Saturday, June 14, 2008

Don't Clean That House!

I wish I were the type of person who had something really insightful to say about this article by Sandra Tsing Loh about working moms in the new Atlantic and this article by Lisa Belkin in this week's Sunday Times Magazine. But when I stepped back from both the moral of the stories, which are both well worth reading for different reasons, seems to be that if you're a woman and you have children and a romantic partner and a job and you want to maintain a hint of balance and sanity, then stop cleaning, even if you don't want to or can't hire help to do it. Not only stop cleaning, but stop caring about how clean your house is. If you're a gay woman, then the data show you benefit from the probability that your partner will report doing about the same amount of housework as you and, by extension, you two will probably share the same tolerance for mess (this is from the most interesting section of the Belkin article). But even if you're straight, then to get more done -- to blog, to read, to do the work that has to get done and to spend time with the kids -- then the thing that has to give is the living room floor.

Now, you'd think this is a gimme. That oh sure that's not so hard to not clean the living room. But just yesterday, after I'd read -- and ranted about - the Tsing Lo article, I asked my husband to take my kids to a birthday party because I needed to work. When they left, I looked around the apartment, and I'm no neat freak, but I had to squash down the extremely strong instinct to clean up before I sat down to work by quoting the closing line of Tsing Loh's Atlantic piece, "You can have it all, if you think like a man." So, I did. I sat down and I worked and I let the mess sit, but it wasn't a gimme.

Now, I could go into how weird it is that it's so important for people --and now for me--to have a relatively neat house, but I won't. Because just like there's a time to stop cleaning, there's a time to stop wondering about how important it is to clean, and that time, is now. Maybe I'll think about it more later. What do you think?


ceridwen said...

I agree about cleaning! I also thought Sandra Tsing Lo's article was fantastic (lover her style) but I was confused by the ending. She talks about how she can have it all b/c she doesn't clean. But isn't it really b/c she's one of the people she referred to earlier in the piece who has an "elite" intellectually stimulating job that she can do on her own time?

I thought her rant about how Sweden is not all it's cracked up to be was very interesting. (Her point is that many woman have caregiving jobs so they leave their kids in gov sponsored care only to go wipe someone else's ass).

When I quit my job after I had my first kid I was over the moon with happiness b/c a lot of that job involved taking care of people-- egos mostly, as opposed to asses. But asshole's egos. And it was refreshing to take care of a baby who was actually, literally a baby. Maybe Hirschman thinks that at least the wage earning ass-wiper has independence. But yikes, it's all so depressing and alienating, no?

Robin Aronson said...

When I first read the Sandra Tsing Loh piece, I was like, "Oh no! Did Sandra Tsing Lo just turn into Caitlin Flanagan?!?" Because she was all, "Well,la did da I figured it out in my life so why worry?" And I was pissed. But not only was I told I was over-reacting (by my husband), but then the Belkin article came out and since I didn't have time to reread the Tsing Loh and figure out if she was, in fact, having too many martinis with Caitlin I decided it was all about house cleaning. Or dentist appointments. The Sweden thing was interesting. I guess the wage-earning ass-wiper has one kind of independence, but none of the fun of the cooing, literal baby. And bottom line? As you point out, depressing.