Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Who Sets the Housework Standards, Anyway?

[Today we welcome our first guest blogger, Sporcupine (Mrs. Gruntled).]

The more I think about it, the more I wonder if those housework studies assume that whatever the wife does is needed housework, and I wonder if that's fair.

If he's happy with a cleaning service vacuuming every other week and she insists on vacuuming every other day, is someone "right" in that debate?

If he'd alternate franks-and-beans with mac-and-cheese forever, backed with proper vegetables, and she wants to cook from scratch four times a week, what's fair? Does it matter how many cookbooks they each purchase and read?

If he'd serve company on plastic plates on the porch and she likes to get down the heirloom china, set the table with all the pieces, and later wash the china by hand to protect the gilded edge, what's the deal? We know she's elegant and he's practical, but what's an equitable split on washing up?

Home decorating is especially open to different expectations. What if she changes to different slipcovers for each season of the year, and he doesn't even notice the change? What if she carefully selects a different Longaberger basket to display in each room of the house, and he doesn't remember ever hearing the word "Longaberger"?

When the issue is adding grace, beauty, and style to a family's life, I can admire the spouse who wants to set a high standard, without saying the other spouse should do half the work to meet that goal. If the studies don't offer any distinction between necessities and niceties, I think that's a flaw.


Michael Kruse said...

Lonaberger? Is that anything like a Double Whopper with cheese?

Excellent post. I see home as "a base of operations" and require a minimal amount of aesthetics to be comfortable. My wife is more of a home body and likes things neat with a few tastefull frills (not to the point of Martha Stewartness.) Neither of us is right or wrong.

I think the problem is when we begin to define our standard of "upkeep" as a moral imperative and unwillingness to meet that standard is a sign of bad character (laziness or obsession.) Beyond certain minimmum levels of safety and cleanliness there are only our preferences. After that the issue is about being other centered.

Gruntled said...

Amen. And the principle applies if the roles are reversed. There are many men who would rather not have the frills in the house. I suspect that, in house keeping and arranging, men are more likely to go along because, as I have advised my male students, she probably cares about it more than he does.

Milliner's Dream, a woman of many "hats"... said...

Verg good point.

I think the couples who are able to come to an agreement, a compromise, an arrangement--whatever you want to call it--and both be truly content and feel respected...those are the folks who stay married.

I think the rest, don't. If you can't work out who does the housework, you sure aren't going to agree on "bigger" things like religion and parenting, finances, etc.

I've seen marriages breakup over "irreconcible differences" and sometimes I think it's "just" who should do the laundry and pick up the kids at daycare.

How sad.