In case you haven't been following the weather media's flake-by-flake coverage of the great Blizzard of 2009, last weekend we had a lot of snow in the DC metro area. A real lot.
According to the National Weather Service, two feet fell in my town. It was truly beautiful. And a lot of fun. At least until cabin fever set in. And not just cabin fever. Real fever. Ranging from 99.4 to 102.9. Everyone but me. (At least so far.)
There's nothing like being housebound for (more than) a few days to make you realize just how much work it takes to run a household.
With 24 inches of snow, there's the shoveling. And more shoveling. A third round, too.
And the laundry from all the wet snow clothes. (And the puke.)
There are the layers upon layers of dishes that stack up when you're eating breakfast, lunch, dinner - and multiple snacks - at home.
And when you're home for days on end, you start to notice the soup encrusted on the refrigerator door and the build-up of bathtub grime.
Luckily, most of the time I'm oblivious to the less-than-pristine side of my house. One upside of being a working mom is that I just don't have the time to obsess over dust bunnies. With everything there is to juggle each day, cleanliness is extraneous. And now I know, I'm not alone.
Time ran a piece last week about a study by the by the National Bureau of Economic Research, which showed that, for each hour worked, working women do 47 less minutes of housework each day. By examining time-allocation studies from 1975 to 2004, the NBER researchers found that low-income single mothers reported spending the same amount of time with their children, and only a little less time on leisure activities or sleep, after they joined the workforce. The women made up most of the time — more than two-thirds of it — by doing less work around the home: cooking, cleaning, laundry and the like. Although the study focused only on lower-income single women who were encouraged to join the work force by federal tax policies, you don't have to be too creative to extrapolate these findings to other working women. Like professional married women. Like me.
Now, I have to admit that I can't blame my lack of interest in housework on my career. As anyone who has known me for a long time can attest (Mom, are you reading this?), I, like nature, abhor a vacuum. And a mop, a dust rag, a broom. No one would ever call me a clean freak.
I'm not without domestic interests, though. Cooking, sewing, and knitting are all fine. Although I love to cook, I excel mostly at creating messes not at cleaning them up. So working gives me an excuse not to do too much of it. (I'm not sure, though, that I'd be spending much more time cleaning even if I didn't work outside the home.) Of course, I don't want to live in squalor so I do clean and tidy up and organize from time-to-time although my standards for cleanliness clearly do not merit a Good Housekeeping seal. Luckily, my husband is disposed to de-cluttering and does more than his share of the housework (thank you, sweetie!). And we have a cleaning woman every other week to fend off the filth.
You can't escape all housework, however. And, in our time-crunched society, it is a big issue for working parents (and other parents too). As I was writing this blog, I came across a couple of fascinating references from the past few months on housework and the modern family. Check them out and let me know what you think.
- First up, this "Eye-opening Memo on Everything Family" by Po Bronson, co-author of the best-selling Nutureshock: New Thinking About Children, which has some really fascinating cross-cultural facts about how much time we spend doing housework, who does it, and what's changed in the past 40 years. His take: "[W]e had no idea how huge an issue housework really was. Depending on the culture, it's a huge part of family structures and dynamics. It's literally role defining. At the same time, there's more at stake than just a load of dirty laundry."
- And the Motherlode blog in The New York Times about how, even today, Kids See Housework as Women’s Domain. The blog reported on a study of 3,650 families that showed that for each extra hour a father spends at work, his children do two more minutes of housework a week on average. That relationship between parental time at work and a child’s time on chores, however, did not hold true for mothers regardless of how much time the women spent at work. (I am doing my part to refrain from perpetuating the assumption in my kids that mommy, rather than mommy and daddy together, is responsible for home and hearth.)
- And this Wall Street Journal Juggle blog about how a new study shows that for husbands and wives alike, the more housework you do, the more often you are likely to have sex with your spouse.
Wait! Really? Where's the mop?
Happy Holidays, and, if you're in the DC area, enjoy the snow!