Monday, September 26, 2011

On Marrying Young: Keeping House

One of the biggest difficulties I had adjusting to life as a wife stemmed not from the new marriage, but from the fact that I had never managed a household, something that I attribute to my age.  Many of the women I know who married in their late twenties or beyond had lived alone for years, many of them owned their own homes, and they had already learned housekeeping skills.  Of course, keeping house is a bit different with a husband, and later on with children, but many of the basic skills need not be relearned. 

Although I hadn’t lived in my parents’ home for five years, those five years were spent very much in “college living”.  I lived in the dorms the first year, and the same house the next four years while rotating through various roommates.  Living with other people in a non-family setting meant that chores weren’t done regularly or with any rhyme or reason.  I could cook a few decent meals, but I rarely bothered making full meals because it seemed like a lot of hassle for one person and with my busy work and school schedule, I felt my time was better spent doing something else.   Looking back, it  was very shortsighted of me to neglect the development of these basic skills.  For some reason, I was assuming that when I said my marriage vows, I would suddenly be endowed with “wifely knowledge”.   Yet over a year later, I am still struggling to keep my home clean, stocked, and welcoming.

My husband has never complained when the house was cluttered, the cupboards were bare at dinnertime,  or laundry overflowed the hamper.  He’s always pitched in around the house and I was incredibly lucky to marry a man that actually likes to clean.  But despite his support, my lack of housekeeping skills put a great burden on me because I felt like a failure as a wife.  I had a picture of how I wanted my household to run, but couldn’t make it a reality.  The emotional, intellectual, and spiritual components of marriage and the blending of two lives is a difficult adjustment for any newlywed couple, and had I not had to worry so much about daily household maintenance, I would have had more attention to devote to those more important aspects. 

Of course, this certainly isn’t a reason to postpone marriage.  But I do want to mention it because young women can do much to prepare themselves for marriage so that they will be ready no matter when that marriage will occur.  Don’t make the mistake that I did, believing either that you would have many years before marriage to learn those skills (you never know when God will send you your husband) or that you would magically pick up the housekeeping skills that take many women a lifetime to learn. 

Instead, identify the women in your lives that have mastered these skills - perhaps your own mother, another family member or a friend, and ask for advice.  If there is something that is difficult for you, ask for explicit instructions - although there isn’t necessarily one best way to execute a household chore, some methods are certainly better than others and they aren’t always obvious.  But most of all, practice!  Even if you are the only one who will see or appreciate the fruits of your labor, cook and clean as if you have an audience.  If you still live at home with your family, they will appreciate the help.  If you live alone or with roommates, you will be surprised by the difference that a little more care around your home may make to other areas of your life (I notice that I am much cheerier and more productive if the room I am working in is clean).  And when you marry, you’ll have a little less to adjust to and more time to spend getting to know your role as wife, not just housewife.   

Please check out the other posts (including some great guest posts) in my On Marrying Young series.  

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  1. This sounds pretty darn similar to myself. I'm thankful my husband is incredibly patient with my cluttered desk, unswept floors, and the iffy state the bathroom seems to be always in. I also balk hard at laundry, mostly because I have to go to the laundromat to do it. We had a horribly streak last month of takeout and frozen dinners because I rebeled against cooking, but we're correcting it this month. Sigh....I shall master this housewifey thing at some point!

  2. This is my current challenge as well... I really wish my parents would of taught me more growing up. It has been hard to learn this all as an adult. Especially because my husband-to-be (one week)was taught very well by his parents. It is embarrassing to not know how to do the basic things...

    I read yesterday on the Modern Mrs. Darcy blog about a book that I think I will try out. Here is the link to her post:

  3. Alexandra, I read that post by Modern Mrs. Darcy too, and meant to include it in my post - thanks for adding the link!

    Congratulations on your marriage! I know what you mean about being embarrassed by being married to a man that's better at housekeeping than you! My husband's mother is a wonderful housekeeper and he learned a lot from her. I was not as prepared in my household.

  4. I couldn't agree more! My mom always made it look so easy but it's definitely not.Plus, not only will it allow you to devote more time to figuring out the other aspects of being a wife but it will save you from so many little arguments over silly things like whether or not to use the heated dry on the dishwasher. :)

  5. Thanks Mandi. Also, I am loving this series. It is great advice for someone about to embark on this very path. :-)

  6. This was one of the reason that I started a supper club with four of my friends. We all enjoyed cooking and were single at the time, and most supper clubs were for couples. We decided that we needed to learn how to entertain and cook family-size meals. Now, one of the girls is married, and three others are dating. It has come in handy and inspired us to try new dishes. This post reminds me to use my time wisely now to learn. We just don't grow up this stuff like our grandmothers did!

  7. Although it was a pain in my butt growing up, my mom MADE my brother and I do all of the household chores growing up, and if we didn't do it right she'd make us do it again. So thankfully I really know how to deep clean, straighten, organize, cook meals, etc. Actually doing it on the other hand...that's a different story! :)

  8. I love this post. It is the perfect Titus 2 post. I know that it is an older post, but I would love it if you would consider linking it up to my blog party!
    Merry Christmas. Your little one is beautiful!


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