In Support of Ironing Abstinence: THINK OF THE CHILDREN

I’m not sure how to say this, exactly, so I’ll go with the blurt-it-out, say-it-like-it-is, blunt approach and just get it over with.

I ironed last week.

I ironed last week.

Me. And an ironing board. 

With an iron on it.

And I know, I know; believe me, I know. This isn’t like me. Not at all. You’re right to be confused right now. I am, after all, a staunch supporter of Ironing Abstinence, and everything I’ve previously written about housekeeping would lead you to that conclusion.

I mean, I’ve thought a lot about it over the years. I’ve read all the pamphlets. I’ve heard all the pro-ironing arguments. I’ve considered it from every angle, most of them very wrinkly, and I’ve become more and more convicted over time that Ironing Abstinence is Right for Me. 

But then, in a moment of weakness, I ironed anyway.

I’m not really sure how to justify my behavior, friends, except to say this: my cotton skirt was wrinkly. I mean, really, really wrinkly. Which I know is a poor excuse, but it’s all I’ve got. 

Yes, I know I could’ve worn something else.

Yes, I know I shouldn’t been able to even find the iron, given how well I’d hidden it behind the boxes and bags and outgrown clothes and a truly stunning amount of trash in the laundry room.

Yes, I know I should’ve given that skirt to Goodwill years ago instead of leaving it in my closet to lure me back to ironing.

And I’m torn, honestly, between congratulating myself for my many-years-long ironing abstinence and hanging my head in shame that I succumbed to the iron once again.

Here’s the worst part, though. 

My kid caught me doing it.

There I was, mid-stroke, and a 7-year-old burst through the door and stopped short, shocked to find me engaged in that activity. 

Cai’s eyes went wide, and he said, “What are you doing, Mom?”

What was I supposed to say? I’d never intended to be found out. I considered lying to spare him, but I was afraid it would be obvious and he’d know me to be both an ironer and a liar, and so, at a loss, I confessed, “I’m ironing, son.”

“For real?” he asked, bewildered.

“For real,” I said, ashamed.

“I didn’t even know we had one of those things,” he said.

“I’ve tried to shield you from that knowledge,” I replied.

And then he said, in awe, “It’s just like they do in the movies, Mom! That is so cool.”

Which is when I realized my ironing behavior does not affect just me.

No; my kid thought ironing was cool, you guys, which was a real wake-up call, I tell you.

I mean, what if my son grows up to be an ironer someday?

I’ll be all, “Where did you learn that? Why aren’t you just using the dryer on high with a wet towel and then putting on hot, wet, still wrinkly clothes at the last minute like the rest of us? WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU??” And he will say, “I learned it from watching you, OK?! I learned it from watching you,” before turning away with wracking sobs while I stand shocked and convicted and sad music plays in the background.

Listen. I do realize some of you iron in your own homes. And some of you may even do it regularly in front of your children. But I’d like you to consider the fact that it only takes once, friends. It only takes your kids seeing you iron once before they begin to think that kind of thing is cool. 

Please don’t find out the way I did.

Abstain from ironing today.

Because I love you very much,
Beth

P.S. If you need a place to talk about ironing – both your stories of triumphing over it and the nefarious ways it seeks to regain a foothold in your life – the comments are open. I’m here for you, friends. And I understand. xo

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ABOUT BETH WOOLSEY I'm a writer. And a mess. And mouthy, brave, and strong. I believe we all belong to each other. I believe in the long way 'round. And I believe, always, in grace in the grime and wonder in the wild of a life lived off course from what was, once, a perfectly good plan.
44 comments
  1. I’ve never commented on anything but last week my kid went to preschool and they had a toy iron and he asked me what it was. I explained it was a tool to make clothes straight like mommy’s hair straightener. I’m pretty sure he thinks that an iron is for hair. It made me think of this post…

  2. I sew, therefore I have to iron every now and then. Otherwise I avoid it as much as possible. My husband thinks I must have experienced some sort of childhood ironing trauma. I believe that ALL use of an iron should be considered traumatic.

  3. I only iron bi-monthly (or less frequently if my husband hasn’t completely run out of dress shirts for work; he doesn’t wear them every day) but ONLY when when the children are at school so I can watch trash TV to get me thru it. I think they’ve seen the iron but have never asked what it’s for.

  4. There is a zero tolerance policy in my house for such behavior. I am proud of the example I’ve set. In fact, we went to a hotel once and my daughter (maybe 4 at the time) spotted an ironing board in the closet. She asked why there was a surf board in there. My daughter, who lives in the frigid northeast, is more familiar with surf boards than ironing boards. Kowabunga. Dude.

  5. I remember my mom ironing. I am older, perhaps, than most of your readers, so my memory of my mom ironing ALSO includes memories of her “sprinkling” the clothes. Yes. Sprinkling. (Probably before the invention of the steam iron!)

    Mom had the basket of clothes needing to be ironed (almost everything, actually, except jeans), and a water bottle. The process of sprinkling went like this: take an item out of the basket, sprinkle it with water from the water bottle, roll it up, put it in another basket. Repeat with remaining items in the first basket. Then, take an item from the sprinkled basket and iron it. Repeat until all items are ironed. Did you know that there’s a correct sequence to ironing? That with shirts you start with the collar and placket, then the sleeves, then do the body last? I learned that from my mom. When I was little and just learning how to iron, she let me iron my dad’s handkerchiefs and the pillowcases. Simple things.

    Now, my own children do not know all these things. I did not teach them all the ironing things. Because I have broken with family tradition and age-old custom and I DO NOT iron if I can avoid it. We will wear all the shirts that don’t need ironing 5 times before we will finally get to ironing the 1 shirt that needs it to be presentable.

    No, I am a “try-to-take-things-out-of-the-dryer-or-redry-if-necessary-to-avoid-ironing” mom. Thanks for the great post, Beth!

  6. You know, Ma Ingalls spent an ENTIRE DAY ironing. It’s true. We have her whole cleaning routing laid out for us in the books: wash on Monday, iron on Tuesday, mend on Wednesday, churn on Thursday, clean on Friday, bake on Saturday.

    I can’t imagine.

    But, I also can’t work out how that woman had bread on Fridays if she only baked on Saturdays, so clearly there’s something about the Little House on the Whatever system that I’m missing.

    *I* happen to think that wrinkly linen is the most childlike form of clothing in existence. I own a pair of actual heat-em-up-on-the-stove sad irons, but I only use them for sewing work, crayon art, and finishing gifts (like monogrammed hankies, etc). Do I iron my linen clothing? NOPE. Do I iron my sheets? LOL NOPE. Do I iron my heirloom Victorian baby gowns? Nope, not even that.

    If I want something to dry in a particular shape, I block it, like a knitting project. Because I am dedicated to the cause of Ironing Resistance.

  7. I have to confess: I ironed when I was in the army, and I ironed for other people when I was a starving uni student, but these days I’d rather spend time with my husband’s ex-wife than iron.

    Unreasonably, I have to wear a uniform to work – and it all has to be ironed. Hubby too. Next year the 3 children will be attending a private school with a uniform that needs ironing. All the shirts, blouses, skirts & trousers will total 50 items before we even begin on clothes to wear to church etc. Gasp!

    The solution: I have an ironing lady. Everybody wins: I don’t have to iron, and I’m helping a single mum raise her children.

  8. 1) True fact: we don’t own a dryer. Because if you already pay a mortgage in the desert, that’s just wasting money and carbon emissions.

    2) As a result, when the ONLY option for meeting choir uniform standards last winter was a 100% cotton tuxedo-front blouse…the girl learned to iron. Because we, the parents, don’t own clothes that need to be ironed. Grandma showed her all the ins & outs, etc., but now I own an ironing board. Before this incident the child (who is 14) thought the iron was for attaching craft store crap to other craft store crap, or to actual clothing.

    Ironing has skipped a generation, like perfect pitch or green eyes.

  9. Help me, i can’t put the iron down! AND it was my mother who got me started… and now i even iron my kids clothes before they got to school! I know, I KNOW it’s futile and a ridiculous waste of time, but I don’t know how to stop. I CAN’T STOP! …. is there any hope for me?

  10. My daughter was about 4 years old when we were out and saw one of those toy ironing sets. She loudly announced “Grandma has one of those!” I did point out to her that I also owned one (and have used it on occasion). She didn’t seem convinced.

  11. Oh, I feel your pain…. thankfully I have not felt the urge to iron in some time. When I do iron I tend to hide the evidence in our bedroom, with door closed and loud music playing…. 🙂

  12. Loved this. I too hate ironing. Good on you for facing your fears.

  13. Shame on you!!!
    Perhaps if you keep from ironing the next couple of years, your child will forget about what he saw, but I’m not so sure: a moment of weakness may damage your whole reputation.

  14. My iron and ironing board stays at my boyfriend’s house. Because he actually irons clothes. I borrow it if I’m sewing. 🙂

  15. This is hysterical, Beth! Do you ever think about stand-up?

  16. “Mom, I don’t want to wear pants that are stretchy anymore. I want pants YOU have to iron like you iron Dad’s pants.”-3 year old son to his pro-ironing, iron in front of the kids, iron before you put it in the closet mother. Same son even paid to have his ironing done while in college. Same mother still irons before putting things in the closet. Let this be a warning! But there is hope, oldest daughter only irons when absolutely necessary and never before hanging things in the closet. This despite all she witnessed growing up in an ironing household. Two youngest children at 20 and 16 both know how to wield an iron but rarely do since their mother will do it for them. Again, let this be a warning!!!

  17. Parents who iron have kids who iron. I hope you can get the help you need.

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