After my most recent panic attack about the state of home cleanliness, which came, by the way, following a perfect weekend at a music festival, my husband sat me down and asked for a chore list.
Total disclaimer here: my husband is more than an equal partner in our household management. If anything, he probably does more chores since he is currently working less hours.
However, we both work long hours and intense jobs. We try to have an active social life. Plus, we are both totally lazy. Like seriously lazy. We would both rather tool around on our phones and rewatch tv shows we have seen twenty times, than pick up after ourselves.
Hence, the chore list request from Z.
Sitting down to write the list, I instead went down the rabbit hole of my mind, contemplating the role of working women and our (my!) obsessive need for a clean home. Because I can never just do what I am asked to do without making it excessively complicated. Based on my internet research, I am far from the only woman who feels this way. If I were, half of Pinterest wouldn’t be cleaning tips.
One of the things I had to acknowledge is that I, personally, feel judged if my house is dirty. That somehow it indicates that I am a failure as an adult and as a wife. This feeling intensifies if someone drops by. It doesn’t even matter who. I get so embarrassed if a friend or my mother in law comes over and the place isn’t perfect, even though I acknowledge that is ridiculous. Those same women are amazing and supportive, hardly the type to judge based on cleanliness. Plus, I have done far more embarrassing things in front of them (damn you, tequila).
However, none of this changes the fact, that I feel that women bear a disproportionate of the judgment regarding an unclean house. Rarely does someone walks into a home of a married couple and target their judgement towards the man, outside of perhaps couples where they are both men. Even then, I feel that we as a society, expect men to be inherently messy and women to be in charge of making sure the home is clean.
Media feeds into this idea. The majority (like 98%) of the high profile cleaning vloggers are women. Magazines and websites that focus on cleaning, home management, and organization are geared towards women. (Side note: if you know resources geared towards dude, I’d love to just explore those resources).
Add to this, I am naturally competitive. Not with women in particular, but just in all aspects of my life. It is not something I am particularly proud of and am working to channel it in ways that fit with the life I envision for myself. I observe female friends of mine or vloggers I follow who work high or higher demand jobs, have kids (!), active social lives, work out, and still manage to have a clean home. I understand that comparison is the thieve of joy, but I allow it to feed into my competitive spirit; while I don’t have to be the best, I have a deep seeded desire to feel like I belong among those I consider incredible.
What I discovered about myself is that I really just want to be one of those women who is naturally clean, but I don’t actually want to put in the effort to forming new habits. If I were totally honest, I want to be married to a naturally clean person who would be cool with me being a slob.
While we are down this rabbit hole, I think it is important to acknowledge that a clean home fits in to many of our ideas about selfcare. My work is so chaotic and messy, I really do value coming home to a space that is clean and inviting. I love having people in my home and a solid cleaning routine allows me to feel like I can indulge in that aspect I love. If you are someone who a clean home does not play into your mental health, I would seriously encourage you to wonder why you do it. Is it because you feel like you are judged for it? Or are you a competitive mom and need to be mom of the year? Maybe you need to consider letting go of the idea of the perfect home. I’m not saying to live in filth, but there is a big difference between a home that is safe and perfectly clean.
For me, I am going to have to find a balance with my cleaning. I don’t want to keep cleaning because I am worried someone will judge me for my messy home, but I do need a safe space and cleanliness falls into that. I have to strive to overcome my laziness, but at the same time not let it be because I want to feel like I am as good as my friends, but because it is good for me.
Cleaning. Who knew it would be so complicated, both personally and societally?