A Weekly Column
By Joseph Walker


I had just returned to the office after two weeks of trying to fill in for my wife, Anita, while she and new baby Jonathan settled into their new routines and lifestyles.  And I’ve gotta tell you, I was exhausted.

I didn’t think it was going to be that big of a deal.  In fact, I kind of saw it as an opportunity to show Anita how a little careful planning, organization, and execution would help her to become more efficient in her work.  But it didn’t take long to find out how hard it is to plan for the domestic disasters that seem to happen daily – sometimes hourly – and how impossible it is to organize a two-year-old.

It didn’t take me long to come to the conclusion that the only “execution” with which homemakers need to concern themselves is the one where all those people who ask homemakers why the don’t “work” are herded into an airtight room where they can inhale a week’s worth of ammonia, disinfectant, oven cleaner, and dirty diapers.

My formidable fortnight started out simply enough.  I managed to get Amy, Joseph, and Andrea up and off to school without too much trouble, although I can’t take a lot of credit for that since they’re all old enough to dress and feed themselves.  Still things were moving along pretty smoothly – until two-year-old Elizabeth woke up.

Laundry was on the morning agenda, so I decided to let Elizabeth start working on her breakfast while I put a load of whites into the wash.  Somehow during the three minutes it took me to run downstairs, throw in a pile of clothes, and run back upstairs, Elizabeth managed to completely redecorate her corner of the kitchen in oatmeal and orange juice. 

I briefly considered remodeling, since it looked like it was going to be easier to knock that wall down that it would be to clean it off.  But I started scrubbing.  By the time I had washed the walls, mopped the floor, hosed down the high chair, and bathed and changed Elizabeth, it was 9:15 – and I was forty-five minutes behind schedule.

Fifteen minutes later, (one messy diaper, one toppled plant, and one tumble down a couple of stairs that required five minutes of soothing), we were on our way.   That’s when I remembered a few things that Anita wanted to have on hand when she and the baby got home.  So we made a quick (about twenty minutes) stop at the store, putting our arrival at the hospital at about 10 A.M. – an hour later than planned.

“I’m sorry,” I apologized as we entered Anita’s room.  “We would have been here an hour ago, but Elizabeth…”

“It’s okay,” Anita said.  “I wasn’t really expecting you until about now anyway.  In fact, I’m impressed you were able to get here this early, especially on garbage day.”

Garbage day?  Oops.

We got home just in time to watch the garbage truck pull out of our cul-de-sac and head for the next neighborhood.   So I unloaded Anita and the babies, threw the garbage bags (one of which, I learned later, was leaking) in the back of the van, and chased the world’s fastest moving garbage truck for several blocks.  Then I had to clean the gunk out of the van, after which I had to shower before I could help Anita with Jonathon.

For the next two weeks, I never again got within two hours of my schedule.  Nor did I get around to all that ironing I had been planning to do.  I didn’t clean the garage, fix Amy’s bike tire, take the kids to the library, or reorganize the family photos.   And “quality time” with the family was just as hard to find during my “vacation” as ever.

But I did learn a few things.  Such as how there is no such thing as laundry ever being “done.  That homemakers living in multi-level homes log more up-and-down time than elevator operators.  And that it takes four youngsters only about seven minutes to undo a cleaning job that took three hours to complete.  I also learned that there are times when the four food groups seem like the enemy, a frustrating complication when it would be so much easier to just let the kids eat Cocoa Krispies two or three times a day.

My two weeks as a homemaker left me in awe of Anita, who not only loves her job, but who, I have come to understand, is awfully good at it.  I also gained a new respect for those who must carry homemaking responsibilities in addition to meeting the demands of full-time employment outside the home. 

And I found myself a little less impressed with myself and the work I used to consider demanding.  In fact, I was glad to get back to it…

I needed the rest.

# # #

— © Joseph Walker

For more ValueSpeak, please visit

E-mail Joseph at: 

Look for Joe's book,
"How Can You Mend a Broken Spleen? Home Remedies for an Ailing World." It is available on-line through