Spring Cleaning! Cultivating A Good Work Ethic!

Spring Cleaning–It’s A State of Mind

Cooking and Cleaning ImageI had a good laugh when I saw this phrase on the front of a greeting card when I was browsing Easter cards a few weeks ago!  The woman pictured definitely looks like a woman from my mother’s era, however, as a child I was convinced that all women at that time were born with the perpetual cleaning gene!  They also seemed to be diligent about carrying on their spring cleaning attributes into every other season of the year, as well.  As an observant and work induced child, I also realized that my mom not only seemed to really enjoy cooking and cleaning, she always looked really fabulous doing it!  In the fanciful memory of my childhood, I can’t recall my mom ever resembling my sweaty, grimy look after a day spent cleaning or working in my yard!

I have to admit that it did my heart good when I read in my mother’s journal recently that she often felt the burden of fulfilling the demands of the many roles placed on her as a wife and mother.  My mom’s response to these concerns however, was made with her usual upbeat candor!  “I’ve just had to rely on my long-established motto of putting my best effort into whatever jobs were at hand.”  My mother never seemed to shirk her duties as she helped our family learn to set a good standard in all areas of life, which most definitely included cooking and cleaning!  She established a routine that I remeber well…it’s best outlined in her own words.

“I developed a routine with the children that included teaching them various tasks, working with them on the tasks until they could work independently, then inspecting their finished work.  That way I could monitor how they learned the things I taught them.  Of course, their work had to be redone on more than one occasion.  The kids teased me about my “Eagle Eye” inspections.”

from the history of Merle Jorgensen

Eagle Eye work inspections It was a fun challenge for me to work hard at my jobs so I could pass the great “Eagle Eye” inspections of my mom!  The sense of accomplishment you feel when your “best effort” pleases your mother is really wonderful!  But it’s an even better feeling when you do your best just because that’s what you want to do!

Cultivating A Good Work Ethic Can Actually Be Fun

vintage cleaning bucket and mop

All joking aside, I appreciated the sense of camaraderie and fun that both my parents brought to the everyday workload of raising a family and keeping a household running smoothly.  My dad and mom tried to be very conscientious about dividing up the chores into do-able doses.  If certain jobs were completed without too much fuss, then we were rewarded; we could decide on a special treat or receive a monetary payment as a way to earn money to buy something special that we wanted.  Watching the energy that both my parents exhibited when working beside me, made it easier to put forth a better effort so I could keep pace with them.

One of my fondest and most vivid memories is how my dad was usually the first to jump up from the table when a meal was finished, and after gathering an arm full of dishes, he’d fill up the sink with sudsy water and throw out some dish towels to the rest of us. The lively discussions and wet towel flipping contests that ensued were family entertainment at it’s best!?  Later, when I was older and my parents had a dishwasher, my father still kept up this dish washing tradition, despite fervent and earnest pleadings to just load the dishwasher!

antique dish rack

(An interesting irony to the story above is that my husband grew up in a family of nine children and did his fair share of dish duty.  Much to our children’s dismay, he also enjoys the tradition of doing dishes together by hand.)

Cultivate A Good Work Ethic By Seeing Work From A Different Perspective!

farm life

I know whenever I get feeling a little downtrodden, especially this time of year, with a long spring cleaning list that I want to get done, I’m reminded of the many stories that my dad shared with me over the years about his parent’s life.  My father told me that in spite of the fairly grueling lifestyle, there was a congenial sense of community and a tremendous work ethic that was shared by all the farming families where his parents owned their farm land.  My Grandpa Jorgensen really enjoyed farming and once told my dad that the farm was his “health spa” because the work always kept him healthy and strong!  My dad joked that his father dug post holes and built a fence around his farm while the horses rested.  More importantly though, he detailed the duties of his mother:

“After my parents were married and I was a small child, my mother spent time at the farm.  During the summer she gardened and cooked and often baked bread for a number of the men who were single or who didn’t have their wives with them at their farms.”  

Vintage garden tools

Hearing these stories definitely puts a different spin on learning to appreciate the ability to cultivate a good work ethic, especially since we enjoy so many modern conveniences and often buy our bread at the store.  Yeah, our kids will roll their eyes at the stories about the hard times of previous generations, we did when our parents told them, and someday they’ll share their stories with their children; I would imagine they’ll get a similar response!

What I’m learning now is…

I’m so grateful that my parents taught me the importance of a good work ethic, as well as the importance of being willing to help others.  What I’m learning now is that like so many things in life, learning how to work depends largely on a “can do” attitude.  I watch my children now as they work hard to establish their families, homes and careers, and I’m so impressed with all they are accomplishing.  It’s also a thrill to watch my cute granddaughters get excited to pitch in and help.  I tell my daughter it’s because they want to share in all the “fun”!

april and mayWhat good work ethics have served you best in your life?  I’d love to hear how you teach your children good work habits.



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