When I heard people comment that their house was “such a mess,” I’d shrug inwardly. I couldn’t relate
Ironically, now that you`re a married woman and out of the house, we’re even closer than before. And maybe that`s why I feel it`s the right time to explain (apologize? rationalize?) why for all of those years of your childhood I wasn`t the housewife and homemaker I’m starting to be today.
It may sound strange, but when you’d rush around before school with a mop, cleaning the floors so that they’d look decent for your friends who’d be coming over after school, I just accepted the situation. I never got rid of all the dishes drying on the counter, and most of the time there was a good selection in the sink. Somehow, I never felt the home was mine. That is, mine to be proud of.
When I heard people comment that their house was “such a mess,” I’d shrug inwardly. I couldn’t relate. My pride was my children, my husband, my teaching, striving for greater spiritual heights, for more kavanah in tefillah, for more knowledge of halachah… what did the house have to do with all that?
It wasn`t that the house was neglected — we did, after all, have a cleaning lady every Friday. Somehow, the house became her territory. I enjoyed new things, but never gave much thought to prettying up the house, even when friends spoke about decorating their homes with new ornaments or investing in new dishes.
Each year I’d review my Rosh Hashanah resolutions, always dreading the moment when I’d realize that last year’s resolutions would appear on this year’s list as well. There was the kabbalah about not talking too much and disturbing my husband`s learning, the well-worn kabbalah about remembering brachos, the kabbalos of how I’d learn halachah and join a shemirat halashon group, and the one about curbing my habit of interrupting people. I would even try to smile before my 7 a.m. coffee. None of my kabbalos ever included anything about being neater, more organized, or keeping floors clean.
I remember occasionally poking my head into the bathrooms and deciding that I’d clean them each Tuesday. This new resolution never lasted very long; soon enough I’d be back to my habit of quietly squashing the housewife inside me.
I’m not sure how this came to be. Is it simply because growing up, cleaning was never my responsibility? I was supposed to clean my own bathroom, but I found it much more interesting to try to use tweezers to remove clumps of “goo” from the drainage pipes. (Truthfully, I still think it’s more fun to remove blockages with a metal snake or successfully change a leaking faucet handle than to polish the windows!)
Perhaps the reason I never focused on improving my environmental habits was because I considered cleaning an unimportant, trivial area, especially when compared with, say, testing my boys on the mishnayos they’d learned.
In England, we’d never complimented each other for being “clean” like the Israelis do. My parents prioritized their chesed: caring for babies whose mothers were sick, hosting young people for Shabbos, and having an open home for friends, relatives, or any lonely person. Keeping tidy was never a subject of discussion.
(Excerpted from Family First, Issue 679)
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