Parenting

Everybody Calm Down. Sometimes Housework IS the Woman's Job

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I hate housework. I really, truly do. The scrubbing, and the polishing, the wiping, and the sweeping. The down-on-your knees and the elbow grease of it all. I take no joy in scrubbing toothpaste stains off the sink, or folding endless piles of laundry, or peering under the stove to locate the raisin I know rolled under there during lunch. To me, it’s drudgery. Plain and simple.

I’m told some people really do enjoy it. And hooray for them! I mean, honestly, hooray because, here’s the thing: it absolutely must be done. I mean, sure, there was a time in my life when I felt otherwise. My absolute loathing for this type of task, coupled with the immaturity of, say, my college years led to some pretty grim situations (if you ever want to know what happens to a glass of orange juice that’s left out for two weeks, I’m your gal. Actually, don’t ask). But now I’m a wife, and a mother, with a home of my own and that home must remain clean, tidy, and useable if we’re all to keep our sanity (which is hanging by a thread as it is).

So, whose job is it? This onerous task of maintaining a neat and orderly home? Well, though it pains me to say it (and though it may even ruffle a few feathers to say it) the job is mine. Me. The wife. The mother. The bulk of the housework isn’t my husband’s job. It’s not my son’s (he’s two). And I can’t afford a housekeeper. I should do it. Really.

Why should I do this thing that I hate? Because I’m a stay-at-home mom. And housework (for better or worse) comes with the package. The “home” part of “stay-at-home mom” means that I, not my husband, actually spend a huge chunk of my day in the home, where all the housework actually is. The vacuum is here, in the hall closet, not at his office. The stove, the fridge, the cabinets full of food, are all here with me. And the bathtub that needs scrubbing, the shelves that need dusting, the laundry that needs folding are all here too. I can sweep the floor and talk to my son about monster trucks at the same time. Even if my husband worked from home (which he doesn’t), he couldn’t do that and work on his computer at the same time. So the housework is mine.

These days, though, there’s a lot of stigma around the idea that the wife should take on the brunt of the housework. It’s “sexist” to assume that housework is “women’s work.” Women aren’t meant to be stuck behind a stove, laboring day and night over tuna casserole (or whatever women labored day and night over). And all that may or may not be true. But I’m not suggesting that some random woman comes to do my housework (although that would be great), I’m saying that I should do my housework because I stay home.

But, let’s get real. None of this means we live in the 1950s. My husband is a modern man. When he’s home (like on weekends, and before and after work) he’s all in. He doesn’t expect to be greeted at the door with a martini and the newspaper and told that dinner will be on the table in fifteen minutes. He expects to be greeted at the door by a flying ball of toddler love and told that it’s time to build the train tracks he promised he’d build. And if the paints are still out from today’s art project, or the swimming suits are still wadded up in the bathtub where I threw them after we ran in the sprinklers at the playground, he’ll pick them up and put them away without comment. He even does the dishes at the end of the day, God love him. This house, and all its messes, belongs to both of us.

You can call me old-fashioned if you want to, but I believe a tidy home, a freshly bathed and pajamaed kid, dinner on the table (or on it’s way to the table at any rate) are all reasonable expectations for a husband to have upon arriving home at the end of a workday if his wife is a stay-at-home mom. It’s the way I show him I respect what he does for us each day. Just as his work shows me that he respects what I do.

So, no, I don’t like housework. But I do take pride in doing it. I’m proud of our home, and my ability to keep it running while caring for my son at the same time. And I’m proud that (most days) my husband comes home to tidiness and order, not messiness and chaos. And I’m proud of my husband for the work he does, and also for his willingness to be part of the nitty-gritty of our life at home when he’s here. This works for us.

In a few minutes my son will wake up from his nap, I’ll kiss his little, sweaty head, set him down on his little, chubby feet, and say, “Who wants to do some dusting!” And even though my answer will secretly be, “Not me!” his will be “I do!” Because he loves the fuzzy, orange duster head, and sometimes I let him ride the handle like a horse. I hate housework. But I love my son. And I love my husband. And I love our life. Now, where did that raisin get to?