The gender housework war sometimes seems to assume fundamental differences between men and women on the topic of housework, whether absolutely innate or deeply socially conditioned. I’m not so sure about that. Unlike Beth-Anne, Nathalie, and Carol, I have daughters, not sons. And it is true that some things in our house seem a lot different than in houses with boys. But their attitudes to cleaning don’t seem gendered.
My younger daughter, now 4, is a neat freak. Occasionally this is annoying. For instance, if something is a millimetre out of place in her room after I put her to bed, it is a certainty that I will be called up to adjust it before she can fall asleep. For the most part, though, it’s absolutely WONDERFUL, like when she takes it upon herself to wash the kitchen cupboards, or decides that a really fun activity would be to do the vacuuming together. Side by side on our hands and knees washing the kitchen floor? Her idea of bliss!
My older daughter, on the other hand: SIGH. Sightings of her floor are a rare treat (although I suspect my enthusiasm on these sightings is counter-productive). Clothes, books, toys—everywhere. (I used to hound her daily about the state of her room. For better or worse, my husband persuaded me to leave her be, and just make her clean up the floor when needed for vacuuming. It is true that this has reduced conflict and frustration. And the room is probably no worse than it ever was.) She’s a relatively even-tempered child, but the histrionics when I ask her to help clean up the house are quite something. And then the foot-dragging! She has a very transparent case of “if I do it badly enough maybe she won’t ask me to do it again.”
But I have a secret: I relate better to the slob. I do, like my younger one, get annoyed at mess: I can’t be blissfully content in chaos the way the 7-year-old seems to be. But when Ihave to do something about it? Internal histrionics and foot-dragging galore. I loathe it. It’s not just that it’s boring. It’s not just that surely there are better (more intellectually stimulating, more productive, less repetitive, etc.) things I could be doing with my time. I really viscerally loathe it. I very much appreciate and admire my younger daughter’s zest for cleaning–but I can’t say I understand it.
But that’s all right, because the future looks bright! Sure, she needs help manoeuvring the vacuum cleaner now. But as everyone always says, they grow up fast, and I’m counting the days until I can hand it all over to her, and lazily hang out on the couch with a book while she cheerfully scrubs away.
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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)