Wednesday, October 11, 2006

A Word About Housework

Housework is important, we can all agree on that. Laundry, dishes, cooking, cleaning, shopping, scrubbing, sweeping. These chores are all as indispensable to our lives as breathing and yet as a society, we have the least respect for the people who perform them.

Maids, janitors, cleaning-women- whatever term you use, these are among the least paid professions in the country, averaging minimum wage or less.

Or, in the case of moms, much, much less. Our services are free.

Housework is undoubtedly women’s work, and I don’t say that because I believe it SHOULD be women’s work or because I don’t think women are capable of more. I say it because it’s a statistical truth.

Whether they work outside the home or inside, mothers STILL do more housework than fathers- even when they work as many hours or more than their spouses.

It’s important work and it’s hard. So why do we feel the need to shrug it off as it it’s no big deal?

The other day, I overheard two moms at the park who were both trying to prove that they did less housework than the other. “I don’t cook,” one said, somewhat boastfully. “We just order out, save time.”

“Oh, me too!” chimed in the other quickly, “I only cooked tonight cuz my husband’s parents are coming over and they all expect me to be a little Susie Homemaker type.”

“Oh GOD. As if.”

And I thought to myself- if we don’t value and respect the housework that NEEDS to be done- if we are constantly cutting it down and making it sound silly and worthless- then what kind of impression are our children going to have of the people who do such work?

Not only of our maids, cleaning-folk and janitors, but of US? The moms who perform an overwhelming majority of it?

I know the comments were innocent, and I’ve certainly made such comments myself from time to time.

What respectable person hasn’t scoffed at Martha Stewart’s suggestions for a “quick and easy" craft that requires more supplies than a trip to the moon, or gaped at the “simple” recipe in Parents Magazine for cupcakes that look like miniature maps of the UK (or some ridiculous thing)?

But now that I’ve given it some thought, I’m going to try to refrain from making comments that undermine housework and homemaking.

Certainly, I’m not going to turn into Bree (Marcia Cross) from Desperate Housewives. I’m not going to iron napkins or fret about streaks on my glassware.

But I don’t think housework is anything to be ashamed about either.

After all, isn’t it making life livable for everyone in the household?

And if I don’t treat that with importance and respect, why should anyone else? So from now on, I will.

Same goes for you dads that do pitch in and do a large portion of housework. You aren't "just" doing dishes or taking out the trash or mowing the lawn. You are making your home a wonderful place for your kids to grow up. Be proud.

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