Last Thursday, I spent my morning making scrambled eggs with fruit and toast for my two children. Because they are 4 and almost 2, it is a breakfast that doesn’t take too much time for me to make and that I know they will both eat. I don’t feed them cereal often. Not because of the sugar or anything, but because I know my youngest would take the utmost joy in overturning the bowl of milk and Cheerios over her head. I’d rather wash a pan and a cutting board every morning than mop up cereal milk and give my daughter an extra bath.
While my kids ate breakfast, I went from room to room and picked up anything that needed to be put away. I collected dirty towels and replaced them with new ones. Then I waited giddily for a knock at my door.
See, I recently wrote a piece about hiring a housekeeper, and Thursday was her first day. Thursdays are usually my big cleaning days. With two adults, two kids, two cats, and a dog, there is plenty to do. But on this Thursday, a delightful woman came into my home and did the big stuff for me. I made sure things were tidied and put away, but the scrubbing and the vacuuming and the dusting and the mopping were finally not on my to-do list. I handed over the reigns.
She will be coming every two weeks, and it is already a huge weight off of my shoulders. I now know that every two weeks, even if I have had a rough or busy week, even if I have been sick and fall behind, I get to start over from scratch.
While our new housekeeper got started, I sat down to color with my son while we waited for my daughter to wake up from her nap. The next morning, I wasn’t exhausted from my attempts and deep-cleaning and childrearing. I wasn’t frustrated that I hadn’t gotten enough done the day before. It was the most pleasant Friday morning in my recent memory because it was smooth and effortless.
We were leaving for a weekend away at a family wedding, and I wasn’t overly stressed or frantic about returning to a messy house. Instead of spending the day prior cleaning, I spent it packing. My family was out the door on time for a road trip, which has literally never happened before. I’m usually a wreck before going away, but not this time.
Most changes take some time before you’re sure if they were right or wrong choices. It was immediately apparent that for me and for my family, hiring a housekeeper was the right choice. The best choice.
And when I wrote that piece on hiring a housekeeper, the feedback was mostly positive. Many of those who commented were saying how they, too, had a housekeeper and how happy they were to have one. Some others said that if they had the money, they would totally go for it.
And then there were some who took offense to the idea of a woman making a choice for herself that they wouldn’t personally make for themselves. Some said I was privileged (I definitely am, and I recognize that). A few thought I was lazy. Others didn’t understand why I would hire someone to do work I am capable of doing — you know “women’s work” and all that. Most of these people clearly have one thing in common: They don’t know what to make of a woman who, when unhappy with some aspect of her life while possessing the means to fix it, does.
It doesn’t surprise me how many people think that housework is the sole responsibility of whichever parent spends the most time at home. It should surprise me. I wish it surprised me. But it doesn’t. Because in most cases, the parent to stay home is the mother, and we think of housework as women’s work, even though both men and women live in the house and both create messes and both are shedding skin cells and covering their home in a layer of their dead skin. And even when both parents work, it is still the mother who ends up with the bulk of the housework on top of her career. That isn’t in all cases, but it is in most, and it bums me out that housework is sometimes seen as a penance for not contributing financially to a household.
So let’s make one thing crystal-fucking clear: If you stay home to take care of your children, you are contributing financially to your household. If you are running most of the errands and scheduling the appointments and meeting with teachers and budgeting the grocery money and clipping coupons and cooking meals, you are contributing financially to your household. Childcare can be as expensive as, if not more than, a mortgage. And all that other shit that routinely falls on mothers? It is valuable and time-consuming, and your time is worth something. So cut it out with this bullshit about how staying home means someone has to take on every possible responsibility known to humankind that isn’t “bringing home the bacon” to get on equal footing with their spouse. I’m done with that archaic nonsense, and you should be too.
This notion that I am somehow burdening or disrespecting or hoodwinking my husband? He deserves way more credit. My husband doesn’t wonder what I do all day. He is well-aware since he has spent plenty of time alone with our children. He knows that by staying home, I am saving us money. He knows that hiring a housekeeper is a nominal cost compared to the amount of time I would spend on that work and the value of the other things I am freed up to do. Not to mention the value of a wife and partner who is less exhausted than usual.
And most importantly, he regards me as his equal and has enough respect for me to understand that I can make my own decisions about how I spend my time. I show him the same respect.
So no, I will not be making sure I blow my husband. But you can kindly go fuck yourself. In the eye. You misogynistic fuck. Are you married? If so, I feel sorry for your spouse.
The easy way out?
That whole lotta nothing I do? Here’s a taste of my “nothing”: I am currently fighting my autistic and gifted son’s school system for things like not waiting around for him to fail before they step in to make academic accommodations for him in the classroom. Last night, I spent over four hours on the phone with educational professionals, seeking advice and guidance and making more appointments. This morning, I had several calls with lawyers, advocates, and therapists. I have been scanning and copying his assessments and observations and reports, sending them off to various people who hopefully can help us work through this system. Then I took a break to snuggle him because I needed a fucking moment to hold and hug and smell my child.
There is a long list of tasks, forms, phone calls, and emails I still have to attend to regarding my son’s education. Obviously, at this exact moment, I am not checking anything off of that list because I am responding to this horseshit instead. But you know what isn’t on my list?
Dusting the goddamn ceiling fans. Praise be.
When I hired a housekeeper, my children didn’t receive a complimentary silver spoon and a “Get Out of Chores Free” pass. Neither of them can do a particularly thorough job of wiping their own ass, but they are both old enough to do things like picking up their toys and helping me set and clear the table. They’re both being taught that when you are a part of a family or a household, you do your part and look for ways to make life a little bit easier for the people you love. And they both see me cleaning because I do not wake up the morning after a cleaning and declare “Let’s treat this place like garbage!” Once every two weeks is not the only time the Lysol gets busted out in this joint. I have to clean throughout the day if I want my house to stay straight and if I don’t want a third cat to emerge out of the corner from the shed fur of the other two cats.
But even if I was suddenly freed up to do absolutely nothing all day and my kids never did chores and we just hung out and played and watched Netflix and ordered takeout for three squares a day…
What is it to you?
Why does it bother some people so much that an adult woman is making a choice that is different from their own? Some think the world would be a better place if all mothers would stay home full-time and keep pristine houses and have dinner on the table when their husbands walk in the door. And they don’t think women should just live that life, but they should enjoy it always and never complain — and of course, “blow their husbands.”
Well, I think the world would be a better place if random strangers on the internet didn’t feel comfortable telling me I should perform sexual favors for my husband to offset the cost of someone mopping my floors twice a month. Opinions, right?