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MARTHA MUZYCHKA: The problem with chores is the word itself

Washing clothes can actually be a meditative time. —
Washing clothes can actually be a meditative time. — 123RF Stock Photo

Moments of enlightenment can come at the oddest times.

Artists through the centuries would have us believe it’s a bolt of blue, the inspiration that strikes instantly and in which the universe unfolds. The first “Eureka!” moment legendarily belongs to Archimedes, who leapt out of the bath when he realized a principle of buoyancy.

I’ve never had anything so grand, but I did have a moment like that while doing the oddest thing: the laundry.

The laundry pile and I have had a long and uneasy relationship. While I am fortunately not the only member of the household who does the laundry, I know it well.

My role usually comes with the sorting: whites with whites, colours in piles, towels in a container all together. My husband and I frequently joke about how a family of three can generate so much laundry, but the chuckling usually stops when it’s time to do it.

It’s kind of monotonous, if not tedious, and I’ll admit that I usually go into our wee little laundry room with — if not trepidation — a feeling of, OK, laundry, let’s get this over with.

But while going through the motions — and there are repeated motions of sorting laundry; not quite like tai chi, but not that disconnected when you think about it — I had this moment of enlightenment.

This was relaxing my mind. The thing I had been stressing about beforehand, work that I had to do and the headache-inducing deadline that went with it, left my head. I stopped worrying while I was moving through the pile and getting the first wash together.

Is there a word that makes kids groan more? Every parent, I’m sure, has a story about enforcing the chores rule.

I was all done within minutes, anyway. That feeling of “Ugh! Laundry? Again?” had evaporated.

Chores get a bad rap.

The word itself is a big part of the problem. The word is usually defined as being 1) routine and 2) necessary and often 3) dull. One of the Oxford dictionaries adds this as a definition: “an unpleasant or boring task.”

Chores, then, are in need of a makeover.

Is there a word that makes kids groan more? Every parent, I’m sure, has a story about enforcing the chores rule.

We’re far from ideal in our house, especially since we undertook some repairs and a small renovation this year. The house is still in flux, which of course adds to the sense of disorder.

But I want my own perspective to shift. We do chores — everything from the dishes to the bathroom to the recycling — because if we didn’t, our domestic quality of life would take a dent.

I want to realize more often that there’s another goal: it’s something to embrace, not something to dread.

The division of domestic chores is often fraught. I think we have a pretty good division of labour in our home, but I know that’s not always the case.

The issue was put squarely on the agenda in the 1980s with the bestseller “The Second Shift,” in which sociologist Arlie Hochschild documented that while many American women had been entering the workforce, they were still expected to do much of the domestic work at home, too. Hence, the title.

The book is now 30 years old, and things have changed. At the very least, I’d like to think more partners are taking on more around the house.

And I’m not trying to sell chores as the way to Lotus Land and permanent enlightened bliss.

The trendy phrases, now, though include things like mindfulness and self-care. You can define the last as you wish, and while I see it as emphasizing healthy practices, it also relates to looking after yourself.

I read long ago about a novelist (I wish I could remember her name) who said she did some of her best writing while making the bed. The repetitiveness of the work allowed her mind to create.

Suds, sorting, folding, thinking, creating. Not a bad combination, when you think of it.

Martha Muzychka writes, sorts and lives her best life in St. John’s. Email [email protected] Twitter:@marthamuzychka.


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