Arguing Over Housework In Own Special Way (plus an amazing giveaway from Seventh Generation!)


(We’re hosting a fantastic Seventh Generation Giveaway this week – details at the end of this post!)

Do my husband and I are quarrel about the housework?  Bitterly, I’m afraid.  But not for the reasons suggested Stephen Marche or Jessica Gross.

Some gender stereotypes are well embedded into our matrimony.  My husband snickered (at the implied uselessness) of knitting when I started a few years ago.  I gave him a piece of my mind for it but will steadfastly refuse to take out the garbage if he is within a half mile radius.

But when it comes to housework, the workings of gender don’t illuminate much.  The tidier of the two of us, my husband does quite a bit of straightening up, and accuses me of damaging his psyche when I leave my detritus everywhere.  But I am the more organized spouse: I can bulldoze the surface of the counter into a drawer or Rubbermaid bin too, but how will we ever find anything again?  Then again, he doesn’t have nearly as much stuff to keep track of, and wouldn’t let it into the house in the first place.  But I want to do and make things in the house and this requires materials, plus what about all the things that are brought in for the sake of the children?  And round and round we go…

My husband advocates passionately for a tidy home, but he never devolves into gender stereotypes that implicate me (woman, currently SAHM) as the one who is responsible for creating it.  He fully acknowledges all that I do in the home, at work, in the community, with the children, and applauds it completely.  No one could do it all, he says, and I have so many important callings to tend to.  What he proposes, over and over again, is that we hire a cleaner.

And – possibly distinguishing me from all other women this side of the equator – I refuse.

Before I continue, let me say that early in my marriage, with much prompting from said husband, I tried this with no fewer than three women.  Coming home from work after they’d been in my house never gave me the rush of joy other women (and men?) purport to have – it just felt odd that someone had been there in my absence.  The place looked better, but it wasn’t actually better, at least not to me because I always felt what we needed most was more organization and not just cleaning.

The road of hired cleaning help also followed a familiar route.  The cleaning was done reasonably well at first, and then not so much. I never addressed the problem; I just eventually let the cleaners go.  This may appear spineless, but I simply could not tell these women, older than me and at least as hard-working and all of us sharing immigrant backgrounds and experiences, I just could not bring myself to point out the unwashed sink or the unvacuumed floor.  Not because I didn’t respect their professional pride or see them as whole people who could receive criticism, or more pointedly, fully comprehend their need for ongoing paid work.  It’s just that at some core level, I felt that I should be responsible for my own messes, so I could never assert with conviction that someone else do a better job of cleaning them up.

It should not surprise you that I almost never air this wildly unpopular view, but then 4Mothers chose cleaning as this month’s At Issue and just like that I’m backed against a wall that needs a good wipe down.

It should also not surprise you that I drive my husband bonkers.  Over time, our disagreements over the state of the house have subsided, mostly because we don’t want to argue about it anymore – so he tries to be more flexible, and I try not to leave mayhem in my wake.  Occasionally he’ll leave a pamphlet from cleaning companies in the middle of the stairway.  Then I try, sometimes successfully, to muster up some sympathy for him as I put it in the recycling bin.


You could WIN!

This week, 4Mothers will discuss gender and housework and how things look to us.  We love it when you join in, whether to offer your own perspective or to simply say that you enjoyed a read.  Don’t be shy; drop us a line.  Leave a comment on one or more posts this week and you could WIN a home detox kit from Seventh Generation valued at $50!  (Canadian residents only)


7 thoughts on “Arguing Over Housework In Own Special Way (plus an amazing giveaway from Seventh Generation!)

  1. Great posts this week so far. I am new to your blog and I am really enjoying my read each morning with a cup of coffee. I must say there is a sense of calm in a clean and organized house. Striking the balance between a busy family and a clean and tidy home can be a real challenge. It’s been interesting to see how other families are doing it!

  2. I have to agree. Everyone’s idea of ‘clean/tidy’ varies so as much as I’ve thought about hiring a cleaner, I’ve never seen one who cleans at a level I’d be happy with. As to gender bias, it has to adapt as our lives do. When women were at home not working, great, they can clean. But when both are out working, then both should share in housework! Teamwork!!
    Exciting to hear about the giveaway!! I love their products!!

  3. I enjoyed reading your post! Yes, I agree that we should be responsible for our own messes. For me, it is so hard to find the time and energy to deal with those messes especially with young children! Please enter me in the giveaway! I am a huge fan of Seventh Generation products!

    • It is so hard with little kids I often don’t do it very well… I encourage my husband to see through some of the mess to all the good things that lie underneath it. This sometimes works, but more often not – we just have different needs in this arena!

      I’m so happy 4Mothers is hosting this giveaway – Seventh Generation is a trailblazing company. Good luck!

  4. Hi. Thanks for honesty about cleaners. I also let mine go by simply not asking her back. I duck every time I see her on her bicycle as I feel so guilty that she might feel insulted. She ironed beautifully but never got around to anything else as she took so long to iron the clothes impeccably. As I return to work in August having had my second child I am struggling between getting an au pair live in or going through the pain of dragging two sleepy heads out of bed and feeling the pangs of regret for doing so during the day. Ah the joys of motherhood!

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