Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Socks and the Single Mother

The other day, I was talking with a friend whose unmarried niece recently had a baby.  I was expressing how difficult single motherhood must be for this young woman.  I recalled how, when my children were little, I barely functioned as a rational (let alone presentably groomed) human being, and I had a husband to share in household chores and childcare.  I can remember a time when my younger son was three weeks old and I suffered from an agonizing case of Lyme disease, and could barely walk.  In other instances I was laid low by stomach viruses, fevers, and respiratory infections.  (Note:  Both my husband and I are teachers and our children attended daycare at this time, so we basically lived our lives in a petri dish of infections.)  When I was sick, my husband took up the slack—bathing and feeding our children and keeping the pets fed and the house in order.  At this time in my life, even when I was healthy, as a full-time working mother, there was little time for hobbies such as knitting.  (“Mothers’ Morning Out” doesn’t exist when mom is at work all day, and her weekends are spent cooking, cleaning, and caring for children.)  I learned the hard way that hobbies are, in fact, truly a product of leisure and affluence, and, to me, it seems almost inconceivable that single mothers (especially those without a network of family and friends close by to offer support) have time for knitting. 

It was only when my children were a little older (my two boys are now in middle and high school) and when I secured the services of a twice monthly cleaning service that I actually had a tiny bit of spare time to have a hobby.  At that time, I learned to knit and have been going full force ever since.  This past weekend, however, my husband was ill with a fever and respiratory infection, and I was reminded not only of the days when I didn’t have a moment to spare for myself but also of the difficulty single mothers must have simply running a home and caring for their children, let alone finding time to unwind or pursue personal interests. 

My husband typically begins doing a week’s worth of laundry on Saturday morning, while I am out grocery shopping and completing other errands (some of which sometimes include a drop in at Cottage Yarn for supplies and conversation).  I did my errands as per usual (some of which were related to my trip to Vogue Knitting Live this coming weekend), but my husband slept in a chair all day.  I woke up on Sunday morning to mountains of dirty laundry, so I began to run them through the washer and dryer.  I have a new appreciation for 19th century women and their grueling Monday washing day, because even without the time-consuming necessity of having to boil water or run clothes through a wringer, I started my laundry at 6:00 a.m. and wasn’t done folding and washing a week’s worth of clothes at 6:00 p.m.  Not only was there laundry, after I’d cooked a homemade meal on Sunday, I was left to complete the cleanup tasks solo, with a little help in clearing from my sons.  My boys did some other chores, too, but, ultimately, they have a long way to go before they can rival my husband in housekeeping abilities.  This weekend, I realized that I need to train them to do laundry, but I wasn’t in any mood to have a class.  I teach adolescents English all week, so sometimes rallying up the energy to teach new skills to my own children during my free time just doesn’t happen.  (I also knew that my children would welcome my instruction with as much enthusiasm as the average student greets lessons in grammar and composition in my classroom.)

Needless to say, by the end of this interminable day of washing, cooking, and cleaning up, I was exhausted and very frustrated at what little progress I’d made on my knitting projects.  Naturally, I didn’t touch the spinning wheel all day.  This experience reminds me of how fragile my family’s balance of labor is, and how while I don’t have time during my working day to pursue my knitting passion, I must be thankful, because my time could be more limited than it already is.  I know that I wouldn’t be knitting if I didn’t have a partner to share in the duties of our home and family. 
This is a sweater I hoped to be further along on. 
I included a link to the pattern booklet this
is from in my last blog post.  (Note:  ignore the
cat hair.) 

When my children were little, I longed for “an extra set of hands,” so that I could sew or garden or read on my time off.  This dream didn’t happen.  I had to wait until my children grew older and could use their own hands to dress themselves or make a sandwich.  I can only imagine the stresses and dreams of single mothers who must face the dependent stage of childhood by themselves, especially those who don’t have a grandma or an aunt taking up the slack.  They could certainly benefit from the mental and physical escape of knitting.  Offering inexpensive (or, better yet, free) knitting classes with childcare might not be a bad way for me to contribute to my community.  I just have to find the time.   

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