Twenty years ago, approaching marriage and motherhood, I had a wonderful list of inspiring goals that would make my home a little bit of heaven. They were:
1. Keep an immaculate house which will be a celestial setting on earth. Organize your work into daily routines with weekly, monthly, quarterly, and yearly tasks.
2. Read at least one excellent book a month and stay well-informed about current events.
3. Prepare nutritious, attractive meals, experimenting with one new recipe a week.
4. Have a large family; the children will always be well-dressed and well-behaved.
5. At the end of each week, try to evaluate what created good feelings or caused frustration. Use this list to set new goals.
6. Tell your husband once a day that you love him.
Now, twenty years and five children later, I can see the importance of keeping goals flexible. With the demands of burping, changing, loving, bathing, rocking, and washing, my revised goals as a perfect housekeeper now read:
1. As you pass a table, blow hard to rearrange the dust on the top.
2. First thing in the morning, put the vacuum in the middle of the living room so that visitors will think they’ve interrupted your cleaning.
My goals for reading and staying informed look like this:
1. Snatch time for the newspaper funnies. Mary Worth and Dr. Rex Morgan come up with thought-provoking episodes.
2. Converse with the mailman whenever possible. He can keep you posted on such current neighborhood problems as, “The garbage truck is down at the corner.”
My goal for meals has been revised to:
1. Serve one hot dish a day. (This means if you have chicken noodle soup for lunch, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches will be fine for dinner.)
I have also revised my goal about well-dressed children. It simply says:
1. Have a family; the children will be dressed. (If the diaper is hanging around the knees by noon, my neighbors will at least know that it was pinned properly earlier. And I’ve given up worrying about the clothes I left in the ironing basket three years ago anyway; I’m sure the children have outgrown them by now.)
Another goal that needed drastic revision was the weekly evaluation of my feelings. I’ve found it’s much more helpful to work on these things instead:
1. Keep your voice down until noon.
2. At the end of every week, count to see if you still have five children.
3. Check your mind occasionally, to see whether you have lost it.
My last goal, telling my husband daily that I love him, now simply says:
1. Try to speak to your husband once a week. (With Cub Scouts, Little League, basketball, track, violin lessons, PTA board meetings, United Fund Drive, Blazer-Bs, visiting teaching, Bar Auxiliary, Law Wives, University Women’s Club, chicken pox, and Asian flu, I feel lucky to call out as we rush past each other at the front door, “Golly, dear, I’m overdrawn at the bank again!”)