Tuesday, March 03, 2015

On delegating housework

New favorite pastime: chasing the vacum cleaner and feeling wind on her face. Do note the flying tuft of hair.

Should you delegate housework? And where do you draw the line? I am sometimes shocked to discover others don't think the way I do... shocking... and this subject is one of those cases. Some view cooking, cleaning, laundry, organizing, decorating, etc. as "unqualified" work which, if you have something more important or "qualified" to do, should be delegated. Or if you have the money to delegate it, you will be happier and able to do funner things, like watch movies or take a walk.

I disagree. So does Henry David Thoreau in Walden, one of my very favorite books:
"There is some of the same fitness in a man's building his own house than there is in a bird's building its own nest. Who knows but if men constructed their dwellings with their own hands, and provided food for themselves and families simply and honestly enough, the poetic faculty would be universally developed, as birds universally sing when they are so engaged? ...... We belong to the community. It is not the tailor alone who is the ninth part of a man; it is as much the preacher, and the merchant, and the farmer. Where is this division of labor to end? and what object does it finally serve? No doubt another may also think for me; but it is not therefore desirable that he should do so to the exclusion o my thinking for myself." (in the chapter "Architecture")

This reminds me a bit of the Little House books, which I am rereading. Their entire work is dedicated to their little house: Pa is always making and building things for their houses, and Ma is always cleaning and taking care of their houses and food. The books are mainly about the work they put into their home and family, and not about them frolicking about the woods or doing recreational activites all day. Which are fine, but not meant to take up the majority of our time.

So it makes me nervous to delegate housework to a cleaning lady or someone else's cooking. Maybe some people really do have important, qualified work to do and it's a benefit to society for them to delegate housework. The president and the first lady for example. The Pope. Most priests. As for me, I find cooking, cleaning and taking care of my house and my family's house VERY QUALIFIED WORK. Very personal work. Very important work. For me the home is symbolic (of our heavenly home, etc) and so it is a priority. And knowing how to do the basic, rudimentary things of life is good for the soul. Like Thoreau says, it develops the poetic faculty. Yes, I think vacuuming develops my poetic faculty.

1 comment:

  1. Great, glad you like vacuuming. I think laundry is the sevent circle of Hell and I pay someone to clean the bathroom. Oddly, I don't spend the extra time that buys me watching TV.

    Your entire piece shames women, because let's be honest, you aren't talking to men here, you are only discussing women's work. If you enjoy tasks that the rest of us consider mindless drudgery, that's fine, but it doesn't make those tasks any less dull or painful for the rest of us. You would do more good shaming MEN into occasionally leaving the television to wash dishes or clean the toilets so their wives can enjoy some leisure and creativity. If you can't bring yourself to that level of enlightenment, at least don't write things scolding the rest of us for wanting to do something better with our minds than scrub floors. (And for what it's worth, you are totally wrong about that Thoreau passage. He wasn't praising mindless maintenance. He was encouraging men to independent farmers instead of factory drones.)