Copyright © 1998 Henrietta W. Hay
Problems of the World? Or Housework . . .
October 2, 1998
Sometimes the problems in the world seem impossibly heavy and utterly
insoluble. Washington is in a long term partisan political gridlock
which threatens to keep any important decisions from being made in the
foreseeable future. Japan is having serious economic problems. Major
crises loom in Russia, North Korea and India.
Since I can't solve any of them, and would like to keep my sanity, my
thoughts turn to my own personal daily crisis, the one thing that is
always present -- housework. Crises come and go, civilizations rise
and fall. Housework goes on forever.
I often wonder about the cave women. Cave keeping has an odd sound,
but somebody had to keep food on the floor and children happy while the
men were out fighting the saber-toothed tiger. The Flintstones, gave
one version of stone-age domesticity, but I doubt that we can consider
it authentic historically. One encouraging note is that while Wilma
wears an apron, she often kicks up her heels and goes out with Betty
Housekeeping in medieval castles I don't want even to think about.
It is the style today to blame our mothers for all our faults. OK,
mom, this is what you get for being such a wonderful housekeeper and a
superb cook -- a daughter who dislikes one and can't be bothered much
with the other. Rebellion in the senior community!
Actually, my house is decently clean, but I don't like keeping it
that way. Getting there is not half the fun. I like Joan Rivers'
attitude. "I hate housework! You make the beds, you do the dishes and
six months later you have to start all over again."
Maybe it is the absolute endlessness and sameness of housework that
wears us down. It is never finished, and you know that it never will
be. On the other hand, I spend a lot of hours every week staring at
the computer. It sounds monotonous, but each week is different, the
ideas and the research are different.
With housework you don't get that challenge. The jobs are always the
same, whether you live alone or with five messy kids. If you have kids
at home you probably agree with Phyllis Diller. "Cleaning your house
while your kids are still growing is like shoveling the walk before it
No matter how hard you work to make your house absolutely spotless, you
know that in a day or a week or maybe ten minutes it will be a mess
again. You make the bed for the pleasure of crawling back into it some
hours later. You wash the dishes so you can get them dirty again. You
vacuum the floor so you can spill stuff on it. You clean off the coffee
table so there will be room for a new batch of clutter.
Today's society has dumped this awful load of guilt on us if we don't
measure up in the housekeeping department. If you use a cleaning
service or a "cleaning woman" (have you ever heard of a "cleaning man"?)
most women still do a pre-housecleaning. This, of course, is so that
the cleaning person will not think that you are a bad housekeeper.
I even read about a woman who returned home to find her house had been
robbed. While her husband dialed 911 she rushed around putting things
away so the police would know that she was a good housekeeper.
I do realize that there are women and occasional men (very occasional)
who love keeping a house clean. I have nothing but admiration and
respect for them. I don't understand them, but I admire them.
One would think that modern technology would make housework a snap.
That's what the ads and the articles in the magazines say.. The problem
is that while the advances in household technology have greatly
increased the productivity of the housekeeper, they haven't cut the
work load. Most women today are working full time outside the home, and
those who aren't are busy in a wide range of activities. Housework has
to be fitted in and it is just as dull as ever.
Political crises come and go. Housework goes on forever. Oh well,
maybe a little boredom is not really so bad in today's world.