When the Daily Mail declares the suburban housewife as the next big thing, you know there is a backlash waiting around the corner. Before we know it, it will be cool to be on first name terms with your kid's social workers and have your home featured on "How Clean Is Your House?". Cath Kidston will become a social pariah and you won’t be able to buy a pinny for love nor money.
It’s happening already: In both the print media and the blogosphere, women everywhere are declaring that housework sucks, while in the next breath telling us how to iron a shirt; terrified that they risk looking uncool, but determined to ride the fashionable bandwagon…
Slogans like "Housework Has Never Killed Anyone, But Why Risk It", "Housework Makes You Ugly" and "**** This 50’s Housewife Bullshit" are popping up on everything from t-shirts to magnets and ironically, tea towels and aprons, and there are the stirrings of the voice of boredom amongst the masses.
Those of us who love it, have never truly pretended that our lives are perfect; every word I write comes with an ounce or two of irony- I understand that there are a million and one things you would rather be doing, that sometimes you would rather shave your hair off than go downstairs, throw on your pinny and clean the oven. Some jobs are rubbish, no matter how well you dress them up, and that, housekeepers is that.
But is it evil? Erm no. Not if you live by the attitude that if it has to be done, you may as well do it to the best of your abilities, and waste your energy on something more satisfying than resentment. To me cleaning, ironing, scrubbing, polishing and washing are done because they have to be done: done well they create the time and space in our lives to be who we want to be- to make time for changing the world and knitting socks and to make space so we can think straight for long enough to do it.
The really weird thing about all of this is that we are behaving as if housekeeping is a new thing: like we just invented it. Of course we didn’t, not me, not you, not Martha Stewart or Cath Kidston, not even our little nana’s. Housekeeping is as old as the hills. And furthermore, there is no real golden age- many of those 50’s housewives we all know and adore, spent their days resentful that they’d had to give their working lives back to the men returning from war, sacrificing their independence and tying themselves to the kitchen sink with no real alternative. Life wasn’t a bowl of cherries and we have nothing to gain (other than some fabulous imagery) from pretending that it was. We are free to celebrate housework to our hearts content today because we have so many other choices. We are free to do it in style, or not do it all.
To me the current obsession with housework is kind of like attending a fabulous party in honour of someone I know and adore. While I know in my heart of hearts, that after the party is over I will hang around and help to clean up , there will of course be those who just showed up for the champagne and canapes and will quickly move on to gate-crashing somebody else's party.
If housework is evil, you see, you can always hire a cleaner.