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

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Keeping House

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.


Anonymous said...

That was funny, lady....You write well...

mrsdarwin said...

Thanks, Roz. Maybe I should start talks with the Atlantic Monthly. Of course, it would help if one of the editors was a friend of my husband, which is how Ms. Flanagan got her break...

Anyway, glad you enjoyed it.

Fidei Defensor said...

I think I saw this Ms. Flanagan on the Colbert Report recently. What a fraud, with a team of servents doing her work for her!

This is one of your best posts yet Mrs. Darwin!

CMinor said...

It's hard to stifle a snicker when one reads that quote--especially having raised four without a household staff! Does this woman realize her experience is shared by only a tiny minority of American womanhood? That most of her readership will probably roll their eyes at her haplessness after reading that passage?

Other questions come to mind...does Paloma have documents? Is she getting minimum wage? Do they pay Social Security on her?

Anonymous said...

Well, if only 1% have dryers, they probably have to iron because they airdry their clothes which would make many more wrinkles. We didn't have a dryer when I was young and in summer, it's not bad, but would take forever for the clothes to dry in the basement and we did do more ironing.
I remember getting annoyed when Kathie Lee Gifford(who used to be on with Regis) got the Mother of the Year Award...this woman had a nanny, housekeeper, chef, gardener, chauffeur, hairstylist...the whole bit. I remember her talking one time about her nanny taking a vacation. She was so worried about being alone with her kids, she had her mother come stay with her...gee..used to make me want to gag..hehe..
I'm with you...I don't want someone else raising my children..