Thursday, February 07, 2008

deep-seated WHAT?

Yesterday at homeschool playgroup, I was chatting with two friends, when suddenly the topic veered to housekeeping (I'll spare you the details). It became clear that these two friends see my housekeeping as, um, good. Maybe even very good. They think my house is neat, and clean, and generally pleasant to be in.

(Let's all pause here so that my mother can go get my father, read this to him, and then give him some space so he can pass out in shock without hurting himself. I was a bit of a slob when I was a kid.)

Perhaps because I still believe those voices in my head that tell me I'm a slob, I immediately started to protest:

"My house isn't perfect!"


"I have piles of stuff on my piano!"


"There is often kid stuff strewn around my living room."

and my favorite

"I have deep-seated psychological issues that make it difficult for me to be comfortable in a messy house."

Now I ask you. Why, oh why, do I need to excuse myself? Why can't I really own this? When I look around, I see that my house is pretty good, most of the time. I try not to drive my kids crazy with this (I don't always succeed) and I often give myself a day or two off from my cleaning routines. I really work at finding the right balance between having a house that looks comfortably lived-in and actually being comfortable living in it.

The truth is, whether I am letting it slide or keeping up with it, it is important to me to live in a house that is reasonably well cared-for. And the fact that I can't seem to be gracious about this when other people notice is a red flag that I am still believing those voices in my head rather than looking around me in this moment and seeing that I have become competent about taking care of my house.

On the other hand, I'm no paragon. Know what I did today instead of track down and deal with the mildewy smell in my bathroom? I lit an essential oil burner in there, and now my bathroom smells of cedar and eucalyptus.


Amy said...

I like my house to be picked up, but the only time I clean a toilet or dust a shelf is when overnight guests or coming (which means approx once a month). I used to feel bad about that until I read another mom who pointed out that when her kids think back on their childhoods, they won't remember whether or not the toilet was shiny. That gives me all the psychological permission I need to get down on the floor and play with my kids rather than scrub it. And I also firmly believe that constant exposure to dirt and pet hair builds healthy immune systems!

Penelope said...

I wish I had a clean house. I wish I had a cleaning routine. I wish I felt guilty because I cleaned too much. I live awash in cat hair and dirty cultery in the sink and undusted light fixtures and I don't invite people over because it would mean a week of housework before I was comfortable. If my mother ever comes to visit, it will be a six month project to get the house ready. My daughter likes to clean more than I do.
I once read a great book (title now forgotten) that made me realize I was not a bad feminist just because I constantly want to lose 5 pounds and I think I need to take the same attitude to housecleaning.

Ipo said...

it's all perspective & comparisons, main one being between tidy and clean. i TIDY every day; make beds, dishes, put things away and sweep/vacuum whole house, which is very needed here because we have 3 large dogs, 4 cats, 1 husband who works construction and we live on a farm (hence dirt and nature coming in all the time). i CLEAN every week or every other - deep clean kitchen, bathroom and vacuum corners. my least favorite chore is dusting, until i recently discovered the feather duster - great tool :-) so i try not to compare, beat myself up, etc. just do what i feel is needed for my own sanity and health and go from there. my house will never be as clean as my mothers and always cleaner than my dad's - so that feels fairly balanced...

Granna Judy said...

Your mother is laughing and your father is on the floor -- but he managed to fall without hurting himself, so all is well.

elsie deluxe said...

I think it is my sense that a "real feminist" wouldn't concern herself with dust and dishes that lead me to protest when others comment on my house. This is also why I keep coming back to this topic, but almost sheepishly. Somehow, we're not supposed to have to deal with this stuff.

Cheryl Mendelson, who wrote Home Comforts, talks in her introduction about being a "closet homemaker" for years (she was also a lawyer) before she started working on her book, which is essentially a reference book for taking care of a home and everything in it.

Ipo said...

i'm really interested in the feminist part of this discussion - to me, being a feminist, and what the feminist movement was for, is all about choice. having the choice to be who we want to be as womyn, not fitting inside anyone's box. their are so many books on this topic, be it about SAHM vs. working mothers, having children vs having a career, etc. and i always roll my eyes at this books/talking heads because of my prior statement - feminism is about choice for me and you can be a feminist and still like a clean house :-)) fun discussion!

Amy said...

It sounds like it's relative. If you are a working mom and someone compliments you on your clean house, it's probably easy to be proud for having it so together. But if you are a stay-at-home mom, that same compliment might feel like a backhanded insult, that your clean house is at the expense of more 'worthwhile' activities, that your clean house might be the pinnacle of your accomplishments.

Either way, though, the sense of whether or not one is a [good] feminist is forever haunted by the assumption of what other people [women, moms] think. Surely that wasn't what the good fight was all about. But alas, just knowing that isn't enough to exorcise the little carping critic that so many of us carry around in our heads--a critic so relentless that it prevents us from accepting compliments where they are due.