Published on Wednesday, 30 November -0001 00:00
We begin life as children. We grow up. We grow older. No matter how hard we try, no matter how much we tell ourselves we won't do it, somehow it happens. Somewhere along the line, between diaper changing and retirement, we become our parents.
It might be in the form of an absent-minded habit, a tendency to gesture a certain way or use certain catch phrases. It might be you notice you're combing your hair like your dad or clipping coupons like your mom. It might even involve the laundry.
I scoffed at the whole laundry process as a newlywed 16 years ago.
"I will not get excited about cleaning clothes," I remember telling my mother and mother-in-law. I'm sure they cringed at my attitude.
All through high school my mom ironed my jeans. While I appreciated the crisp lines of my pants, I didn't see the value in the ironing process.
My mother-in-law tried to show me how to iron a man's shirt once. I pretended to pay attention. I wasn't a man. Why would I need to iron a man's shirt?
When we were first married, my husband and I waited until the laundry hamper was heaping before we'd make the trek to the apartment laundry room to do our 13 loads of wash. We left the ironing board set up in the bedroom and pressed whatever we needed each morning before work.
When we moved into our first house and had our own washer and dryer, we devised a point system to encourage laundry completion. Each stage of the laundry process, sorting, washing, drying, folding and putting away, was worth points, which we actually had the time to tally. This, of course, was during life B.C. (before children).
Since those days, we've added four human mouths and three animal ones to the household. We no longer have time to think about, much less count, laundry points. In addition, my husband "managed" to ruin a number of wash loads during our early years A.D. (after daughter), and was restricted to a non-wash classification.
In other words, I've become laundry czar.
Through the years, my views on laundry have evolved. You can't spend a substantial amount of time completing any task without justifying its importance in your mind. I've come to appreciate the fresh smell of a newly washed shirt and the crispness of clean sheets on a bed. I can fold five bath towels in under a minute and sort socks like a pro. In the past few months, I've even taken to ironing.
In short, I've become my mother.
My mother ironed my jeans. She ironed my dad's work clothes. She ironed lots of things. Now, all these years later, I've finally realized she didn't iron because the creases in the fabric gave her intrinsic rewards.
Being a parent is a lot about taking care of others. It's about being unselfish and ironing your daughter's jeans because she likes them that way. It's about ironing a man's shirt even though you're not a man. It's about seeing beyond yourself and realizing life is so much more real when it's experienced as we versus me.
Ironing is a fairly concrete way of doing something nice for the people you love. It's as simple as that.
My mom called the other afternoon when I happened to be (you guessed it) ironing.
"Don't you enjoy ironing clothes?" she asked. I could imagine her smiling on the other end of the line.
I had to pause. A year ago, I would have laughed at the thought. Then I answered her honestly. "Yeah, Mom, I guess I do."
With that, I officially embraced the laundry stage of life. Those of us who've been there know it's about so much more than clean clothes. Besides, who says becoming your mother has to be all bad?
Jill Pertler, award-winning syndicated columnist and author of "The Do-It-Yourselfer's Guide to Self-Syndication" is collecting fans on Facebook on her Slices of Life page. E-mail her at
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