Once upon a time, a long time ago, my sister lived with me in a small guesthouse in an old neighborhood in Omaha, which was pretty much as far away from everything, and everyone, else in our lives. So the two of us spent a lot of time together, when I wasn’t traveling for work, and our routines and habits were remarkably compatible, which they would have to have been, since the “house” (an upstairs apartment of an old horse barn) was tiny.
We started our days with morning yoga and coffee. After she finished school and I came home from work we would often walk or run (or, in winter, meet at the gym). In the evenings we cooked and watched movies and read magazines and were completely in sync, Monday through Friday.
We disagreed, however, about weekends.
I was a Saturday cleaner, Sunday putterer. She, on the other hand, believed Saturdays were for resting and Sundays for chores. As I remember it, neither of us budged in our strongly-held positions, but we made it work.
I married a “Saturdays are for resting, Sundays for chores” man, and in our decades together this mismatch has remained a source of disagreement.
The conflict was greatest when our children were little and we moved into a house that needed both work and cleaning on a regular basis. Since we both worked full time, doing chores during the work week was simply not possible. That left the weekend for all the household chores plus grocery shopping and other errands, for a family of four, not just for me. The stress of keeping up with all of that was formidable.
The stress increased when the children were old enough that sports and birthday parties filled weekend days (and some weeknights). For a few years I actually dreaded the weekend and looked forward to heading back to my office every Monday. In contrast to the unstructured weekend that too often slipped into limbo, at my work I could accomplish things, set a schedule, feel accomplished.
I downloaded checklists and worksheets on how to clean the house in 20 minutes a day for 30 days. (No, I’m not sharing a link, because I can’t recommend the practice.)
I tried doing a load of laundry before going to bed on Tuesdays but then would most often forget to put it in the dryer on Wednesday morning and ended up instead with a load of mildew-y smelling laundry that had to be re-washed (sometimes twice).
I made chore charts. We had family meetings on Sunday nights. None of it worked, at least not for us.
In a fit of pique I once screamed, “I’m sick and tired of playing fucking Cinderella every fucking Saturday!” and I meant it, though what I actually meant was something different, something that had little to do with cleaning and a great deal to do with family relationships. Also, I began to recognize that it wasn’t cleaning on Saturdays that I liked, it was waking to a clean house on Sunday that was important to me. (More on that one, tomorrow.)
And then I started writing on Saturday mornings.
By that point my children were old enough that they wanted to sleep a little later and to be lazy on Saturday mornings. I didn’t want to run the vacuum and wake them, and that one shift opened a window of time that I could claim for myself. In the beginning my weekly writing exercise included making and posting a weekly cooking plan (remember that?), and the routine, all of that together, made the rest of the weekend seem a little more settled.
That was a decade ago, and although I haven’t always held to the schedule I still think of Saturday mornings, the time between waking and noon-ish, as my time, for myself, for writing. When I hold to the practice of taking this time, just for me, it settles some internal unrest that otherwise struggles to find balance.
I’ll confess, though, that as soon as I’ve finished writing, if I write on Saturday mornings, I always feel an irresistible urge to clean the house — sweep the kitchen, wash the dishes, do laundry, and feel some semblance of control.
It is, in fact, what I’m going to do next, after I press “Publish.” Because Saturday, for me, will always be clean-the-house day even now that it’s also, when I’m true to myself, a writing day.
After that? “Cooking,” of sorts. It’s clean-out-the-fridge night for dinner (so many choices, it will be like our own dinner buffet), but I’ll want a fresh salad in the mix. I like Ina Garten’s Orange Fennel Salad (link is to Food Network, but the recipe is from Barefoot in Paris.) If I can’t find good fennel, though, I’ll probably make Broccoli Bacon Salad (The Spruce Eats).
See you tomorrow?