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Tuesday, August 30, 2005


Sunday mornings (the last one was no exception) are reserved for sleeping in and having a leisurely breakfast. But once the coffee kicks in, my hubby and I usually get started on our household chores. It’s our designated “time-to-do-our- week’s-worth-of-household-chores-in-three-hours”. Between the two of us, we typically do our laundry, clean the rooms, change the sheets and towels, get some gardening done, vacuum the rugs, and store the dishes, cups, pots, utensils - everything used during the week that’s still loaded in the dishwasher. It’s a time to clean the bathrooms, mop the kitchen floors, sweep the front porch and backyard patio, take out the newspapers and the trash, and dust the living room and family room shelves. All the fun stuff.

My first year in the States was actually quite a learning experience when it came to housework. I had to learn how to do most of the things that I now take for granted. Back then, I honestly did not know how to do laundry. My first few weeks at Berkeley had me using pants that had shrunk in the wash, white shirts streaked with shades of pink (as a result of mixed color laundry loads), and colored shirts with streaks of white (as a result of using bleach). My culinary skills were also quite lacking and I survived on the essential 5 "C's" of nutrition (cold cuts, cereals, canned goods, coffee, and Cheetos). I sprayed Lysol in the bathroom, kitchen, and every nook and cranny of our apartment and considered myself done with cleaning. I tried to do my share of vacuuming but it really never occurred to me to empty the vacuum cleaner bag and so I guess for a while I was just dragging dust bunnies around the room. I had to buy hangers for EVERY piece of clothing I owned (sweat pants and pajamas included) since hanging them up while they were still warm from the dryer saved me from having to learn how to iron clothes or fold them properly. The list of my pitiful housekeeping attempts was endless.

Luckily I had a wonderful roommate who didn’t mind showing me the ropes and picking up where I sadly left off. And then when I moved to Los Angeles and had to live alone, my hubby (then my fiancĂ©) and (my future) SILs would stop by and help me through some of the basics and it was awesome that they lived close enough for me to stop by once in a while for home-cooked meals. Of course, countless long distance phone calls to my mom, (who would walk me through how to marinate porkchops or teach me the best way to remove food stains from a shirt), helped get me through my latest crisis until she and my older sister could come for a visit (a.k.a. general cleaning).

In all honesty, my lack of domestic ability was not a case of my being too lazy to do housework – (and least not in most cases!). It’s just that I didn’t know any better, since I pretty much grew up without really having to bother with that back home. First of all, I had a mom who was an incredible homemaker and second, we were very fortunate to always have maids, drivers, gardeners and yayas (nannies) to do things for us. I would be picked up from work, taken home where I’d have my dinner ready, my room and bathroom would be pristine, clean sheets and towels in place, my laundry would be done and folded neatly in my closet, my shoes would be shined, my lunch for the next day would be prepared for me to bring to work. I know in many ways I’ve taken all that for granted. So sad but so true.

These days, I know I’m still not the world’s greatest housekeeper and my home (as charming as it is!) may qualify but probably not win any cleanliness awards, I can now cook a decent meal but still have a pretty long shot at winning any cooking contests, and while I pride myself on being an accommodating host, it is unlikely that I will be featured in Good Housekeeping as the next Martha Stewart any time soon. But I can honestly (and proudly) claim that I’m much, much better with housework and that I’ve come to really appreciate the time I spend doing things for myself. And, while I cannot deny that I am grateful and occasionally miss our helpers (Manong Danilo, Manong Reto, Jun, Manang Mercy, Mary Jane, Dora and Rosita), I do cherish my newfound independence and the sense of accomplishment I feel when praised for my domesticated endeavors.

My parents sent me to the States with the hope that I would receive a better academic education. And while that did happen, my 5-year stay here has taught me so much more than what I gained in school. I’ve learned more about myself and more importantly what I can do for myself. In retrospect, I’ve certainly learned more in the last 5 years here compared to my first 25 in Manila.

And as I said earlier, I am in no position to brag about my being a homemaker extraordinaire. But I will brag about what my mom said during her last visit. She praised me on my well-kept home, my good cooking, my entertaining skills, and my ability to manage and organize a household – and coming from her, THE ultimate homemaker extraordinaire herself, it is more than enough praise and assurance for me to know that I have indeed come a long way – and am on the right track.


jol said...

You had an objective and you exerted every effort to attain this. It sure did not come easy but you have a strong will and help from the proper sources. I'm so glad that you are both happy and contented with what you have made of yourself. You truly deserved being called the queen of the home.

consay said...

I lived in the United States for 2 years for my graduate degree in business. I can honestly say that I learned significantly more living alone there than what was taught in my university. Education in independence, culture, finance and in every aspect of ones survival is best learned through actual experience than a class lecture.

jml said...

Keep up with the good work. Knowing that you take pride and great joy in being a good homemaker makes me happy. Having a home of your own is almost like having a baby. It awakes all the dormant domesticated qualities that is in you. Enjoy your home!

jencc said...

Hey, Joanne! I can imagine how proud you feel of yourself, after the praise from your Mom. Yes, I totally agree, she's the ULTIMATE! =) (next to my Mom, just in case she's reading this!)

Joanne said...

Thanks M and F Bear!

Consay, I totally agree that actual learning is in many ways more relevant that classroom learning! Although that argument didn't seem to get me out of trouble with my parents when I came home with bad grades :)

Jen, yes, I agree your mom is another "ultimate homemaker extraordinaire". Looks like we both have great role models and higher standards to reach! :)

Washington Lou said...

Nice to know you've grown up already. Thats LIFE. Enjoy it and think also of your retirement days....days fly so fast......Hope Notsky can learn from you. Give him a call every once in a while and share your experience.... Your favorite UNC Wash

Auntie Alice said...

Yes, I read your blog all the time. Thanks for recognizing me! I must say that both your mom and I are proud to have daughters like the two of you. Keep up with your good work.

kquill said...

I totally agree with you in appreciating the 'benefits' of living with our parents. Living independently is quite a ride. My younger bro and sis live with me. Sometimes I wonder if it's actually better to live alone. I'm more OC than them so guess who's doing most of the work.