Sunday, March 21, 2010

Home Ec: They Had it Wrong

In junior high and high school I took the required Home Economics classes but didn't retain much other than how to sew on a button.  I cooked and baked since the age of four with my mom so most of those lessons were review.  Home Ec also confirmed my resolve to never be a homemaker.  I remember one time the teacher said, "And ladies, pay attention, this will be important to your husband when you get married."  I fantasized about building a teleportation device so I could shove her into it and send her back to the 1950s.  I was not going to "darn" anyone's socks or mend broken zippers or EVER own a sewing machine.  That's what stores are for, right?  Your socks have holes in them?  Go to Costco and stock up.  I was also set on being a career woman and figured if I married I would find someone who was self-sufficient who would share in some of the household responsibilities.  At that age, I had the mentality of: He can do it himself!!  (I have calmed down a bit since then :) )


Really quickly, I would like to put in a little disclaimer:  I highly respect those who have chosen to be homemakers, especially those that are good at it.  It's just not me.  I also believe that if we, as a society, are preparing young girls to be good wives, we should focus less on keeping a neat house and cooking meals and focus more on preparing them to be emotionally healthy as individuals so that they can be successful in a relationship.


I cook and I clean but only because it's necessary, not because I think it will increase my chances of becoming a wife.  In fact, if that's the only thing holding me back then I guess I don't want to be one.


In Home Ec, I remember that we spent a lot of time cooking and baking and that was fun as long as it wasn't implied that I had to learn this skill in order to find a man.  I like to cook and bake and I like to eat so this part of Home Ec was fun.  Meal planning--I slept through that one.  The dreaded "carry a bag of flour around and pretend it's a baby"--I somehow got out of that one.  Despite the fact that I did not have to care for a sack of flour for a week, I love children and am good with them....I should tell my home ec teacher becasue I'm sure she was worried about it (insert sarcastic smirk here).


So why did they have it all wrong?  Because while girls like myself were being forced to learn about being perfect wives and mothers (when really we were dreaming about careers and titles, traveling, and freedom), they should have included some lessons on being the perfect single woman.  What do I mean?  Well, I will be honest.  I work full-time and go to school full-time.  I have a plan for my life and it involves helping others, traveling, etc.  While I do think I would like to be married to a person who compliments my life, I also haven't met anyone who has that potential.  I have met and dated, even been engaged, to pretty awesome men (okay, and also NOT so awesome men), but the forever factor wasn't there for us.  And that's okay.  Most of them are now my really close friends, which is nice. 


**For those who think I'm a total feminist: when in a serious relationship, I do like to take care of him and cook meals....but many times my version of that is saying, "Hey I'll pick up the check this time!"


A few months ago, I decided that since I eat really healthy I needed to look at the rest of my life.  I have crazy allergies and I was determined to cut down on the number of strange reactions I have.  One of the things I struggle with are basic household cleaners.  In the middle of winter I have to open every window while cleaning, wear a bandana around my mouth and nose (it's attractive, let me tell you) while I'm cleaning because I have a hard time breathing when in direct contact with the chemicals in the cleaners.  I also break out into with a mild case of hives and my lungs burn for hours.  This can't be healthy.  Since my nephew is over a lot, I also started thinking about things he was touching and putting in his mouth.  Is it safe?  Is he ingesting all those chemicals?


After doing a lot of research, I started making my own household cleaners.  Everything from laundry detergent, to toilet cleaners, stain removers, and window cleaners.  I was, of course, a little cynical about this whole idea but tried it anyway.  Four months later, my counter tops look cleaner than they ever did when I used store bought cleaners.  There are no stains or water spots in my sinks or shower.  My apartment has a naturally fresh scent and I no longer look like a robber when I clean.


I threw out all my old cleaners and replaced them with ingredients that I mix up when I need them:  Borax, Hydrogen Peroxide, baking soda, lemon juice, and vinegar.  All of these ingredients take care of my carpet, windows, drains, laundry, dishes, counters, sinks, stove top, etc.  Also, I quit buying those plug in air fresheners, because they are not healthy to breathe in.  Instead I get cute little glass tea light holders and put a mixture of baking soda and lemon juice in them.  The lemon juice adds a natural scent and the baking soda absorbs odors.  Sometimes I change those out and fill the tealight holders with coffee grounds and my whole apartment smells like Starbucks :)


Another great aspect of this whole endeavor is that I no longer store chemicals in my home. I make only what I need at time that I am cleaning.  Then, I rinse out the spray bottles and store them, empty, where I used to keep harmful chemicals.  I have peace of mind that my nephew will not come into contact with the old cleaners and have even removed the locks from my lower kitchen cabinets.


The other perk?  I have saved myself close to $50 in 4 months.  I don't buy a different cleaner for every part of my apartment--all those commercials where they tell you that you need something special for showers and something else for kitchen counters?  False.  You DO need a different mixture of the base ingredients.  For showers with soap buildup or rust and mildew....spray down with vinegar water, let it set for 10-20 minutes and then wipe down with peroxide and water.  Set some baking soda in a cup or dish and it will absorb the vinegar smell.


And finally, no more hives!  No more burning lungs!  More money in my bank account!  Clean, germ free surfaces!


THIS is what I should have learned in Home Ec.  How to care for my place of residence, while maintaining a heatlhy lifestyle and on a budget.  But I'm sure had this been taught in my home ec classes, we would have been told how happy our hypothetcial future husbands would be :)

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