On the parenting website where I am on staff, a lively discussion was recently held about whether, if one had the money, one would hire a cleaning lady. My answer, of course, was, most emphatically, YES. We used to have a lady for a couple of years till we couldn’t spare the money any more. Now that things are improving we are going to be hiring another one hopefully before summer is over. Many respondents, though, expressed disdain and/or horror at the idea. One comment that kept cropping up was being loathe to “pay someone to do something I can do myself.”
I early on ceased responding to the thread, as it wasn’t meant for a debate and I didn’t want to appear to be stirring the pot. What I would really like to have said, though, is that it isn’t about whether you CAN do it yourself, it’s about whether you WANT to. If you like to clean than more power to you, sister. Scrub away. I, on the other hand, don’t like to clean. I hate it. It’s a waste of my time. Why on earth should I spend hours slaving over something that is going to be messed up again in less than a day and that no one but the four of us is going to see? (If we have company coming, that’s another story.)
It seems like this is part of a mindset I encounter quite often. In this mindset women appear to feel as though since they are home all day that they should be responsible for every last detail in every facet of home life. It’s not good enough to take excellent care of the children — which, to me, is a full-time job in and of itself — but they should also keep a spotless house and be master chefs, as well, and be deliriously happy about doing it.
My attitude is, as you might imagine, a bit different. I stay home for my children, because I feel it’s beneficial for them. I do not stay home for my husband (sorry, dear), nor do I stay home for the good of the house. My job title is stay-at-home MOM. This means 90% of my focus is directed toward the children and their upkeep and well-being and the rest, frankly, is peanuts. I’m not implying that stay-at-homes who do lots of cleaning are somehow neglectful of their children; don’t get me wrong. I’m simply saying that I take issue with the notion that just because I’m here all day with the kids that designates me as the one and only housekeeping staff, as well. Who decreed this rule that if you don’t work outside the home that means you’re automatically responsible for cleaning every square inch of the place, and you’d better be bloody happy about it? Does SAHM actually stand for stay-at-home maid, and I just didn’t get the memo?
Which leads me to another point, Part II of aforementioned mindset. This would be the part in which the SAHM is not only supposed to spend from sun-up to sundown doing for and caring for others, but she’s supposed to do it all with a smile and want nothing for herself. Ever. If the opportunity ever arises for her to treat herself or take time for herself she should at least have the decency to feel guilty about doing so. Why? Why is this? Did I stop being a person when I gave birth and decided to stay home with that offspring? I’m pretty sure I’d remember that. As far as I can tell, I’m still Mary. I still have interests and hobbies that I had before I became a SAHM. I still have just as much right as anyone else on the planet to be able to climb into bed at night and think, “Today was a really nice day.” You know what doesn’t fall under my definition of a nice day? Busting my ass for four hours, cleaning, while everyone else gets to do whatever they jolly well please. Do I somehow matter less than they do because of my career choice?
And I’m not talking about feeling that I’m somehow entitled to never lift a finger, either. I do plenty around the house to keep it running smoothly, and I accept that because I am the adult who is here during the day. I don’t mind doing a lot of this stuff. But I don’t like to clean. If someone is coming over it doesn’t bother me. Just as something to do every day, for the sake of doing it, though? I don’t see the point. If I can get someone else to do it for me so I can turn my attention toward more time with the kids, or completing some other types of projects around the house, I’m all for it. It’s not like I’m sitting around on my butt all day eating bonbons. But, even if I was — who cares? If I want to pay someone to come do my windows and vacuum so I can sit down for a couple hours and relax, why is that so scandalous? SAHM also does not stand for stay-at-home martyr. I’m allowed to take it easy once in a while, I’m allowed to not like to clean the house and I’m allowed to pick and choose what I spend my time doing rather than piling every conceivable responsibility on my own back. My wants and needs still matter just as much as everyone else’s. If people think that’s selfish, so be it. I would simply call their attention to the fact that my children are well-fed, well-dressed, highly intelligent and extremely well-behaved (I can produce witnesses). This stay-at-home mother must be doing a few things right.