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The Guardian looks at who does most of the housework in married couples. Surprise! It's women.

Their point might be made a bit more strongly, however, if two of the couples (one of whom is childless) didn't have a fucking cleaner. How the hell can they claim that any relationship where hired staff do some of the most unpleasant work is in any way representative of people in general? I speak as someone whose parents employed a child-minder/cleaner until I was 12, something which I blame for some of my teenage inability to do any housework whatsoever besides dishes.

Stupid fucking Guardian. You know, as a leftie liberal middle-class graduate with a *snerk* fancy media job, I really should be their target audience. And yet, they continue to insult me. Guardian, you are becoming the Jane of the newspaper world. And trust me, that isn't a good thing.


( 21 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 22nd, 2004 05:02 am (UTC)
Well, I know quite a number of people who have a cleaner. Many if not most of my parents' friends have someone who comes in for a few hours once a week. This is in their rather lefty but nonetheless throroughly middle class social circle in East Anglia. Mostly teachers. So, while it's maybe not the norm, I certainly wouldn't say that it was unrepresentative. And several of the houseshare ads I've looked at say they have cleaners, so it's probably becoming more prevalant.

There's a study I've completely forgotten the authors of (pretty sure I didn't just make it up, but you never know) that says that a huge percentage (like 70/80) of married women believe that their husband does more housework than the average man. And they're nearly all wrong. The same study showed the breakdown in specific tasks across Europe, so that in one country men might do quite a bit of ironing, but never take the kids to school, while elsewhere the reverse was true. Must dig it out.
Oct. 22nd, 2004 05:13 am (UTC)
Hmmm, I suppose it is becoming more common. But that's still not exactly representative of the country at large, is it? When you think that the average yearly wage is 20,000, and many, many people live way under that. My mother's a teacher and my dad's a civil servant, but the only reason they could afford to employ someone to look after us and the house 30 years ago was because domestic labour was much much cheaper. They could afford it now because all their kids are grown up, but I don't think they'd ever bother.

Of course, my mother grew up in a house with a live-in general servant, which seems very extravagant now but which I suppose was quite normal in middle-class families in the '50s, so maybe she just took it for granted that someone should be employed to make the beds!
Oct. 22nd, 2004 05:21 am (UTC)
Well, domestic labour still isn't very expensive per hour, and I imagined that most people reading The Guardian would have someone for an hour or two at the most, once a week or every other week. Which is still pretty high for most people, and way beyond the means of many, but not overly extravagent.

I guess I'm just used to the Guardian writing about the middle classes as default, so I don't notice. Should work on that.

Another interesting thing I've remembered is that there was an interview with one couple, and the man said that they had an equal relationship with each other in terms of domesticity, because they had a cleaner and a nanny. His wife then pointed out that while that was true, she was the one that hired them, talked to them about the work she needed doing, organised the wages and picked up any slack.
Oct. 22nd, 2004 05:10 am (UTC)
I'm reminded of the epiphany I experienced, after years of hearing from both parents that us kids were so L-A-Z-Y!! when I saw my dad keeping his house clean, by using a Mexican housecleaner, and my mom simply not keeping her house clean, at all (like, dust kittens the size of... well, kittens! underneath the guest couch and in between all the windows and their roll-down blinds...)

Not that my house is much better, but at least I'm owning that fact.

Crazy(and spamming your journal, rather than mine... would the UK Independent appeal more?)Soph
Oct. 22nd, 2004 05:21 am (UTC)
as a leftie liberal middle-class graduate with a *snerk* fancy media job and living in north London, I can only think of one person I know with a cleaner - and she has severe RSI, so certain tasks are impossible.

I would so end up cleaning before the cleaner arrived so she didn't see the mess. A laundy service would be nice though.
Oct. 22nd, 2004 05:30 am (UTC)
Are you good at having someone around the house?

Because I get horribly awkward even just with the university cleaners coming into my room: I tidy up, and dash around saying, "Oh no, let me get that! It's fine! Sure, I'll do the hoovering!" It's partly that I feel horribly guilty having someone else do the things that I think any able-bodied adult should do for themselves (even though I don't have any choice in university accommodation) and also just because I loathe the invasion of my privacy, and I want them out as quickly as possible. I can't exactly carry on working with someone hoovering around me anyway, so if I can do the hoovering whilst she cleans the bathroom, and get her out of there twice as quickly, that's just fine with me.

That's a real class thing, inherited from my mum and my grandma: my grandma is and always has been a full-time housewife (and the way she does it, it really IS full time - still, at 89!) and it's a real respectable upper-working/lower-middle-class thing. My grandma would never have aspired to having someone to do those things: it was a matter of pride and duty to do them oneself. My mum inherited that, and even though there was a couple of years when a woman in the village came in for a couple of hours a week, she was never comfortable with the idea. And I've got it off her!
Oct. 22nd, 2004 05:42 am (UTC)
Are you good at having someone around the house?

Heh, I haven't had anyone coming in and cleaning up after me since about 1988, so I'm not sure what I'd be like now! Same as you, I think. It's funny, though, I totally took it for granted when I was a kid. We had a few different childminder/cleaners when I was very tiny, but from the age of 4 to 12 we had Mrs Caprani - known to us all as Pran. We adored her, but as a kid I just accepted that she came in and kept an eye on us and made the best toast ever - and also cleaned up and made the beds. I used to come home from primary school and find everything spic and span and the beds all made. I think this is why our house was a total kip for a few years after she stopped working for us - once my youngest sister was in the senior part of the primary school and going home at the same time as my mum, it was decided to let Pran go. I think it was dawning on my mother that her older daughters, at least, were old enough to do the housework themselves!

By the way, the cleaners in Trinity are known as "skips". I have absolutely no idea why, but my friend Jennifer had rooms in college and, along with all the other residents, would get notes signed by the "Madam Skip". Which I always found hilarious.
Oct. 22nd, 2004 05:58 am (UTC)
I was just the same when I lived in halls, and even in the office, when the cleaners come in at five past five and I'm still there, I start jumping about collecting the bins together. Not inherited in my case - my mum's parents have always had a cleaner, and when I was little, our childminders/ au pairs (in series, not more than one at once!) did some of the housework.

I don't think I could ever employ someone to clean my house - last night the girlie and I were talking about using a nappy laundry service as opposed to washing cloth nappies ourselves, and I got all squirmy at the thought of farming out my child's dirty nappies to be washed by someone probably on very low pay. I mean, plus, we can't afford it, but still. The girlie, on the other hand, was quite taken by the idea.
Oct. 22nd, 2004 06:20 am (UTC)
On the other hand, one collective nappy-washing facility may be more environmentally friendly than a hundred home washing machines all spinning away!

I'm still vaguely stunned by the fact that disposable nappies seem to be the default these days: I mean, I'm sure I'm not that old, but the norm in our house was terry-towelling nappies, with disposables only used on holidays. I remember talking to my mum about it and she opined that she doesn't understand why anyone would need disposable nappies if they're got a washing machine. Mind you, it's possible that that's a difference between my mum stay-at-homing and a working mother.
Oct. 22nd, 2004 06:39 am (UTC)
The norm in our house was towelling nappies too - and my youngest sister was born at the end of 1979, so nappies would have been worn through 1980 and 1981. I think there are still a few nappies lurking under old sheets at the back of the hot press in my parents' house - we used to use some of them as towels when we were dying our hair as teenagers, because it didn't matter if they got stained with Body Shop henna!
Oct. 22nd, 2004 06:48 am (UTC)
Hello from across the Atlantic, where everyone and their fucking dog uses disposables and has used them since the day they came out.

Ewww, imagine re-using diapers? Thus saith the Americans! It's crazy, really.
Oct. 22nd, 2004 06:55 am (UTC)
Mind you, it's possible that that's a difference between my mum stay-at-homing and a working mother.

Not completely, because my mum worked full-time from when I was 3 months old, and about the same with my sister, and we never saw a disposable nappy. I mean, I'm a bit older than you and a fair bit older than your brothers, but still. We did have live-in childcare, though - I'm wondering about what nurseries will and won't put up with...

On the other hand, one collective nappy-washing facility may be more environmentally friendly than a hundred home washing machines all spinning away!

Eek, possibly! These things are always too brain-bendingly complicated to be able to be smug about, dammit.
Oct. 22nd, 2004 10:59 am (UTC)
I think I've heard that some daycares around here even require kids to use specific brands of diapers. But I'm sure there are some earth-friendly co-op type deals that accept or encourage cloth diaper use.

My mother worked part-time at home when my sister and I were babies, and we used cloth diapers (with pins, none of your fancy velcro diapers) because she said she couldn't justify the expsense of the disposable ones. And we used to use the old diapers for dusting -- I think my mother still has some of them.
Oct. 22nd, 2004 11:09 am (UTC)
We use the old diapers for dusting, too! And car-washing and similar tasks.

It certainly is the norm here for disposable diapers; it's only the granola-crunching hippie-types (is that the expression?) who use the cloth ones.

The more I learn, and the better acquainted I become with the people from Europe and Australia on my flist, the more I aspire to be earth-friendly and organic. I'm looking at reusable menstrual pads now, thanks to starfishchick's poll; I know very few people who would consider such a thing (but those people are in my circle of friends).
Oct. 22nd, 2004 11:20 am (UTC)
I read this interesting article about "Disposing of your Disposables" the other day. I was with them up until they started talking about doing away with toilet paper. Sorry, I can give up paper towels and Swiffers and all that (and I actually have! go me!), but I think toilet paper and tampons are going to have to stay. The diaper issue will be considered if/when necessary.
Oct. 22nd, 2004 11:10 am (UTC)
Someone cleans your ROOM at uni?!? Wow.
Oct. 22nd, 2004 11:28 am (UTC)
I know -- I also boggle at the idea. In the US, resident college students just wallow in their own filth. asvern and I didn't have our own vacuum so if we wanted to vacuum we had to borrow one from the "duty office," which was across the (busy) street in another dormitory. So we just never vacuumed. Or swept. Or cleaned the sink. Or emptied the trash before it started to smell. (Having the duty office across the street was also extremely troubling when I locked myself out of my bedroom after a shower, because that was where I had to go to get my extra key. Good times.)

stellanova: apologies for hijacking commentary on your journal entry. But! In response to your actual entry! Even aside from the household help thing, is this division-of-labor thing a surprise to anyone? I mean, not just from a folk-wisdom perspective but also from a sociological one -- there have been dozens of studies, books, papers, about this issue.
Oct. 22nd, 2004 06:08 am (UTC)
I have to admit that I have thought about how, someday, when the Boy and I can afford it, we will get someone once a week to clean the house. I'm not sure we'll ever do it, but it's something I'd like if I'm ever a full professor and living with a Very Busy and Very Lazy Boy.

I always figure that if paying someone to clean the house lessens the arguments the two of us have over housework, it would be worth it.
Oct. 22nd, 2004 08:45 am (UTC)
I've always felt very uncomfortable with the whole issue of domestic help, mostly because my mother's mother ran a household beautifully while raising two kids and working as a nuclear chemist. Like somehow, because she could do it, we should as well. Good old New England puritan work ethic.

When my mom had a heart attack a few years ago she got daily help. Everytime I came home from college I was weirded out by it. It's not just that someone else was cleaning up after me (we had that at college, too), but it's that in Texas, it's a racial issue as well as a class one. Almost all domestic help here is Hispanic. Which adds another layer to the problem of who is doing your dishes.

There's a national maid service called Merry Maids that just icks me out. They have ads on tv and in the papers saying things like "Don't like housework? We do!" and "Dirt turns us on." I get that maid services are helpful to people, but why sugarcoat it? They probably hate having to be maids, or they can't get past domestic help in the socio-economic rung. I hate the way these services pander to the pampered and over-worked, over-consumed mass that is the US by trying to sell a bunch of underpaid women as mini-Martha Stewarts floating orgasmically above a vaccum cleaner while you "do lunch."
Oct. 22nd, 2004 11:03 am (UTC)
Plus, that's one of (or very similar to) the maid services that Ehrenreich blasts in Nickel and Dimed.

I've never heard of people having others clean up after them at college. Wow. The things you miss by going to a public uni. We just had the basics of someone vacuuming the public areas and whatnot, never anything personal (such things would be tossed, if anything).
Oct. 22nd, 2004 01:41 pm (UTC)
I actually did got to a public university - the University of Texas, the most ginormous school in the world. Unfortunately, you're not guaranteed housing, so I lived in a private dorm for the first two years. Housekeeping services included. I felt bad about that, but it was a beautiful historic building right across the street from the campus's Episcopal church, and not far from the 6 pack (liberal arts quad).

It's amazing the guilt I still feel over the whole housekeeping issue.
( 21 comments — Leave a comment )


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