When I was growing up, I was expected to help clean the house, make my bed each day, sort my laundry, do my homework, and take good care of my things. We were a family of three; Dad, Mom and me. Each person did their part to keep everything running smoothly.
Neither Mom nor Dad ever slacked off on their duties, so I knew that I couldn’t slack off on mine. The few times I didn’t do my chores, I heard about it big-time. As it was explained to me, we were a family unit. Each member of the family was responsible for helping the household run smoothly. It was also explained that it wasn’t fair for my mother to hold down a job, keep the house clean, cook meals and clean up after all of us by herself.
Each family member had their own chores and responsibilities. Once all chores were done on a week day, Mom made dinner. Dad read the paper, and I fed Henny, our cat, then went downstairs to my room and did my homework.
Each Wednesday after school, it was my job to vacuum the whole house. I hated vacuuming (still do to this day), but I learned to do it right because if I didn’t, I had to do it over again until my mother was satisfied. Of course I didn’t realize it at the time, but both of my parents were preparing me to leave the home and live on my own.
To this day, I can’t go to bed unless the dishes are in the dishwasher, the stove and counter tops are clean, and everything is tidied up for the next day. It’s become my routine, and I feel unsettled if I don’t do it.
A long time ago, I found a Japanese word that meant “helpful girl.” I can’t for the life of me remember the specific word, but basically it meant “going the extra mile for family.” So while I still lived at home, I tried to be just that; a helpful girl. I began doing things that weren’t expected of me, and become happy doing those things as they saved a little time here and there for my mom and dad.
These days the Crankee Yankee and I have unspoken agreements about who does what. I generally take care of the kitchen duties, the laundry, the lists of what we are out of or are low on, keeping the calender up-to-date for appointments, etc. He is in charge of all the “heavy lifting;” getting the vehicles registered and tuned up, doing all repairs and renovations, inside the house and out. He does all the bills, reconciles every receipt and handles all the banking. Each morning he cleans all six litter boxes (five cats = six litter boxes).
He is the one who says those magic words: “don’t worry about it; I’ll handle it.” His are the arms I fell into when my mother and father died. His are the hands who hold mine when it is time to take a beloved cat to the vet for the last time. When I have needed surgery, he is the one who waits with me. When I am too tired to cook, he is the one who says, “well, then let’s go out to dinner.”
So when I am swearing under my breath about emptying the gluck out of the sink trap or cleaning the cat dishes at night or checking what we may need to pick up for groceries or doing the laundry, I realize that we are both are going the extra mile.