Too Much Housework = Too Little Writing

Summer is upon us, so it’s time to remind the mom/writers out there about something.

I recently re-read parts of an old favorite If You Want to Write by Brenda Ueland (originally published in 1938). Reading some of her comments, you’d think she was writing in the 21st Century.

Chapter Ten has a lengthy title: “Why Women Who Do Too Much Housework Should Neglect It for Their Writing.” The chapter is about doing too much (unnecessary stuff) for others and neglecting your writing.

The More Things Change…

While most of us today have enough modern conveniences that housework isn’t the time-consuming drudge it used to be, we’re trying to juggle home, day jobs, carpooling, throwing kids’ birthday parties, running the school’s bake sale, and a thousand other things. Those “lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer” only seems to intensify the madness. Some things are truly important to your child’s and family’s welfare, but much of it isn’t.

Let me quote Brenda Ueland and see if you agree:

They [wives/mothers] are always doing secondary and menial things (that do not require all their gifts and ability) for others and never anything for themselves. Society and husbands praise them for it (when they get too miserable or have nervous breakdowns) though always a little perplexedly and half-heartedly and just to be consoling. The poor wives are reminded that that is just why women are so splendid–because they are so unselfish and self-sacrificing and that is the wonderful thing about them! But inwardly women know that something is wrong.” 

That Was Then! Or Was It?

You might say, “But that was 1938!” Yes, but judging from the letters I get from mom/writers, things haven’t changed all that much. We break our necks trying to keep up with whatever “expert” says a good wife or good mother does. We still “people please” and try to live our roles perfectly–instead of choosing what is the more excellent use of our time and doing that well.

My children (and now my grandchildren) have always come before my writing in importance. But in order to find time to write, I had to stop making my own pickles (like good farm wives did back then), running every children’s program at church, sewing costumes for plays, making applesauce out of the bushel of half-rotten apples given to me, painting my kitchen ceiling that was stained, and a host of other things.

I wanted to write! Something had to give.

What About You?

Today I believe the pressures are much higher. Thanks to social media, young parents are expected to have their children in several social groups starting before preschool, have big birthday parties for the kids, and be at everyone’s beck and call. 

Could this be why you don’t have time to write? Does your family knowingly (or unknowingly) put pressure on you to give up all of your activities in favor of theirs? Or is the person putting pressure on you to be everything for everybody…you? It’s worth thinking about before the summer gets away from you.

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4 Responses to Too Much Housework = Too Little Writing

  1. Kristi, your post is right-on. I am burned out from working hard all my life. I, many times feel like a slave to everyone. What I have accomplished I had to squeeze in-between a minute here and a minute there. But, I am stubborn for I don’t want to ever totally give in and give up. Press on!

    • kwpadmin says:

      You’re so right. For years, I had a quote framed above my desk, back when I was grabbing minutes here and there to write between jobs and kids. It is still on my office wall as a reminder. I forget what book it came from, but it says, “Art was not meant to be created in stolen moments only.” I bet I stared at that quote for three years before it dawned on me that it would have to be ME that changed my situation and make the writing more of a priority. No one else was going to remember to do it! :-)

  2. Donna says:

    Thank You Kristi. I so agree and “feel” Brenda’s quote, especially the last line, “inwardly women know something is wrong.” I feel it all the time. When I think about the time I’ve let pass, doing the menial and people pleasing tasks, that I “think” are so important, but aren’t really, I feel angry at myself! If I don’t take my writing SERIOUSLY, no one else will. Now, is the time! I’m going to get Brenda’s book and read it cover to cover. :)
    I so appreciate your blog Kristi, you speak right to the writer’s heart.

    • kwpadmin says:

      Donna, I’m so glad you find the posts helpful. I have to keep reminding myself that “my TIME is my LIFE,” so am I spending this precious resource in a way that is best? Sometimes yes, but too often, like you, it is spent on things that have zero eternal significance or even any real temporal importance. Brenda’s book is old, but still as relevant as ever!

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