Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Rerun Time: Keeping House

It's a busy week, so it's rerun time. Here's from April 2006.

The Wall Street Journal had an interesting article today about marketing cleaning supplies in Italy. (I'd link to it, but you have to subscribe to their online edition to access it.) Here are some stats:

* Italian women spend an average of 21 hours a week on household chores (other than cooking). American woman, by comparison, spend only a fifth that much time cleaning.
* Italian women wash kitchen and bathroom floors at least four times a week. American women wash them once a week. (I'm way behind by either standard.)
* Italian women iron nearly all their wash, even down to socks and underwear. Sheesh!
* 80% of Italians iron all their laundry
* 31% have dishwashers
* 1% have dryers

Perhaps if you don't have a dryer you have less clothing to take care of, so then you have more time to do all that ironing? I wonder if the sport of extreme ironing has taken off there in Italy.

Now, my house isn't filthy, but I really don't put in that much time cleaning -- I don't enjoy it much, to tell the truth. I guess that all told, I hit the four-hour average for American women, but I never think to dust, vacuuming is sporadic (especially upstairs because I have to lug my heavy vacuum up when I want to clean), and the kitchen floor is mopped infrequently. The laundry gets done (with the benefit of a dryer, I might add) but even if it gets folded it's not always put away. Some of this is due to my disinclination for the tasks, but a lot of it also has to do with the fact that whenever I dedicate myself to some job, I invariably hear crashes or squeals and find a disaster in progress.

My kids are climbers -- I find myself saying, "Get down! Get down!" so often I sound like a scratched disco record. But maybe climbing is the way the high shelves are going to get dusted, at least for now.

The other piece of note in the Journal is a review of a book called "To Hell With All That: Loving and Loathing our Inner Housewife". It's written by Caitlin Flanagan, a woman who stays at home -- not exactly stays at home with her kids, because she has a nanny, a maid, and a gardener -- and writes for the Atlantic Monthly and the New Yorker about the Mommy Wars and the aftermath of feminism. The review assures us that she is indeed a charming, talented writer. Good for her. Less good is her own mothering style, which involves calling the nanny when things get sticky:
"Paloma, Patrick is throwing up!" I would tell her, and she would literally run to his room, clean the sheets, change his pajamas, spread a clean towel on his pillow feed him ice chips, sing to him. I would stand in the doorway, concerned, making funny faces at Patrick to cheer him up -- the way my father did when I was sick and my mother was taking care of me.
Well, all right. I may only clean my house four hours a week, but when anyone in my house is sick, I'm there. And I don't think that a working mother who, after putting in a full day's work, picking up the kids, getting dinner, and packing everyone off to bed, has just put up her aching feet and sat down with Ms. Flanagan's book would feel at all charmed by an elegant turn of phrase here or a witty epigram there from a woman who won't even take care of her sick child in the middle of the night. I don't have to learn to love my inner housewife because being a housewife is simply what I do -- it's my full-time job, thank you very much. I may not be the world's most proficient cleaning lady, but when it comes to taking care of my family when they need me, I wrote the book.


lissla lissar said...

Hm. That book sounds to me like the horrible one my inlaws got me. About a new mother who, poor thing, had a planned c-section so she wouldn't do something as undignified as labour, got annoyed that her decision not to breastfeed meant she wasn't losing weight fast enough, and only had a nanny around for eight hours a day, which meant she was exhausted.

When she got PPD she went to Hawaii with nanny and baby.

I threw the book across the room.

new mama said...

I'm definitely not a good Italian housewife. I am only Italian by marriage after all. I can't remember the last time I ironed anything. I buy clothes I don't have to iron. Only Crankycon has shirts that need ironing. I'll wash them, but if he wants them wrinkle free that's his job. Mopping the kitchen floor, well, lets just say I'm sub par.

Jennifer @ Conversion Diary said...

Italian women spend an average of 21 hours a week on household chores (other than cooking). American woman, by comparison, spend only a fifth that much time cleaning...Yeah, but I bet their blogs are really neglected.

(Excellent post, BTW.)

Barb said...

I probably only clean about 4 hours a week, but I do spend a lot of time on laundry and I spend anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour ironing every week. I always think people underestimate how much time it takes to do laundry. I figure that with going through the hamper and sorting things out, dragging it down to the laundry room and putting it in the washer, transferring it to the dryer, and then taking it upstairs and folding it and then putting it away, I spend anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes per load. I do about 20 loads a week which adds up to anywhere from 3 to 4 hours.
Here's a question totally off topic...I noticed on your last entry that your brother signed it Uncle Wheel which is how I imagine your sweet daughters pronounce Uncle Will. With you hailing from Cincy, Darwin from LA, and your daughters growing up in Texas, do they have any Texan accent at all, or does the fact that they spend most of their time with you, negate that? We always used to tease my oldest brother because, despite the fact that he was raised here, after marrying his Texan wife, it didn't take long for him to develop a Texan drawl; however, he still did said "please" when he didn't hear something like we Cincinnatians do... :)

mrsdarwin said...

Well, neither Darwin nor I have any sort of Texas accent, though I can pull off a very passable deep south accent. Since most of the people we know down here aren't native Texans, the girls haven't picked up on the local accent much. Actually, from hours spent listening to The Chronicles of Narnia on CD, read by the BBC's finest, they've taken to pronouncing some things with a lovely British intonation. Then the little drama queen often has a rather unexpected Valley Girl tone, which she certainly never learned from me (or from Darwin, who, oddly enough, hails from the original Valley).

Back to the original observation: Uncle Wheel is just being a big goofball, which is what he does best. :)

Melanie Bettinelli said...

Wow, by those standards I'm a terrible Italian housewife, a shame to the name Bettinelli. My iron is really only used for quilting projects. I try not to own clothes that need to be ironed. Oh wait, I did use it on Sunday to iron the girls' Easter dresses, which they insisted on wearing again but which had got stuffed into a bag at the inlaws' the week before so they wouldn't get Easter dinner on them. I think the fact that the dresses hadn't been washed negates the ironing, though.

I'm also terrible at dusting. The only time our last apartment got dusted was when my dad was visting and got bored one day. We've lived here 5 months and I've never dusted once. I'm getting better at sweeping the floor daily since the baby eats rice puffs which get everywhere and are oh so visible on the dark floor.

I did bake bread today, though. And pulled weeds. And got down on my hands and knees and wiped up some spots on the kitchen floor with an old sponge. Does that count for something?


I was born and raised in Austin and I don't have a Texan accent. Just a slight enough of a drawl that comes out when I'm talking to my family so that my Northerner roomies could tell when I was on the phone with my folks. But most people's reaction to the news that I'm Texan here in the Boston area is incredulity: You don't have an accent!

Jen, a good point about their neglected blogs. I mean a woman has to have priorities!

Barb said...

Exactly as I imagined, except for the British intonation. I'll have to listen for that when you're here. :)
By the way, your baby sister (also known as Miss February) made the front page of the local community paper this week. A star is born...perhaps she will be picking up that lovely British intonation also..