Whistle While You Work

Just whistle while you work
And cheerfully together we can tidy up the place
So hum a merry tune
It won’t take long when there’s a song to help you set the pace

And as you sweep the room
Imagine that the broom is someone that you love
And soon you’ll find you’re dancing to the tune

For some strange, fairly inexplicable reason, I always sing in my head and consequently hum (and at times catch myself singing out loud) Snow White’s cleaning up song whenever I do household chores. In all probability, my subconscious mind strives to convince me to take joy in doing my chores. Either that or I watch too much cartoons. Naturally, I’d like to think it was the former (I do watch a lot of animated films and TV shows, but I have young kids and thus, the perfect excuse to do so).

Most of us Filipinos were not accustomed to doing household chores, with the prevailing practise of having domestic helpers back in the Philippines. Although my mum taught us how to clean the house, cook, wash dishes, do the laundry, we rarely ever really needed to do so ourselves.

The first time I went on fours to wash and scrub the floor was when my friends and I cleaned up our organisation’s staff house. Of course, it was heaps of fun back then, with lots of hands and laughter to get the job done.

I did live alone for several years and had to keep the studio apartment I rented tidy, but when I got a bigger apartment later on, I hired a household helper. Marriage and kids came afterward and having been a hands-on mum, I gladly relinquished all other domestic duties to our helpers.

Moving to New Zealand, we prepared our kids by training them to help out in our home back in Cebu by putting away their toys after play at the end of each day, setting the table for every meal, and putting away their own plates and utensils after each meal. I took a two-day training in housekeeping, dabbling into a business that provided cleaning services to homes and offices. After the training, though, I let my business partner oversee the work as I focused on marketing our services.

So when we finally moved to Auckland and into a modest two-bedroom flat, domestic duties have been a struggle for us, particularly for my kids and myself. Hubby has always been more domesticated and handles the vaccum, taking out the rubbish, and tidying up quite well. I, on the other hand, have been finding it difficult to make sure the laundry gets done twice a week, the bathroom and toilet cleaned daily, the dishes are washed after each meal, and that we have food to eat for lunch and dinner (Breakfast has always been my husband’s assignment, be it to prepare rice and the viand or simply ensure we have cereal, milk, bread, butter, Nutella, and jam.).

The talk I listened to during a spiritual recollection I attended a month ago, however, focused on how we should do all things well and out of love. Most specially household chores. Cleaning behind the toilet bowl and cleaning it very well, because you want your daughter or son or husband or even yourself to be able to put your hand at the back of the toilet bowl and not shiver in fear or whatever might be back there. To cook meals that you know your family would relish.

After that talk, I realised I had just been doing the chores at home simply because I had to, and admittedly at times begrudgingly. My resolve was then to start thinking of my domestic duties as opportunities to show my family how much I love them and to offer the work up for God’s glory.

So I guess, Snow White knew what she was doing, after all, when she sang:

Just whistle while you work
Put on that grin and start right in to whistle loud and long
Just hum a merry tune
Just do your best and take a rest and sing yourself a song

When there’s too much to do
Don’t let it bother you, forget your troubles,
Try to be just like a cheerful chick-a-dee

And whistle while you work
Come on get smart, tune up and start
To whistle while you work!

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