Sunday, September 20, 2009
The neverending housework debate...
So much juicy stuff in those housework comments. My partner and I went out last night and your feedback gave me the strength to wade in to this thorny territory and try to decide on some solution.
I have wondered whether if I didn’t work, I would feel clearer about this. Would it be a case of, ‘OK, he works to bring in the money; so this is my job.’ But that ignores the fact that being home with kids is as much of a full-time job.
My feeling has always been that if there is still work to do in the evenings (as there always is), then let’s just get in there and do it. Together. It’s not like as a mother at home, you’ve been slack all day and just haven’t completed your jobs in some allotted work hours. Household chores can roll on and on without end most of the time.
What intrigues me is all the underlying, unconscious assumption at play. I know my partner considers us equal in his conscious mind, but how hard is it for us all to really get out from under the backlog of history that has shaped us and our in-built cultural assumptions?
A writer friend of mine was saying the other day that it’s kind of sad this situation where we know that in many ways that traditional division of roles worked for a good reason. But at what cost?
The problem is our economy still relies on having someone looking after the house, but women now have different expectations for their lives — that they will be able to fulfil all those needs and desires that once had to be suppressed.
You just should never have taken “that bite of the apple”, another (male) friend said. There is no turning back now.
So why are we stuck half way? We have (tacitly?) agreed that it is not fair for either gender to be stuck in those old-fashioned roles without choice, but somehow that full exchange just doesn’t seem to have occurred, especially domestically.
Home Girl’s comments about feeling that the domestic space will be seen as a reflection of her state of mind really resonated with me. So much about having children is surrendering to a lack of control. But this is something I struggle with every day.
As for Susan's comment that anyone can do the laundry but no-one can paint that picture is so true, but always comes with a big 'but' for me (unless you can pay someone else to do your laundry)...
So many times people have told me to ditch the housework in favour of creativity. But how long can that go on before everything just starts falling apart? And at what point is that just not conducive to anything?
I have spoken to other writers who say they have come to terms with the fact that the house has to be clean before they can settle down to writing — and that’s just the way it is.
When I am completely bogged down in housework, though, and can see the creative work retreating further and further from my grasp, the thought that really gets me down is that, at the end of the day, no-one will congratulate me for this. Have you ever heard at a funeral the line: ‘She kept a beautiful house.’ Well, maybe that happens.
But you are far more likely to be remembered for the grand-scale, publically recognised work that you did. Doesn’t this just sum up history for women?
Oh, God, I could just go on and on...
But thank you all so much for your inspiring comments. Women never cease to amaze me with their wisdom and insight!
Anyway, this is the way the conversation went: ‘Can we agree that we put the kids to bed at 8. We decide what jobs have to be done tonight and what can be left for later (i.e. the weekend). We go hell-for-leather getting them done, with the pact that we will aim to have them done by 9 or 9.30. Then we both stop and get on with what we want to be doing. Full stop.’
How does that sound?
He agreed. Will keep you posted...