I find that a good night out with the girls will always lead to a blog-post. A few nights ago I had a lovely evening out with five other mummy friends; we were there to say au revoir to one of our number who was moving to the south-east. A satisfying few hours spent chewing over the proverbial cud of life. And the topic we ended up on? Housework. Nearly forty years after Anne Oakley’s ground-breaking feminist tome and it’s still a hot topic. Amongst us were one or two who felt it, the house, needs always to be spotless, and a couple more who felt they’d quite like it that way but don’t really manage it. I put myself in the latter category. What united us was the feeling that, the chore of maintaining any level of domestic order was an ever present focus in our lives, something necessarily built in to every day of our existence.
Oakley wrote her seminal text The Sociology of Housework on the unequal division of labour in British households in 1974, and no self-respecting feminist has ignored the subject since. Greer, Woolf, Paglia, all have raged against the never-completed task. Just last year the Institute for Public Policy Research conducted research into who was doing what in our homes, concluding that whatever the balance of who earned what (pretty much), women were doing 75% of the domestic chores. The figure was even higher for women with children. The IPPR argued that the solution to this inequality was the provision of universal free childcare – but I’m not convinced! [see my earlier post https://notdifferentbutinteresting.wordpress.com/2012/11/18/universal-free-childcare-utopian-ideal-or-red-herring-dead-end/ ]
With all of this swirling round my head, I spent most of yesterday clearing away festive debris, associated clutter, and catching up with the chores I ignored over Christmas. Bathrooms now sparkle (well, don’t have that pink grime in the shower or a line around the bath). Recycling is now out of the kitchen and on its way to sit next to the landfill for the next few months. The vacuum was filled and emptied two and a half times over, tree needles and dog hair being the main culprits. Seriously, if Dyson start a new product line entitled Superbig (for utterly out-of-control households) I’ll be first in line with my credit card. And yes, my hubby helped a lot. And yet the only reason we got it all done? Because my mum looked after the children all day, and brought us supper too. Without her help, it would have been done 1) a lot, lot slower and 2) against a backdrop of ill-feeling as our kids ‘put up’ with their parents being busy – again.
So, thus far 400 words on this blog topic, and I’m no closer to a conclusion. To be honest, I considered not writing this post because I had no pithy or poignant point to make, nothing especially enlightening to add to the debate. But maybe that is the point. We still, as groups of women, verbalise our frustration about housework because none of us has really found the answer.
Every year my mother in law is kind enough to enquire as to what I would like for Christmas. For the last three years, my answer has been “a cleaner”. Said in jest, of course. Except that I am completely serious.