Holidays for the housebound

Now that the holiday weekend has drawn to a close, many of us who work at home can take a deep breath and say: What holiday weekend?

Holidays don't mean much to work-at-home spouses. Neither do weekends. No matter how special the time off may be for you regular workaday types, for us they're just more of the same. Deadlines still must be met, laundry must be done, meals must be cooked, trash must be bagged, kids must be rounded up and hosed off.

Sometimes, the workload even increases on weekends. Spouse and children go into a sloppy who-cares-it's-the-weekend mode, and the spouse-in-charge becomes ever more harried,
trying to keep the household together.

Weekends and holidays are the times when people come to visit. Those people know which spouse is in charge of keeping up the house, so we become hyperaware of the dust bunnies and the dirty socks and the strewn toys. We bustle around, trying to pick up the candy wrappers and newspapers and individual shoes that the other family members shed around the house like dandruff. And there's no way we can keep up because we're outnumbered.

All this, plus we try to pack in recreational activities, so our spouses won't discover we've become total drudges who've forgotten how to have fun.

By the time Monday rolls around, we almost welcome it. Sure, the work has piled up over the weekend, but at least fewer people are underfoot and we can clean and scrape and put away and replenish. This can take several days, particularly if a non-housework project deadline looms, but eventually order is restored to the household. By then it's Friday, and the weekend bedlam hits again.

This nonstop, seven-day-a-week workload is one reason it's so important for at-home workers to occasionally treat themselves to a real day off. Pack the kids off to Grandma's and let them wreck her house for a change. Ignore the clutter and dust and dirty socks. Avoid the computer and the telephone and the fax machine. Take some time just for yourself, luxuriate in the lack of demands, get a massage, go to a movie, read undisturbed. Or just sit quietly, shell-shocked, not quite believing that you have a day to yourself.

How best to spend a day alone? We here at The Home Front have taken an informal poll of housespouses and have ranked the popularity of their suggestions. We offer them to you, as a public service, so you can make the most of those rare days of solitude:

1. Sleep.
2. Nap.
3. Drink beer.
4. Doze.
5. Sit in quiet repose, plotting how to get more days off.
6. Gardening (although this comes dangerously close to working).
7. Lounge by the pool.
8. Sleep by the pool.
9. Treat sunburn.
10. Go to the movies and pig out on popcorn.
11. Watch rented videos and pig out on microwave popcorn.
12. Purge.
13. Indulge in a bubble bath and hours of personal grooming.
14. Stare longingly into the mirror, wishing that grooming made a difference.
15. Go to a park, lie on your back in the soft grass and count clouds. Awaken hours later to treat sunburn and insect bites.
16. Sit in the cool indoors and meditate. Try to ignore squeaky sound the air conditioner suddenly is making.
17. Read good books.
18. Read trashy books.
19. Thumb through magazines.
20. Thumb a ride to the next town so your family can't find you when they get back. .

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