Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Department of Labor

There was a show on Wisconsin Public Radio Tuesday on men and housework. Most of the discussion (what I heard, anyway) was about how couples talk about how many kids they'll have/not have, whether either parent will stay home with said kids, religion, even money, but not about the division of labor in the household. I'll admit that we fall into that category. Okay, we didn't discuss religion other than agreeing that it's not really our thing but if the kids are into it, fine. We've mostly fallen into a gender-defined pattern, he works the paying job, I do the homefront stuff. We have a cleaning lady come once a week, and I think Husband would give up his beer money before he'd let her go. Correction: I'd force him to give up his beer money before we'd let her go. Luckily it's not a decision we have to make. Having someone come do the general big stuff every week makes both our lives better. I don't have to clean the toilets and he doesn't have to hear me bitch about cleaning the toilets.

But we never did discuss the division of labor in the household. To be honest, it never occured to me to do so. We just fell into a routine of cleaning like frenzied crackheads whenever we got too freaked out about how trashy the place looked, and basically left it at that.

When we moved out to our new place, it was essentially the same: doesn't look too bad, let's ignore it. Wait. The place looks like hell. Let's do something about it. Then I went on maternity leave and it got bad for a while. I was too miserable to do much cleaning and never got nesty, alas.

Now I'm home with both kids and I'd say, I think without fear of contradiction, that I do the bulk of the cleaning that Jeannete doesn't do. I do most of the laundry, sweep and/or vacuum between Fridays (unless Husband runs the Roomba), dishes, etc. I don't mind, really; it's just part of my job, like dealing with assholes is part of Husband's.

I know that the place could be cleaner. Wait. No, it's clean, it's just not tidy. It could for sure be tidier. We're both terrible pilers. We had a lenght of countertop at least 10 feet long until we built our pantry, and the only thing we used it for was to hold up our massive piles of shit. So we got rid of it and put the shit behind the pantry doors. Problem solved! So, yeah, it could be tidier, but with a toddler and newborn on the scene, it's not realistic without endangering my sanity. What little remains of my sanity.

What kills me is that no matter who does the cleaning, when guests come over, if the woman sees clutter or dirt, her automatic reaction is (probably, I don't want to speak for everyone, just most everyone) is that the woman in the relationship doesn't keep house very well. It's almost enough to make me want to be that Crazy Cleaning Lady. But then I'd have to cut down on my Internets. AhaAHAhaAHahahaAHAHAahaha!

I'm a housewife. I'm actually okay with that, though I think may prefer Domestic Engineer or Head of Production and Education at P. Companies or some other kicky euphamism (I just turned to Husband and asked, "What's that word that you use when you want to... here just read this." My brain is melting!). I do wish, from time to time, that I were better at it, either than I had the training as a child/teen, or the general inclination to be better at it, but I don't. I don't think my marriage or children suffer for it, at least I hope not, but the urge to try to change surfaces now and again. I can generally smother it with chocolate.


Dyke One said...

imagine who they blame when they come into our house and it is a mess? i blame Dyke Two.

i tend to just tell people that my dogs are too poorly-mannered for guests.

Seriously, one day she's gonna come home and find all her crap out on the street. Then, there will be room for my important mementos: like three year old mail and that collection of magazines.

but, yeah, thanks for the cake.

Devan said...

Ya know, we never talked about it either really. When we were both working outside the home, before we had Squishy, it was a lot neater though not necessarily cleaner. Now it's clean, but certainly not tidy.
After all, we have a very helpful toddler to undo all things we have done.
Generally, DH does little in the way of housework. He has his certain chores (trash and yardwork, and cleaning up kitty and dog vomit) that I never do. I have all the rest. Still - it works out ok for us.
After all, I see it as my job and if it doesn't get done, then I was obviously too busy with the more important aspect of my job - Dane. :)
I always make sure it's spotless before MIL comes though. She is not in favor of me being a sahm(like she gets a say?!!) and would certainly blame me for it being messy since "I don't work." :0

Anyhow, interesting to think about. Could save people some turmoil in their marriage if they talked about it beforehand.

Devan said...

Hope you don't mind if I link you. :)

Northwoods Baby said...

Not if you don't mind that I liked you (two).

How much does it suck that even I have to enter the spam blocker letters? Lame!

Northwoods Baby said...

OCD: linked. Brain. Melting!

nessa said...

oh. hah. i've already linked you. heh. didn't know i was supposed to ask first. *insert embarrased face*

division of housework... yeah... i'm a sahm (for now - we've just started talking about me going back for the rest of my masters and how that will affect our family plans...). anyway, we had a state of the union (ours, hee) convo a few months ago. Lily was 9m old and our house was going to shit and i was THISCLOSE from losing it all the time. basically, i thought i was so far behind with housework and thought that dave thought i was a failure. meanwhile, dave (who works from home full time & goes to school fulltime) hadn't really noticed. other than the fact that laundry was only really done on an as-need basis). so, we worked it out that while i was bathing her & nursing her & puttting her to bed for the night (or the first of many times, usually) he would tidy up the living room & vaccum it. i promised to try to stay on top of laundry, to clean the bathroom once a week & to do the dishes at least every other day. but, i am more or less in charge of the baby (or toddler, as she really is now). like 98% of baby-rearing falls to me. and she is a demanding velcro baby. so...

after a nice discussion, i no longer feel like a bad hausfrau and he helps out with the one chore i hate - vaccuming (oh & kitty litter scooping - blech).

it is weird, since we'd discussed EVERYTHING prior to getting married. including housework. but at the time, we were both working & going to school and it was just every man for himself, more or less. i did all of the laundry because i didn't like how he did it. but otherwise, it was equal division of labor everytime we went on a cleaning bender that is. (about once every 6wks in teh winter & once every 2wks in teh summer. yeah, we're slobs. oh well.)) i guess i just vastly underestimated how much time & energy one devotes to a baby (especially one who is a 'classic high-needs' baby as per dr sears).

um, yeah, that was long, sorry.

Northwoods Baby said...

Meh, I don't think you really have to ask, but it's cool to know someone's doing it. Whee!

One of the big points in the book, I guess, is that guys often *don't* notice that the house is "dirty". The woman does because we're more or less trained to notice, and we may just be wired for it, I didn't hear that part of the interview. The other point was that guys just have a different threshhold of tolerance for mess/clutter/dirt than women do, so the house doesn't generally get messy enough for the guy to notice that it even IS messy because before it did, the woman's head would have exploded and he damn sure would have noticed that.

I hope the library buys it; it does sound like a good read, if only to get into their heads.

B - I think at least the MIL always blames the wife, even if the other partner is the clean freak. It's just one of women's obnoxious judgement habits. I'm embarassed to say I've done it. And I'm not even a MIL! But women in general tend to do it, I think.