live in a standard-issue colonial home, not a mansion. Not
even a "Mc-Mansion." Our house doesn't have huge bathrooms,
cathedral ceilings or lots of fancy woodwork. But it does have four
bedrooms and three bathrooms, which become shockingly filthy when
used by two adults and two preschool boys. Enter Tami, our cleaning
lady. She isn't a "maid" or a "housekeeper;" she's
simply a mother with two teenage sons in private schools who comes
over every other week to clean our house while we're not in it. For
ten minutes, the entire house is clean. Then I come home with my two
boys, the dog goes out and comes back in with her muddy feet—and
the house starts to get messy again. Two weeks later, it's ready for
another visit from Tami.
A cleaning lady? How decadent! You stay home all day. Are you
lazy or something?
Well, no, I'm
not lazy. I spend quite a bit of time each day simply keeping the
house from becoming a total pigsty. And I did try to do everything
myself for awhile. It was easy when I only had one son and he still
took two-hour naps every day. I could clean the entire house with
no problem -- kitchen, bathrooms, dusting, vacuuming, you name it.
But then I had another baby… and at the same time, my older
son quit taking naps. So, I tried to clean the house while my baby
took a nap and my older son tried to "help." Of course,
he was only two years old -- still capable of drowning in the bucket
of floor-washing water, not to mention ingesting some of the cleaning
supplies that came in handy squirt bottles. But I tried. I really
did. I tried to be a fascinating companion to my children while
also doing all of the grocery shopping, laundry cooking, and cleaning.
And then I woke up.
Why the hell am I
doing all of this... by myself?
I wondered: where exactly is it written that women who decide to
become stay-at-home mommies automatically get to do all of the housework
too? I mean, before we had kids my husband and I shared a lot of
our household chores. He helped with the cleaning and the laundry;
sometimes he would do the grocery shopping. The reality is that
we didn't eat as much or get the house as dirty because we weren't
home all that much. We were at work. Most of our clothes were dry-clean
only; we had two, maybe three loads of laundry a week, tops. On
weekends, we could clean the house in no time flat because it never
really got that dirty.
then I left my paid job to be "home" all day -- you know,
not doing anything much… just taking care of a couple of kids.
And suddenly, I found myself doing all of the housework -- not just
doing it, but struggling to get the entire house clean at one time,
which was completely impossible with two kids and a dog underfoot
all day long. How did I get from Women's Studies classes to this?!?
Somehow I got caught
up in the notion that because I was home all day it made sense for
me to do all of the housework. After all, my husband was busy working,
busy making enough income to sustain four people. He was now supporting
me financially, and in return, I would provide a household that
was the picture of domesticity.
And then I really thought
about it. Our growing family had increased our household chores
by more than one hundred percent. Yet these chores were now handled
primarily by one person. Me. And I wondered how my husband had transformed
from a man who used to help with the laundry to a daddy who had
suddenly forgotten how to use the washing machine.
Something was rotten,
and it wasn't the moldy cheese in my dirty refrigerator.
To be fair
to my husband, the housecleaning predicament happened at a time
when he was traveling nonstop for work. He was gone most of the
week -- and the last thing he wanted to do on the weekends was clean
the house. In addition, he handled a host of other home maintenance
projects, like cleaning the gutters, replacing furnace filters,
adding salt to the water softener, etc. Somewhere in between, he
managed to spend some time with me and the kids.
the cleaning issue still irked me -- especially when my husband
commented about the house not being as clean as it probably could
be. It wasn't totally gross, mind you, but it wasn't spotless. I
had long since stopped being bothered by it because I was home all
day and knew what it looked like after my son came in the house
wearing his muddy boots, or the dog came in from the rain and snuggled
up on our couch. My husband never knew exactly how messy our house
really got during the day because he wasn't around to see it. I
cleaned up the major dog and kid messes before he got home -- in
addition to picking up the general toy clutter -- and he never saw
the big soiled picture, so to speak. I figured that since we weren't
living in a total health hazard, my time would be better spent reading
stories to our children instead of cleaning out my kitchen cupboards…or
wiping fingerprints off a door that would be covered with them two
the varying degrees of cleanliness in our house did bother my husband…and
his critique of my housekeeping skills irritated me. So I gave him
his options. He could: A) Continue living in a house where the rooms
were in various stages of cleanliness; B) Help me clean the house
each week; or C) Pay for someone to help with the cleaning. He chose
C. I found Tami, and we've all been happy ever since.
I am not a "home-maker."
My husband lives here too, and he gets to help make our house a
clean, comfortable home just as much as I do. If I still had a paying
job, people wouldn't think twice about my having a cleaning lady.
But you know what? There isn't some law that requires stay-at-home
mommies to do all of the housework. And if daddy doesn't want to
share the house cleaning responsibilities with mommy, then mommy
should be free to find someone else to help. Even if it means paying
is fair, after all. Mommy is already working a full-time, 24-hour-a-day
job with no pay. Cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping. At some point,
something's gotta give. For now, in our family, it's the cleaning.
Soon, I'll reintroduce my husband to our fabulous new washing machine.
He's ready. It's time.
mmo : november