It is a myth that I enjoy doing laundry. A wives’ tale born in Manhattan, somewhere in a dank basement after a neighbor left my undies piled in a soaking wet mound atop a communal washing machine. Every other week, we lugged our complete dirty wardrobes to the basement in an all-hands-on-deck pursuit to clean. Amidst the hot stench of artificial lavender, I declared: I will be so excited to have my own washing machine that I will do all our laundry forever. And I’ll love it. I’ll do laundry all the time.
Of course, this was before two people’s laundry turned to four, and before “laundry all the time” took on new meaning during the pandemic. My office, a nook off the kids’ basement playroom that is somehow freezing year-round, has seen more action than a rush-hour subway car. And the murky laundry room, just mere steps from my office, did too.
“Laundry all the time” became laundry all the time. During heated conference calls, I hung wet clothing. I delayed emails 10 minutes just to flip the towels. I was too close, my workload and laundry load commingled into a life load that never stopped asking for more from me. Like Sisyphus pushed the rock, I folded the sock.
To be clear, I don’t blame anyone for thinking that I enjoy it. That part is my fault. Laundry is a meditative pursuit that I do take some pleasure in, kind of like a sudoku puzzle. Pairing those tiny socks and rolling my bike shorts, I do love how they fit just right in their drawers. My husband and I have joked about the “magic bin” that always empties itself, even though the joke is dumb, and on its face, reeks of gender disparities that make my skin crawl. But he is correct in his underlying theory: no one can help me. I like our laundry the way I like it – an obsessive-compulsive person’s coping mechanism, manifested through piles of clothes.
Until it all started to feel less funny. The sound of the washing machine became a constant reminder of everything I needed to get done. Laundry became another task I felt compelled to check off my list that I couldn’t escape. During Peak Pandemic, when people asked how I was doing, I couldn’t lie. I was doing bad, for a host of reasons, but one particular one I kept coming back to was that I’d go to bed every night feeling unaccomplished. I never could finish what I started, in any area of my life.
Much of this feeling came from losing the constructs of childcare that we had, which are still not back to “before times,” but some of it came from my failure to adapt to a changing landscape at home. Even if I pledged to do “laundry all the time” before the pandemic, I was not home all the time to do it. I commuted to the city three days a week. I went out in the evenings. I wasn’t working in a frigid dungeon of a basement and only coming up for sunshine once a day. Through being home so much more, I became a bit of a prisoner to my laundry and my chores and my work. With no more “forced breaks,” time tends to blend together like that.
If you couldn’t tell, this isn’t only about the laundry. But just like my laundry bin, I am not magic.
Having access to something all the time doesn’t mean you should do it all the time. We are humans, who need hours of operation. No one sets those hours anymore, and women are tasked with enough labor – manual, intellectual, emotional – to fill a 24-hour day. Boundaries are no longer just a talking point by some wellness consultant over a bad boxed lunch. Certain rules, even when they go against the grain of our compulsions, are crucial to our sanity.
Therefore, I’ve set a new one: I only launder on Sundays. One day. Sure, this is subject to a mid-week load of camp shirts now that summer is here, but for the most part, I’ve pared it back to one day. I combine our clothes and do full loads, even if this means I’m doing five and they go well into the night. It’s one day. If I can get it all put away by lunchtime on Monday, I’ve won. I would rather push through the task than prolong the pain and allow another cloud to hang over my week.
This is just one change of many. I am trying to stop washing, just like I am trying to stop working, just like I am try to stop worrying in a space I escape much less. But now that “all the time” means all the time, it’s time to try harder.
Is there something you need to stop doing “all the time?” LMK: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The little things
Frittatas give your leftovers more life. At least once a week, I whip one together using whatever I have left from the farm box or dinner the night before.
Really, anything goes. The frittata pictured above has leeks, asparagus, and blue cheese, but I also like to use mushrooms, onions, zucchini, tomatoes, or sausage. The key is to saute your veggies in a cast iron skillet until they’re soft — soft soft — so make sure you leave time for this step. While that’s happening, whisk 8 eggs, a splash of cream, S&P, and if you’re looking for a ‘lil extra fluff, a handful of almond flour. Pour over the evenly distributed veggies, and top with extras like cheese or tomato slices. Bake in the oven for 18-20 minutes at 375 degrees or until there’s no jiggle left. As a final step if I’m making a cheesy one, I broil for a minute to get it nice and bubbly.
Serve with a side of lightly dressed greens, and you’ll be everyone’s brunch hero.
Over the weekend, Scary Mommy published my parenthood essay from last week’s newsletter. Hooray! Here it is: They Said Parenthood Gets Easier, But That’s Not True — We Just Get Better At It.
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