be kidding! Do we go through that many clothes?!” Well, we do. We are 7 x 2 outfits a day. So when the kids don’t leave the house, I let them wear their pajamas morning to night. And if they don’t get sweaty, they can postpone their shower to the next day (and wear the same pjs!)
Then, there’s the kitchen. It’s a full-time preoccupation cooking and cleaning the kitchen. Now I understand why cereal is so popular. Heck, why not eat it three times a day! The kids went through an uncountable number of cereal boxes this vacation. I am ashamed to admit they survived on Lucky Charms and Cheerios.
In a few days I will have my unrealistic life back — the one that comes with household help. I finally understand why it is a luxury to be able to pay people to wash the dishes, clean the house, do the laundry, cook the meals, etc. America, for all its conveniences and efficiencies, is wonderful and I am glad to be part American.
However, I still prefer living in the Philippines. The kids do, too. They are looking forward to seeing their Siamese cats, toys, own beds, and getting back into the rhythm of our lives in Manila.
Manila doesn’t have the cleanest air or streets. It can get miserably hot. Life is crazy busy for us with homeschooling, business and ministry. But that’s where we are serving God and investing in the lives of others.
I will miss the cold weather, the traffic-less freeways, the quieter life where the extent of your social obligations are four or five good friends, the groceries (oh, the groceries with thirty options for butter!), the steak (I love a good steak), and the nobody-knows-you kind of anonymity that an introvert like myself can really get used to.
But anywhere is home where I am with Edric and the kids. This past month has felt like we have been “at home.” However, I am so thankful to the Lord that at present, our mailing address is in Manila, Philippines. I am looking forward to a decent night’s sleep and breakfast that includes rice and comes with a clean up crew!
Some of the things I learned as a happily desperate housewife on vacation this past month:
1. Buy lots of cereal, milk, eggs, fruit, and cheese, and make these accessible throughout the day.
2. Invest in a ton of wet wipes and bring them everywhere!
3. Breastfeed your infant. It’s the simplest, easiest way to make sure she gets the nourishment she needs. Catalina cut back on the solids because she prefers the soupy, home cooked meals our yayas make for her. Thankfully she breastfed a lot so she was fine during this vacation.
4. Use one bag that can double as a diaper bag and purse. Forget about looking stylish. It’s the practicality you are after.
5. Let the older kids bathe, dress, feed, and clean up after themselves.
6. Have an IPad available to entertain a carseat-restrained infant. I gave in and let Catalina be distracted by hours of YouVersion’s Bible App (for kids) so she wouldn’t cry like a screaming banshee.
7. Give the kids vitamins and extra vitamin C everyday.
8. Take your vitamins and overdose on vitamin C everyday.
9. Encourage the older kids to babysit the younger ones.
10. Dress up and look nice even if you feel tired and want to wear pajamas all day. Only your children are allowed to do that!
11. Teach your 16 month old survival skills like feeding herself or going up and down the stairs so she has the freedom to go around the house without you worrying about her constantly. (Catalina learned to scoot down the carpeted stairs backwards very effectively.)
12. Enjoy the moment even if you are sick and tired of the mess, the amount of effort it takes to mind the whereabouts of five children, or preoccupied by thoughts about what you have to do next.
13. Appreciate the effort your husband makes to sweep the floor, clean out the car, and organize the children so you don’t feel irritated when he says he can’t hold the baby for longer than ten minutes.
14. Train your 16 month old to obey. Catalina was hitting her younger cousin several times a day, every day, and throwing tantrums when she didn’t get her way. We finally started disciplining her by spanking her for disobedience and defiance. Praise God she improved significantly and made the connection — hitting is a no-no, and throwing herself on the floor while rolling around wailing is a no-no, too. Here she is hugging the cousin she used to bully…
16. Find ways to recharge — nap times while you breastfeed, hot showers, short shopping trips, a fun movie, a chocolate chip cookie (or two or three. You will burn it off with keeping house and breastfeeding.)…Yes, I still managed to sneak in some me-time during this chore-ridden vacation.
17. Serve others with a joyful attitude without grumbling or thinking “you-owe-me.” Several times I was tempted to be irritated at every single person in my family for all the chores I had to do while they got to play or enjoy themselves. But God reminded me to work for Him.
Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve. (Colossians 3:23-24 NASB)
The kitchen crew…