When I first asked Lori if she would let me interview her for the homemaker interviews, she laughed and said she would represent the homemaker wannabes. Guess what, Lori?! You’re not a wannabe. You’re a real, honest-to-goodness homemaker.
This is the thing. Not all homemakers are the same. Lori is picturing Suzy Homemaker who stays home all day cleaning and cooking from scratch and sewing clothes and growing her own food. There are homemakers who do that. But there are a whole lot of homemakers who don’t.
A homemaker is someone who has a home they take care of. That’s it. And within that homemaker definition are a whole bunch of variations. Every homemaker needs to run his/her home in a way that works for them. If the homemaker and his/her family are generally happy, then I’d say that’s a successful homemaker. And with that being said, here’s how Lori runs her home.
Lori is in her early 40’s, is married and has three children – two in high school and one in college. She also has a 2-year old golden doodle and a cat. Lori and her husband, Tim, own three music studios that offer music lessons and a few exercise classes. Lori teaches Zumba and piano lessons about 25 hours a week at the three studios, splitting her hours between morning hours and evening hours. She basically works a split shift and her prime time at home is in the afternoon. She also walks a dog twice a week. And she goes to the gym three or four times a week. Oh, and did I mention that she is also still driving kids to their various activities although now that one of her high schoolers has a drivers license, that’s definitely getting easier. The only complication to that scenario is that sometimes they take the car with the understanding they need to pick her up from the studio when they’re done. That doesn’t always happen. Good thing there’s a couch in the studio. If they forget her, at least she can get in a nap!
Lori and her family live in a large historical home – 4 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, 3 floors. They’re pretty sure the home was built in the late 1800’s making it about 135 years old. If you’re familiar with old houses, you know that means you’re usually dealing with a lot of dysfunctional spaces which is definitely true of Lori’s house. Take the kitchen, for example. It was so dysfunctional they decided to redo it. Unfortunately, because of the hours required to run your own business, the renovations have been slow! As a result, the kitchen isn’t quite up to par right now which makes cooking complicated. Lori’s prep space consists of one foot of counter space on each side of the sink and about a foot on one side of the stove. That’s not very much work space!
A really important part of Lori’s life these last six years has been her goal to eat better and get in shape. It all started six years ago with a class at the gym. She started working out 1 to 2 hours a day and changing her eating habits. A year later she started working out with a trainer and learning more about nutrition. Then a couple years later she joined Jenny Craig. Jenny Craig was nice because there was no meal prep. Two years ago she ran a marathon. That required LOTS of training time! Recently she started teaching Zumba and changed her eating habits again. No more Jenny Craig. Now she’s eating a lot of chicken, oatmeal, egg whites, and veggies. She has to plan ahead to be sure she has the right food and that it’s ready or she might end up eating something she regrets! Her exercise routine consists of teaching Zumba, taking a yoga class twice a week and doing weights three times a week. Over the last six years she’s lost 40 pounds and almost six dress sizes. Fitness and exercise are extremely important to her and take a chunk out of her time.
Lori uses a monthly wall calendar to keep track of appointments that affect the family. She keeps her personal appointments and schedules in her head. Most of the time that works but once in a while her head fails her. “Keeping track of stuff is challenging because I’m an artist. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.” Lori relies a lot on e-mail and phone reminders. If she doesn’t get a reminder, she probably won’t remember! “If I don’t get a reminder, I’m sunk!”
Lori doesn’t like scheduling and planning. She’s more of a fly-by-the-seat-of-your pants kind of girl. She has learned, though, that regardless of her aversion to planning, some things have to be planned if they’re going to happen – like vacation. “If I don’t plan for a week of vacation with the family, it won’t happen. Summer gets here and everyone’s too busy.” It takes a lot of coordination these days to make a vacation happen, especially as the kids gets older and have more activities on their schedules. “If I don’t check everyone’s schedules and put something on the calendar, the likelihood of it happening is slim to none.” So Lori has become more of a planner for the things she really wants to happen, like family vacation.
Lori and her family don’t have a lot of time to spend cleaning. All of them have full schedules and lots of things they’d rather be doing than cleaning. So they keep it to a minimum. Daily tasks include doing the dishes (no dishwasher), wiping up the kitchen counters, and sweeping the kitchen as needed. Lately everyone is washing their own dishes. Lori loves coming home from the music studio and seeing a clean kitchen.
“Once or twice a month, when we’re all home on a Saturday or Sunday, we spend some time cleaning. I’ve always had a goal of having Saturday a cleaning day but it’s hit or miss depending on whether everyone’s home. We clean the common areas, bathrooms, and bedrooms.”
Everyone does their own laundry with Lori doing the sheets and towels most of the time. There’s no schedule – it’s just whoever gets to the machines first. It’s not usually a problem, though, because Lori does hers during the day, Tim does his on the weekends and the kids do theirs in the evenings.
Lori does a lot of ironing. She says the ironing board is up all the time. “If you don’t hang your stuff up right away then you’re going to need to iron.”
Menu Planning, Grocery Shopping, Cooking
Since the family is so busy and everyone’s schedule is different, they don’t get to eat together very much. Lori’s meal strategy lately has been to cook a crock pot full of chicken at the beginning of the week (5 chicken breasts, 3/4 cup water, 1 dry onion soup packet) and put that in the refrigerator for the week. They use it for wraps, taco salads, or just plain. It’s been working well.
Lori shops for groceries at Wal-mart and usually goes on the weekend. She tries to plan two meals she can make that will result in leftovers. “If I make a pan of lasagna, we have it all week.” Lori says she has half a dozen things that she makes. She also admits that she relies on convenience foods a lot, especially frozen pizza.
She’s pretty disciplined when she goes grocery shopping. “I hate being in the grocery store so most of the time I go in, get what’s on the list and get out.” She usually makes one big trip on the weekend and then a couple of little trips during the week to pick up things she didn’t know she needed or items the kids have requested.
Biggest Challenges? Budgeting. Planning meals. Getting all the cleaning done. Anything that requires planning.
Most Satisfying Chore? Kitchen sink area – “if that’s all clean & clear, no dirty dishes, I’m happy.”
Most hated chore? Bathrooms, specifically cleaning toilets.
Lessons from Lori:
- If you don’t hang your laundry up when it’s done, you’ll have to iron!
- If you have older kids, delegate! Let them take care of their own laundry and wash their own dishes.
- If something is really important to you, like vacation, you’ll have to plan it if you want it to happen. Even if you don’t like planning.
This article is the fourth in a series of homemaker interviews. You can read the other interviews here: http://homemakersdaily.com/category/homemaker-interviews/
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