I’d like to know why working in the home is still considered less valuable than working outside of the home. I’d like to know why someone working at cleaning indoors is somehow doing less important work than someone doing work outside. Why scrubbing the floors or shelves is somehow ‘lazy work’ while raking leaves or trimming hedges is not. I’d like to know why only one person in a family is expected to do the lion’s share of both kinds of work.
Don’t worry; I’m not going to go off on one of my tangents. I’m not talking about why women working from home aren’t appreciated and/or paid. I’m talking about why someone, regardless of gender, who does housework is considered to be some kind of non-work.
If you work all day hauling and folding laundry (even harder if you’re the sort of person who believes in ironing), you are going to be tired and sore at the end of the day, just like the person who hauls 50-pound bags of cement all day. So why is it that you don’t value the work that keeps crud off your floor, even when you’re the person doing that work? Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe you do feel a huge sense of accomplishment and pride when you finish vacuuming the floor or doing the dishes. I should hope you do, but I suspect the truth of the matter is that you do these things not because you take pride in doing ‘menial work’, but because they need to be done, and if you don’t do them, you’ll end up on a post-prime-time special on some cable-expansion network, with a camera crew knee deep in your filth, and all of the Northwestern hemisphere judging you.
I hate cleaning.
I mean, I worked as a housecleaner for a while, and did everything from nursing-type work to dusting things that had been wiped down before I got there. I don’t actually mind cleaning other people’s homes, but when it comes to my own, not so much. Part of it is because I am a bit of a pack-rat; I have the habit of putting things aside with the knowledge I will deal with them later. This is both good and bad, because by the time I get around to dealing with them, I tend to just pitch/recycle everything rather than trying to save something that oughtn’t be saved. But on the downside, I have useless crap all over my house.
And then, every now and then, I run across something in my mother’s handwriting, or something like the birthday card she bought for The Captain’s third birthday (she died a month before his third birthday) that my dad hung on to until The Nipper’s first birthday. Da’s inscription says: “I can hear her saying what’s written on the front of the card. She would have been happy to give this to The Nipper on his first birthday.” Who needs that kind of shit? I mean, really?
Just when you think you’re all done feeling guilty and missing your mother who’s dead, you find some kind of heart-rending thing like this and realise, first, how old you are; second, how quickly your kids grow up; and third, that they’ll never, ever know her like you knew your grandmother. And then you think, “this is why I don’t clean the house!” You pack the card away in the makeshift memory box you’d stored it in in the first place, and know you’ll have the same bloody experience next time you open it up. Then you wonder if the problem is with cleaning or with memory boxes, and you end up attacking the entire bookshelf, not because you’re taking pride in what you do, but because you’re trying to rub away the ache in your chest by rubbing a damp cloth through the dust on the shelf.
And when you’re done, do you feel any better? No. You just feel empty.
But if someone actually *valued* what you had gone through to get that single shelf dusted, maybe it would make a difference. Maybe.