The domestic drudgery of housework

I hate housework, well I hate the dusting, and vacuuming, the shower cleaning and the continual battle with the mud that is marched in from outside by the cats.  Winter is always worse, but Summer finds it rather constant too.  We live in a lovely old house which has gaps allowing dust and dirt to invade. We burn logs in the winter and the wood makes mess and more dust.  In the summer, the open doors and windows allow grime to settle from outdoors. I seem to be fighting a losing battle. I would rather be painting or writing than dealing with this. Creativity is quelled by domestic drudgery.

Wasn’t it Quentin Crisp who advocated just leaving the dust, and after a length of time it would look no worse?  I try to do that, but the sun shows my hopeless housekeeping, and usually when I have a guest, so I die of shame and reach for the duster.

Most of us had mothers who were pretty near perfect housewives. It was their badge of office, their reason for living.  Most of them didn’t work outside the home, so they could only prove their worth with cooking and housework of a standard that beat the woman next door. I had a delightfully crazy Aunt who had one topic of conversation; Her obsession?- The blinding white of her washing.  She cheerfully compared hers to the woman a few houses away whose washing was not white. Oh the shame!

 

Housework was how they were judged, do you think that is still true? Do we still judge women on that, or their career, and their mothering skills?

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It’s funny to relate now, in our modern times, but I remember my Mother in law who led a wonderfully regimented life. Her home ran like clockwork, everything was in order, and her days followed a pattern that did not change. There were days for washing, ironing and cooking, shopping was Friday. Each afternoon she had finished her work, so she sat and knitted, changing into an ‘afternoon’ dress.

Who remembers crimplene? She had many crimplene dresses, an indestructible material that did not crease. I came to love my mother in law, not at first though. Not those first years when I had three children under school age, and my visits were a nightmare for me. As I tried to keep them all quiet and sitting down, or at least playing peacefully with the selected toys.  She loved them, but she also used to put a plastic sheet from the doorway to the lounge so their little fingers didn’t touch the wall!  Later I understood, her standards were high and she was doing what she knew best – keeping her home in good order. I cared for her in the last months of her life, but by then we had shared holidays and been grateful for the friendship we enjoyed.  She was a shy and private person. The years brought us closer together, we met half way.  I loved also that she taught my daughter to sew, to enjoy crosswords and to be neat and organized. Because sure as hell, I didn’t!

In my life I have known what it was like to be without amenities, like hot water (when my father was building our house and we lived in the country). In my first New Zealand flat, we had an outdoor copper that needed a fire to get it hot, which I rarely managed to master. Then I had no washing machine for a considerable time when we first returned to England. With three small children at that time, my older two in nappies at night and a 4 month old baby.  To say that was not fun puts it very mildly, freezing mornings pegging out almost frozen solid nappies is etched in my mind. So perhaps in comparison I  have not much to moan about.

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I’ll just dash around with the duster, I always find a bit of rock music gets me through it, I shall amp up the volume and give my body a work out too.  “Jumping Jack Flash”…….

Today I want to know what music do you listen to when you do housework??? 

 

photo:  dadadreams