Does Housework Even Matter Anymore?
I like things in our house to be tidy, at least presentable for any guests who pop in on us. But as much as I appreciate neatness and order, I am not so good at maintaining it. I don't like to clean, and my house is usually messy.
Anne of Green Gables perhaps said it best when she pleaded, "Can I go right now – without washing my dishes? I'll wash them when I come back, but I cannot tie myself down to anything so unromantic as dish-washing at this thrilling moment." I too can think of nothing so un-romantic as the dishes. Especially when there's anything else to do, anything at all.
It is easy for me to blame my untidy home - where dust bunnies are permanent residents and coffee mugs can be found piled around my desk – on my full-time work, my part-time pursuit of a master's degree, and my husband's part-time work and full-time pursuit of his own graduate degree. (He still manages to do more dishes than me, though!)
We are busy folk, buried in work and books and when we are granted the rare gift of free time, cleaning house is the furthest thing from our minds. In the U.S., we're not alone in our manageable mess. In a recent op-ed for the New York Times, Esquire editor Stephen Marche explained that as more women enter the work force, less housework is being done – and, in his opinion, that shouldn't be a problem.
In "A Case for Filth," Marche calls housework "intimate drudgery," and notes that since the 1960s, the number of women in the United States working outside the home has quadrupled, the amount of housework done by men has not significantly changed in the last 30 years. He also cites a study from the year 2000 that shows that women have reduced the amount of housework they do by about 50 percent since the '60s. So if women are doing half the chores they used to, and men aren't doing any more, who is cleaning our homes?
Well, standards for cleanliness have slipped. We no longer "iron the sheets and vacuum the drapes," as Marche says. But his conclusion goes too far, even for messy me: "The solution to the gender divide in housework generally is just that simple," Marche writes. "Don't bother.… A clean house is the sign of a wasted life."
Sure, part of me (the part that hates cleaning) loves this. Who needs to mop once a week when there are people to see, books to read, wines to drink, and new restaurants to try? But then I spend that precious non-cleaning time watching HGTV and browsing Pinterest, only to see what my house could look like if I put in a bit more effort. (Or a lot more effort if I did things like make my own cleaning supplies. Thanks, Pinterest.)
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