The Housework Problem


The other day I was looking disdainfully at a mishmash of playthings that were covering our living room floor (as they so often are) and I asked my children to pick them up and put them away (as I so often do).

If they didn’t do it, I continued, maybe I’d have to throw them away.

Child abuse? Hardly. The look of wild horror that suddenly crossed my five-year-old daughter’s face meant that just the hint of a threat was totally sufficient to get the job done. I wouldn’t have to throw anything away for real.

But my even making this comment spoke to a grumbling annoyance at the state of our home. It’s not all that messy most of the time, but the maintenance involved in keeping it from becoming so normally falls to me, simply because, between my husband and I, I’m here most often.

While I really like the bathroom to be clean – and the task at hand isn’t so bad if I play an entertaining podcast and close myself away from the world while I do it – the scheduling of such mundane chores, aimed at keeping order on a regular basis, makes me sad.

So I was excited to read this opinion column in the most recent issue of the Sunday New York Times, exploring the history of housework; how men aren’t doing much more of it than they ever were, unfortunately. But also how women are getting tired of doing it in general. It was an interesting read, and inspired me, if not to let go of household tasks for good, at least to forgo doing the dishes and, instead, spend my time writing this blog post.