I've developed a theory - a mathematical theory. It is called "Kate Conner's Theory of Exponential Housework." Catchy, no? First let's establish some facts. Let's say that every person on the planet comes complete with a set of three chores: one load of laundry, one rack of dishes, and one room to straighten. Basic maintenance work for existing. A person and their chores are inseparable; where a person is, there their chores will be also. I think that's biblical.
Some of you may already be thinking, "If this is another mommy blog complaining about the plight of the American housewife, reducing all human beings to the number of chores they require, I'm not reading another word."
Well don't worry. You are more than the chores you create. I believe that, and I'm about to address it.
Each person is also a relational being. Someone to talk to, play with, and enjoy. Someone to invest in, and get to know. Someone with unique thoughts and feelings. We'll call this quality a person's "relational being." You cannot separate a person from their relational being - where a person is, there their intrinsic value and interpersonal needs will be also.
And, let's get super-practical, every person also has stuff. Clothes, probably some shoes, at least a handful of toiletries. Maybe a few books, toys, sentimental items. Where a person is, there their stuff will be also.
Okay, so every person on the planet has 1. Maintenance requirements (chores). 2. A relational being (requiring time and energy). And 3. Stuff.
Here's how Kate Conner's Theory of Exponential Housework looks:
1 person = 1 persons belongings, 1 person's maintenance chores, and 1 person's (self's) relational being to engage. Three to the first power.
2 people = 2 people's belongings, 2 people's chores, and a spouse's relational being to engage, in addition to your own. Three to the second power.
3 people = 3 people's belongings, 3 people's chores, and 2 people's relational beings to engage in addition to your own (one of whom dictates when you are allowed to sleep/shower/eat/pee for at least 2 years). Three to the third power.
4+ people = 4+ people's belongings, 4+ people's chores, and 3+ peoples relational beings to engage in addition to your own. Three to the fourth power.
So it's not just that you have less time because you're parenting multiple kids. It's that you have less time to clean more things. AND there are more people moving their more things around - and you have to supervise them and clean it up, with your less time. It's not addition - it's multiplication.
If you are childless and single, you have one person's chores to complete, one person's interpersonal needs to fuss over, and one person's stuff for which you are accountable. You are 3 to the first power. Makes sense. The amount of work you have is in direct proportion to the amount of mess you make. 3^1=3
When you get married, you become 3 to the second power. Life is no longer fair; the proportion is all messed up. You wash nastier dishes, nastier socks, and more towels than the Hilton. 3^2=9
When you have a child, you become 3 to the third power. This is why new parents walk around looking like this:
We were not prepared. We were adding, not multiplying. Suddenly, you have 27 chores, 2 more relational beings requiring time and energy of you, and 2 more sets of belongings. Have you ever been in a BabiesRUs? Babies have more belongings than kings. 3^3=27
When you have a second child you become 3^4, which equals 81. WHAT? From 27 to 81 is a a pretty big jump. A T-totally insane jump. Somehow, I managed to make it into my sixth month of pregnancy with my second child before I did the math.
After one child I became the mom who stopped: blowdrying my hair, ironing anything, cleaning my car, getting my hair cut. Who knows what will have become of me by this time next year.
You want to know something crazy? My Grandma Harness raised 5 children (three of my aunts also have 5). My Grandma Canfield raised 9. NINE. This makes them 3^7 and 3^11, respectively.
Um, that's a lot of laundry. It's a lot of worry; a lot of hugging and supporting and encouraging. A lot of school projects and injuries and sleepless nights. It's also an unfathomable amount of love and blessings. Unfathomable.
All cheekiness aside, I esteem these women in my family. I could stand to learn much about selflessness, patience, wisdom, diligence, and love from them. My undying respect goes out to mothers of multiples. Single mothers that manage to literally do it all by the grace of God. Mothers who home school, mothers of kids with special needs, mothers of 4 kids under the age of 6. Mothers without dishwashers and washing machines. Mothers battling persistent or debilitating illnesses. These moms could do what I do blindfolded and with one hand tied behind their backs.
Mothers Day is fast approaching - might I suggest that you do something special to acknowledge your mother's years of loving you and taking on that scary mountain of "exponential housework?" I'd venture to say that most moms know that deep down you are grateful for them; but gratitude is not the same as thanks. She knows you love her, but tell her anyway - lots.
So Mom, thanks for doing the stay-at-home mom thing, the single mom thing, and the working mom thing, all of which are taxing in their own special way. I want to be like you when I grow up - to be as soft and kind and humble as you are. And as quirky, firey, well-read, and smart. And maybe, one day, as organized. Thank you for teaching me about birds and flowers and music - and for teaching me virtually every life skill I have today, like cooking and mowing the grass and reading maps. Thanks for teaching me about good coffee and good chocolate. Thanks for taking us on adventures; for filling our childhoods (and adulthoods) with memories of mountains and hikes, beaches and walks, festivals and parks and art. Thanks for sending me to other countries - for opening my eyes to the great big world out there. Thank you for giving me your good hair; I'm even thankful for the fair Irish skin. Thanks for teaching me to accept it (and for leaving those pamphlets about skin cancer on my pillow in middle school - and high school). Thank you for being the most thoughtful gift-giver, and for being my grown up friend. You are a breath of fresh air to talk to because you are funny and wise and kind, and because you know me so well. You know me well because you paid such good attention all these years - thanks for being that kind of mom.
And thank you for teaching me about Jesus, for letting me see you read your Bible every day, I noticed. Thank you for loving Michael and I so much that it makes you cry, I noticed that too. I love you.