Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A Woman's Work Is Never Done.

I don't, for one second, wish to imply that a man's work is ever done, or that women work harder. I have the utmost respect for the role of men in society, employment and family today and the tension they strike between these areas of their lives.

I have, however, been reflecting on the cyclical nature of housekeeping. I apologise for the gender assumptions I make here, but in our house, since I left paid employment, the logistical running of the house falls to me, and Nath continues in paid employment and upkeeps the gardens. It works, for now.
At least daily, I find myself muttering (or wailing, depending on the day) some variation of the phrase "all I ever do is clean." So much so, that Miya, one housecleaning day, turned it into a song as she helped me in my daily tasks. Since then I have attempted to instill in her a sense of value in the little tasks she does around the house, as well as the tasks she sees me complete.

For a long time, I have seen housework as a task that needs completing. I can't relax in my home unless I have ticked off the cleaning and housekeeping items on the list in my head for that day. Of course, once the list is complete, no sooner do I sit down and put my feet up than there is something more to clean. That is the nature of running a house, particularly one so lived in by small children.

Yesterday I had a headache. It was severe enough for me to put Playschool on for the girls, ring Nath and ask him to come home early and close my eyes to the world. Before doing so, I surveyed my house and felt the familiar anxiety that arises from having so much to do, but knew that I would be silly to push myself to do it. My body needed rest, and was telling me in no uncertain terms to give in to it. When I woke up this morning, the work was still there, more or less. Nath and the girls had tidied some things, but in place of the tasks completed were more chores vying for my attention.

But, imagine if we cleaned the house and it stayed clean? Imagine if we washed the clothes and there was no need to ever wash them again? Or if we cooked a meal that sustained our families for eternity? Would there be any value in that? Through our roles as women, we teach our daughters to nurture. We teach our sons to appreciate. We remind our husbands to respect. I have been trying so hard to teach Miya the value of a woman's work, and yet have forgotten to remind myself that what I do is important... not only for what it gives others, but for what it gives me.

I want to embrace the rhythm of housekeeping, the way it cycles around, daily, weekly, annually. The way it keeps my hands busy, my mind active, my children clean and clothed and fed. The joy of a task well completed, the challenge of a task not yet begun. I can't promise that the next time my children run sand across my freshly swept floor I won't raise my eyes to the ceiling and sing out, "Why do I bother?!" but I will endeavour to learn to relax amidst the piles of washing, the sink of dishes and the scattered toys, knowing that it will still be there tomorrow, and tomorrow is not far away.

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