Lies Our Grandparents Told

Housecleaning

As I sit here in what seems like clutter up to my eyeballs, I’m often reminded of the spotless house that my Granny had. It was always put together, although she would go about whenever we came over claiming that we needed to help with dusting and vacuuming. In retrospect I think it was a way for her to stay sane, and to teach us the habits of cleaning. Or, it was just a huge continuation of things that her grandparents had instilled in her at a young age. My Granny Blackburn on the other hand was a housekeeper for a large furniture store in Memphis, TN and I thought it was the coolest job. Not realizing the irony in her having to clean up for others and STILL come home to make sure that her home was presentable to visitors. 

You see, my Granny had nine children. My Granny Blackburn had seven. They were as different as night and day in my head, but they both believed in keeping house so that anyone would be able to stop by and you wouldn’t have to apologize for the state of your abode. No matter how many children lived on the premises, the house looked like someone had gone through it with a fine tooth comb. I was always marveling at the fact that both of them could have so many children and not be swimming in mess. 

Catapult forward 25 or so years, and I am now realizing that I’ve been swindled. My house does NOT look perfect. No matter how much I tell my children to clean, it’s never done to my specifics, and short of putting them all on our front porch to think about how much pain they are causing me, and how much shame they are bringing to my legacy, I feel like a failure. 

“There’s something wrong with a mother who washes out a measuring cup with soap and water after she’s only measured water in it.”
Erma Bombeck

Then, last week something happened. I remembered all of the conversations that I eavesdropped on as a little girl. The ones stating how tired my grandmothers were. How tired my mom was, and how tired they remembered THEIR matriarchs being. I recall all of the parties I’ve seen on television of people who grew up in my grandparent’s time. Women dressed in their pearls, dresses, heels and company apron,  serving martinis and hors d’oeurves while secretly wishing that they could escape into their room to read a good book, or better yet, take a nap. 

This is where I’ve learned that so many of those women tried to keep up with what society told them that they should be. Perfect. Moms and wives with spotless houses, well behaved children and perfectly coiffed hair and makeup. They were sleep deprived, and had to pretend they weren’t. They were not satisfied in their marriages and had to pretend that they were. The woman’s place was in the home and raising all of the babies that she would have, and that was it. 

“Housework can kill you if done right.”
Erma Bombeck

Now. For SOME women, this is something that they loved. Let’s just be honest, I love the domestic part of my marriage a lot more than I anticipated. Back when I was a teenager I couldn’t and wouldn’t be put into that “submissive” box. Now, as an adult, I understand that being submissive isn’t giving up on my outspoken spirit. Not for me at least. My grandmothers were a spunky lot. Actually one still is, as she’s the only surviving grandparent that I had. Her husband was a hard worker, and gave her anything that her heart desired. My other grandmother, my Granny Blackburn, had to make ends meet as a single mother. That didn’t stop me from loving my Grandpapa any less, but I saw the struggles that she had first had. Both families were strong knit. They may have lived life a bit differently, but I could tell that my grandmothers loved with all they had. It was a different love in my head, but a strong nonetheless. 

I just wish that they would have been more honest. Told us about how frustrated they got when our grandfathers came home from a long day of work and didn’t want to be bothered with the children. About not REALLY wanting to make dinner for so many children in the first place. About questioning why they continued to bring lives into this world if they were going to constantly rethink that choice.

I wanted them to sit us down and say that we wouldn’t have enough moments to enjoy our family if we were constantly trying to have a house that was always company ready. To tell us how worth it is to let the littles stay up late once in a while for random laughing at really silly things. How the dishes could wait, and how there was nothing wrong with sleeping in on a Saturday morning. 

I would have loved to know that depression isn’t something that only I  was going to suffer with, and how every choice that was made as a parent was second and third guessed over. How teachers made them feel like less than if field trip money wasn’t sent right away, or paperwork wasn’t signed the first day back to school. I wanted to hear about all of the times they sat and ate dinner in the car with or without my grandfathers because they just didn’t feel like sharing that night. How they hid in closets and garages and basements so the kids were forced to ask my grandfathers questions. 

I wanted to hear that it was okay to let my husband do a large amount of the work early on in the relationship, instead of creating this superhero status among my family and friends. A woman that can and will do it all. So what if the diaper was put on backwards. It was changed. Who cares if they are eating hot dogs and fries for the second week in a row. They are eating. Those whispers in the middle of the night of how beautiful I am, I wish that they would have told me to believe them from the beginning, because fighting to believe them now would be so hard. 

I wish that they would have taken my fat little face in their hands and told me that one day, I would have someone that loved me so deeply, and tenderly, that when he said “Tasha, our house is fine” I wouldn’t go to that scary place in my head that compared it with other homes of people who may not have a husband that understands so deeply. 

I wish that they would have told me. 

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10 Comments

  • Reply
    Andrea Bates
    April 7, 2016 at 3:59 pm

    Oh, Natasha. So good. I’ve got a lump in my throat. I never knew my grandmothers in that way. One passed when I was younger and the other lived with Alzheimer’s for so many years it was a whole different life. But I know. I still know. From the stories my mom has shared. So beautiful. This is so real and raw. Thank you for sharing. I’ll be sharing it far and wide. So many people need to read these words. xo

    • Reply
      Mrs. Houseful
      April 27, 2016 at 8:13 am

      It’s taking me a while to read through these comments because it took a LOT out of me to write it, simple as it may be. My grandmothers “suffered” in different ways, and the impact has obviously imprinted on me deeper than I thought. Thanks for coming through!

  • Reply
    Latonya
    April 7, 2016 at 5:16 pm

    I love this post! It resonated with me. I had a grandmother and great-grandmother one from each side until my teens. It is sad that we didn’t know the questions to ask in our youth, and that they surely didn’t share. It is a blessing that now our eyes have been open to see the truth, and we can pass that down to our children and grandchildren. I just want to give you a big hug for this post.

    • Reply
      Mrs. Houseful
      April 27, 2016 at 8:14 am

      It also makes me wonder how much we need to share with our children and our future grandchildren, right? Do we break that cycle and maybe empower or children, or are we cutting them off from learning deep lessons?

  • Reply
    Mimi
    April 8, 2016 at 8:28 am

    Yes. I think from early on some of us are taught this by watching the older women in our lives and the reality is when they get older they are beat down and exhausted having never really enjoyed life. for this reason I had a counselor come into our home to be the mediator in helping us divide up housework. I refuse to be the only one cleaning the house. we have a system and it works and my children see that running a house a family is every bodies job. great post!

    • Reply
      Mrs. Houseful
      April 27, 2016 at 8:17 am

      Ooh, a mediator! This teen is slowly killing me though. I can’t wait until we’re past this I’m always wrong phase, and he gives me a bit of credit in knowing what we’re doing.

  • Reply
    Molly A.
    April 27, 2016 at 6:04 am

    This is a powerful post, Natasha. I think I’m going to have to come back and reread it a few times so I can really internalize it. I spend a lot of time telling ladies in my moms’ group that they are enough, that it’s okay to leave the laundry in the basket to hold the baby. There’s a poem that gets passed around the group sometimes and one of the lines is something like “The dishes will keep, but the baby will not.” I’ve spent a lot of time lately telling my youngest that I have to finish my chores when she asks me to play a game. Thanks for the reminder to slow down and set the broom aside. GAH! I need a tissue now!

    • Reply
      Mrs. Houseful
      April 27, 2016 at 8:18 am

      Sometimes those gentle reminders are all we need, right? I wish that I listened to myself more often!

  • Reply
    Molly A.
    April 27, 2016 at 6:04 am

    This is a powerful post, Natasha. I think I’m going to have to come back and reread it a few times so I can really internalize it. I spend a lot of time telling ladies in my moms’ group that they are enough, that it’s okay to leave the laundry in the basket to hold the baby. There’s a poem that gets passed around the group sometimes and one of the lines is something like “The dishes will keep, but the baby will not.” I’ve spent a lot of time lately telling my youngest that I have to finish my chores when she asks me to play a game. Thanks for the reminder to slow down and set the broom aside. GAH! I need a tissue now!

  • Reply
    Jean | DelightfulRepast.com
    April 9, 2017 at 12:02 pm

    Great post, Mrs Houseful! Our grandmothers and great grandmothers were made of sterner stuff. I doubt that it would occur to them to complain about their lot. They just got on with it. I couldn’t begin to live their lives!

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