Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Me: laziest housewife I know (Part 1)

Don't like the term 'housewife'. Married to a man, not a house, so why 'housewife'?

In Singapore the preferred term was 'homemaker' for a while. But all the potential homemakers migrated to the corporations and the home had to be made (maid?) by FDWs (Foreign Domestic Workers).

In 2004 I undertook research on 'stay-at-home mothers' or SAHMs in Singapore (thanks to a grant from the British Academy). The results of this research have yet to be published in a peer-reviewed journal ... because I am still a SAHM. This term has gained popularity in Singapore (since then? maybe it wasn't anything to do with me, who knows?).

An interesting finding was most of these SAHMs did not do much 'housework'. They stayed at home, but they still had FDWs to cook and clean for them. So while they might do the food shopping (called 'marketing' in the 'wet markets'), SAHMs often only supervised others in homemaking.

The whole objective of being a SAHM was to focus on the growth and development of the children. Spending every waking hour keeping house defeats the purpose.

Which of course is my very excuse for a rather untidy house.

I see myself as the laziest housewife/homemaker/SAHM when I look at the dishwasher, for example.

I fill it in the evening with all the dirty dishes and put it on at the end of the day.

In the morning we take crockery and cutlery (and 'weaponry') out of it, but I do not empty it. When dear Mum-in-law visits she tries to help by emptying it and putting stuff all in the wrong places.

She's a sweetheart and I am not complaining. But we tend to (all three of us) just keep taking things out of the dishwasher throughout the day and voila! at the end of the day, I have but a few items to put back in the cupboard!

Then I fill it up again, set it to run at the end of the day, etc,. etc..

Lazy housewife edict #1: DO NOT empty dishwasher.

Children's toys. I never tidy up after my child.

My excuse: My husband had been trained to do everything around the house (except sew) by my Mother-in-law and I feel I must train my son to do the same.

Tidying up his toys is a first step.

From the time he was able to toddle he had to learn:

What is a toy? What is not a toy?

What is an indoor toy? What is not an indoor toy?

What is an indoor toy that must go in box A? What is an indoor toy that must go in box B?

Teachers might recognize that these are sound instructional principles.

You see, if I remained a management consultant or returned to academia my child wouldn't have had the benefit of learning any of this. His childminder, nursery staffworker, or whoever, would tidy up after him and that's that.

Yet, the whole point of being SAHM is to be there to encourage the branching of motor neurones in a child's yet to be fully-developed brains. In those first three years of life is the parent's only chance of making it as complicated as possible to cope with the myriad bits of knowledge it has to handle and process for the rest of his life. It's like putting in the hardware in a computer so that they could handle the software.

I take my inspiration from founding father of sociology Emile Durkheim. Just as it is elementary for men (and women) to distinguish the 'sacred' from 'profane', the basis of knowledge, in my view, is the ability to tell A from non-A.

And in cognitive anthropology where we learn that Eskimos have many different words (not as many as 150 as often claimed) for different kinds of snow. In contrast, some forest dwellers only think in two colours: bright and dark.

(Meanwhile in the UK, trains are running late again due to the wrong kind of rain, snow, leaves, strikes.)

So classification is a very important and pertinent aspect of learning.

So 'lazy' is this housewife that she used to get her toddler son -- after she had removed the 'weaponry' (ie sharp knives) -- to sort the cutlery: return knives (only blunt, butter, eating knives), forks, teaspoons, dessert spoons, etc to the right places in the drawer.

It gave him something to do, some achievement to feel proud of, and a chance to develop those motor neurone things in the brains.

OK, this post is getting too long. I shall make a few more posts about how lazy housewife designs 'household games' that encourage learning in the very young.

If you are into parenting, you might also be interested in my other blog about my son here.

Me: laziest housewife I know (Part 2)

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