Keeping House

6 Jan 2007

Housework: it's always there and there is always more you can do. Whether you work outside the home or not , whether you have 10 children or live alone. You can take pride in your work or get it done as quickly as possible with a lick and a promise. Somehow it remains a woman's responsibility unless no woman lives in the home.

Working class women have always worked outside the home as well as caring for their own homes, middle class women in times gone by often had help in the home and worked outside the home only if they wanted , I presume for interest rather than money.

Regardless of her status the care of the home still belonged to the woman. I have no idea whether this is a good thing or a bad thing. I guess as women have always tended to take on the bulk of child rearing, which historically always tied you more to the home, they could see what needed doing and did it. As their daughters grew they watched their mothers and learnt unconsciously to notice when things needed to be done in much the same way as many men can hear suspicious noises in cars before they become something nasty. Anyone can learn either of these skills but skills absorbed in childhood are always easier to master.

Housekeeping is a life skill. It is difficult to live a successful, satisfying life if you are always behind in the washing, washing up, cleaning, shopping, cooking, bill paying. Anyone who has ever been a uni student and lived in a student hovel knows the full horror of no one ever taking responsibility for any household task and the scary things that can live in the back of the fridge or under the bed.

I truly don't mind being the person charged with the duty of caring for our home. It doesn't mean I have to do everything myself, delegation is a wonderful thing. I used to think, as a woman who came of age inthe 80s, that everything should be shared equally, split down the middle 50:50. We started off that way 20 years ago but over time we have found a comfortable place and know our areas of responsibility. We could both attempt and no doubt master each others roles but ,like any small organisation, it is a waste of resources for us both to be doing the same job. Far better to work in our areas of expertise and have a good working knowledge of the other person's job.

"...whoever loves the end also loves the means, all of us who really do enjoy living in a well-kept home can come to enjoy the rituals of its care. The act of taking care of our homes brings comfort and consolation in the enjoyment of the fruits of our labour and in the increasingly rare freedom to engage in worthwhile, unalienated, honourable work."


5 Responses to “Keeping House”

  1. My dear husband is fond of saying that women "civilize" men. Otherwise, they *would* live in hovels!

    I thought of that when I read your sentence about "seeing what needs done and doing it."

    Great post--thank you!

  2. Sometimes I just get so tired of it and wish that dust would just diasappear! But if you do a little bit everyday then it doesn't get too overwhelming! It's a thankless job that simply must be done! I run the vacuum fast every day to combat the sadie dog hair!! That's the worst! But then I can go sew until meal-time. It's my job! Sounds like you've made piece with it too. Happy New Year!

  3. Have you read The Spiritual Tasks of the Homemaker? by Manfred Schmidt-Brabant. It's a small book. You might enjoy it... an anthroposophical look into homemaking!

  4. Hi Willow Caroline, I have read The Spiritual Tasks of the Homemaker and I did enjoy it.

  5. I am always conflicting with my feelings about house keeping. On one side it is, as you´ve said, never finished and sometimes so ungrateful. On the other hand I love to have a pretty home, clean windows and the smell of home made food. I once read that if you "own" a home, then you are responsible for it and with this in mind I really try to enjoy to wipe up the floor for being good to it an let it know that I care. But I definitely hate when 5 seconds later dirty shoes are leaving marks. Makes me thinking "when living all by my own this would be the most cleanest home in the country". But - would I then be really happy?


Thanks so much for taking the time to chat. I don't always have time to reply but I do read every message you leave.