Monday, June 09, 2008

In Which I Get Militant

Okay, blame the Minnesota Matron for this one. She started it with her amusing post about, um, explaining to her husband the need for a housekeeper once she starts working fulltime this fall.

Excuse me, did I say "starts" working? I meant, once she gets a new full time job which just happens to be outside her home. Because, you see, she has already got full time employment - she just doesn't get paid for it. And I, with my advanced mathematical skills, have already figured out that if you have one full time job, and then you get another full time job, you then have two full time jobs. (Yes, I know, I'm brilliant.)

Unfortunately, most people seem not to have realized this (about the jobs, I mean, not my brilliance). Oh, maybe the early feminists did, since they were always insisting that once a woman went to work, her spouse would have to pick up half the work at home. But what these good women did not recognize is that the spouse generally already had a full time job himself. Maybe these women just weren't good at fractions; but three full time jobs divided evenly between 2 people equal 1 and a half jobs each. Which is a lot of work for anyone, and particularly if there happen to be children in the household.

[Of course, there were those whose solution was to warn women not to have kids; or not to have too many of them. But I will save my rant on that subject for another time.]

So, if both spouses want to work outside the home, great! (I know, you all were just waiting for my permission.) Just make sure that there is someone else doing the needed work at home, so that your lives don't fall apart. It's no fun working all week, just to spend weekends catching up on laundry and grocery shopping and housecleaning. It's not fair to ourselves, it's not fair to our kids. And our insistence on trying to do things this way makes it clear that most of us do not believe that women who take care of their homes and their children full time already have a job.

But we do. And the pay sucks.

[Edited to add: Some people seem to be interpreting this as another blast in the Mommy wars. It isn't. I'm a uniter, not a divider. We all work. Some of us get paid. Some don't. Some of us find our jobs fulfilling (paid or not), while some of us don't. We all struggle to find time for ourselves. We have more in common than not. So cut it out.]

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55 comments:

  1. Yeah, well, I'm home full time AND trying to figure out how to afford someone to come clean my house once a week. It seems ridiculous until I realize that teaching my kids IS a job, one that many people do full time outside the home. My husband tells me to just go ahead and hire someone; the resistance is with me who has a hard time letting go of the notion that I should be able to do it all.

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  2. Flylady. Flylady. Flylady. I used to think I needed someone to come in, but it turns out I didn't. I just needed to learn how to focus and do things a little bit at a time. Flylady.

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  3. Just before my ex and I went into the last phase of our marriage, I was doing everything in the house and working a full time outside the house job and it was too much.
    So I went on strike. I stopped doing laundry, dishes, shopping, cleaning everything that I had been doing and I started to do what HE had been doing - coming home from work and plopping down in front of the computer and waiting for someone else to serve me. It lasted about a week before he surrendered. Of course I had to teach him how to work the washing machine but I didn't feel quite so ill used. It didn't save our marriage but that was in trouble already and he is now very well trained for his second wife LOL

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  4. I absolutely agree... the cleaning part of the equation has always been SEVERELY undervalued. I see a cleaning service as the the "fourth necessity", after food, shelter, clothing.

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  5. My Lovely Wife hasn't been working a job this year, as we've been living in a foreign country while I do a sabbatical. What she has been doing is basically keeping things running. I shudder to think what things would have been like without her keeping track of where everyone's supposed to be and making sure everything in our lives FUNCTIONS. I just don't have it in me. That may be related to me being a man, but I think it has more to do with me being me. When we return to the States next month she'll have to decide what sort of work-outside-the-home level she wants.

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  6. I'd love to have domestic help, but can't seem to justify it since I'm a SAHM. Well, the budget says otherwise as well.

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  7. Amen sister! I do what I consider "cheating" by having someone do a deep cleaning every two weeks. Why is that cheating? Ugh. See...even I need to listen to you.

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  8. I have a hard time getting started with Flylady, or at least to the part where it's habit. But I fully believe her method is great if you can just get to the habit part. With summer vacation upon us maybe it's time to try again. But as far as household responsibilities goes, that's why I've never made my husband get up in the night with a crying baby. That's part of my job description. He has to get up and go to work. Why make him bleary-eyed? Of course, being a modern man, he helps me in many many other ways. Once he's home he's completely dialed in to parenting and helping out. Because, let's face it, his job is 8-5 ( OK, usually more like 6 or7) and mine is 24/7.

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  9. Yup. And that's if you even get the guy to pitch in - which I don't find in most cases, they do. Much.

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  10. STARTS working!!!! HA!! Love the post!!

    I tried fly lady, but I spent more time cleaning out my email box then my house!

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  11. Well, I am not a Mom (other than to my fur babies) - but I FULLY believe that being a SAHM is more like TWO FT jobs (if not more) bc it is a 24 hour job - and - it is a job where you are constantly meeting the needs of someone else, which is an entirely different dynamic than a job in the "adult" world.

    Honestly, I don't know HOW people work FT and manage to be incredible parents - but they do - and I salute you. Oh, AND they keep a nice home? Well, that's just plain insulting, now. :)

    I'm all for a little help in the home - I mean, you gotta be able to enjoy your weekends, right?

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  12. We HAVE to bring someone in to do some cleaning even though we can't really afford it right now - it's just too, too much otherwise...

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  13. Ah, for the luxury to be able to hire someone to do the work at home while my husband and I work full time. Er, fulltime and a half, since we also have a part-time job. Drat this economy, and sigh at how little profit my husband makes in a non-profit field!

    Again, I would feel enormously blessed to be able to afford to stay home with my kids.

    Feminism gets easier the more money you have, eh?

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  14. I have TWO full time jobs and it sucks having to pick up and clean on the weekends...i just want to chill and spend time with the fam...

    I usually do JUST that...but then my house always looks like a tornado blew through it!

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  15. I'm a SAHM and I HATE housework... There is zero chance that, if I was going to work full time, I would also be doing the housework.

    So, yeah... I agree... Working moms need to get someone else to do the housework, for sure. It's worth the money. And they shouldn't be made to feel guilty for it, either.

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  16. awd - I hear you on the financial considerations. Where I live, though, there are so many families who are dual-income, making at least twice as much as we do, who don't bother to get outside help for the home and are extremely stressed. Their marriages and their children both suffer (not to mention their dietary habits), because they don't understand that there is a job to do at home, also, and that they need to pay someone to do it.

    Obviously there are people making way less and who need 2 incomes just to survive, or to have health insurance, or whatever. This tirade wasn't really directed at them; or, it could be, if only to reassure them that yes, it is hard, because there are 3 jobs involved, not just 2.

    MadMad - I don't blame the guys too much. I mean, they are already working full time, also. I know that when I was taking care of my dad in the hospital full-time, the last thing I wanted to do when I came home was deal with stuff there. I was unspeakably relieved to find them bathed and fed each evening (my husband took time off work); because there was no way I could have handled any of that.

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  17. I value my worth as the full time stay at home parent, but I am afraid even after being 28 year married, my dh is still a bit dense about it.

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  18. I hear you, suburban! There are lots of people running themselves ragged just to have extra income, and the quality of life suffers.

    Fortunately, my husband is a hard worker and the "who does the chores?" discussion isn't an issue for us. If anything, he does more around the house than I do. Still, I'd rather someone else did it so I have more snuggle time with him.

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  19. I have a full time job, Sean has a full time job. And we have four kids. That's like 4 more full time jobs. Sean does a really good job of helping out (I don't remember the last time I did laundry) but still there are not enough hours in the day to actually have a clean house and food made and ...

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  20. I've been a SAHM for 15 years and for most of that time would have rather spent 12 hours straight changing diapers than to do any kind of housework.

    What fixed it for me was taking on an "outside" job cleaning other people's houses and doing their laundry for extra money.

    Let's just say that after three months of that I suddenly became more appreciative of only having had to do OUR housework.

    I quit a short time later.

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  21. Yes! I have been waiting for someone to say this. People just don't get it, do they? If and when I go back to work, I want a maid named Alice...well, okay, I really don't care what her name is.

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  22. I say put the kids to work! It's their house too!

    So, on a related note,how old should a child be before I can reasonably expect him/her to operate the upright vacuum or load the dishwasher? (I think bathrooms are an over-12 activity, mostly because of the ick factor and the caustic chemicals!)

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  23. Also, it's easier, financially, if you never get used to being a two-income family in the first place, if that makes any sense. I worked for a few months when we first got married. Then my husband got a promotion that was equal to what he had been making plus my pittance I was contributing in retail. We decided right then that since I was pregnant anyway, i would just stop working and we would forever be a single income family. That way we never got accustomed to a lifestyle that we wouldn't want to give up for me to stay at home. A cousin of mine has struggled with this because they were 2 income and then she had a baby. Suddenly she had an unforeseen desire to be at home with her little whippet but they wouldn't be able to make the house and car payments if she did. Seven years and another baby later she feels trapped in her job and like she's missed her boys' milestones.

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  24. Being a SAHM isn't a full time job, it's full time WITH overtime, and you're on call 24/7.
    I haven't heard anyone mention the kids, they should be helping too. True, it's hard to get them to help, but even little kids can help in small ways and do more as they get older.
    My older kids do their own laundry, and we expect them to help out in other ways. Yes, there is a large amount of whining involved, and they feel totally picked on, because we ARE the meanest parents in the whole world for making them do dishes, clean the bathrooms and put their shoes away, but they live here too!

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  25. Amen. We both do quite a lot to make sure our home runs relatively smoothly. The grass doesn't always get cut on schedule, the vacuuming may not get done (I honestly can't do it right now, it wears me out, but I'll be back to doing it in November), but we each appreciate what the other does and my husband even says things like, "Thank you for keeping me in clean clothes." So I can't really complain.

    mom on the verge: If you clean the bathroom without caustic chemicals, your kids can start helping as soon as they can stand on a step stool and reach into the sink with a sponge. I don't let mine clean the toilet, but unless I'm in a rush and just want to get the job done, there are certainly jobs they can help with, and they're 4 and 6.

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  26. So true, So true. I wish I could get paid for it because I would have so much overtime I could afford the maid.

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  27. Refer back to my Saturday post...you don't need to do all that housework as often as you might think!

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  28. My Ex and I used to fight about this ALL the time. I work "part time" outside the home - which in my industry is FULL TIME. The kids do help and he did, too, but we never _really_ cleaned. and it would've made me so much happier and well rested just to get it really truly cleaned twice a month. My friends all - ALL - looked at me aghast when I said I had no outside help with the inside of my house. Now that I'm a single mom, I hire the kids to really clean (plus they are older) and the weeks they're not there it doesn't get dirty.

    THe whole SAHM debate aside, fact is I needed help and didn't get it. No it wouldn't have saved my marriage, but it would've made the time we "stayed together for the kids" a bit more pleasant....

    And my cousin SWEARS by flylady but I haven't tried it....

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  29. i work at home "part" time (sometimes it's more than part time, sometimes less) and take care of the two boys and try to take care of the house. the house is scary -- although i've been doing the fly lady stuff more and it seems to be helping. loved your post today and minnesota matron...

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  30. You said it beautifully--here's the thing--my husband views my SAHM status as my job and, since I don't come to the office and negotiate contracts with him, he doesn't see why I get so upset when he doesn't do basic stuff around the house.
    Some women have suggested not doing stuff around the house, but the strike that really gets them motivated is to stop doing stuff around the bedroom.

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  31. I like the way you put it.

    It got put into perspective with HB when he was trying to decide to take out a life insurance policy on me or not.

    First he decided he wouldn't need to because if I died he would just hire a housekeeper/nanny.

    Then he investigated how much a housekeeper would cost. WAY TOO MUCH!

    So he said if I died he would quit work and be a SAHD. I left him with all 6 children for a whole day (while I was having day surgery.)

    The next day he took out an insurance poilcy on me - a BIG one. (Enough to pay a full-time housekeeper I suppose.) He said it was the best option. (Just what I'd been telling him all along.)

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  32. Thanks for that.
    I'm so so glad I have one of the husbands who picked up the slack when I switched to an out-of-the-house job; I don't know what we would have done otherwise. As it is, you're right: we both work 1.5 full-time jobs and do the best we can.

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  33. mum-me - My husband has an insurance policy on me too - it makes me feel so valuable!

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  34. There is so much work to get done in an average household, and children increase it enormously. There is just no way I could do it all, even with the husband's help. No way at all. Of course, we also can't afford outside help, so things just don't get done.

    My house will be clean again when the kids are older.

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  35. I had this conversation with my husband the other night. He is really quite wonderful and reminded me that from his perspective, what's his IS mine. Since he has no problem with me buying what we need and even what I want on occasion...I gotta admit, I'd rather work in my home for my family, than anywhere else or for anyone else! He has to do the office politics thing and I get to set my own hours (barring children's illnesses) and my own schedule. Plus, of course, being the Homeschooler that I am, I get to claim THREE full time jobs...and get pity points occasionally! (Full time
    1.schoolteacher, 2. housekeeper and 3.Day care provider-for snorkie)
    I LOVE MY JOB(s)!!!
    Blessings, E

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  36. Amen, sister. It sucks.

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  37. Oh, and BTW, the girls took on dish duty, pet duty and kitchen sweeping and table wiping...as well as their required stuff like bed making, hair and teeth brushing, etc. We give them a weekly allowance that is "taxed" 15% (so they learn about that early- we us the money for an occasional pizza or something) They also tithe 10%, and the remaining 75% is split 3 ways to quick cash, med term savings and long term savings (college fund).
    They have learned SO much about money and I get TONS more work done for a "pittance" compared with paying a professional "maid". Plus they get to feel VALUABLE around here. It's working so far.
    PAX, E

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  38. I can only say Amen to an excellent post.

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  39. I think your point was something that is actually not stressed. Dividing it all up does not work so perfectly. No worries on being militant. It is important to bring these issues to the forefront.

    And I thought you were going to get militant on hiring housekeepers!

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  40. My husband has always had flexible jobs, so he's always been around and willing to help - he does laundry, cooks, cleans - we did it all together.

    Now he's working from dawn till dusk and I'm having to do it all myself, plus find time for my technical writing work and, oh yeah, the children.

    IT. SUCKS.

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  41. jodi-mother of sixJune 10, 2008

    I had six kids in seven years. They're all adults now, but they weren't "back then"!! They had chores from a young age. They were assigned because they were part of a family. They also had allowances with no strings attached. They received those because they were part of a family. The chores and the allowances had no relationship to each other.
    And the chores started at age 4 or so, age appropriate ones. Funny story. Second son, about 7-8 at the time was cleaning bathrooms. After he finished each (of three) bathrooms, he locked the door and put a post-it on it saying "Do Not Use. I just cleaned." and then signed each note!
    Another funny story (one has a lot of them with 6 kids). The girls (2) complained about cleaning the toilets after the boys (4). I agreed and told the boys that females were no longer assigned to toilet cleaning. Boy, did that improve their aim!
    So..to comment on the original topic - I was a SAHM for 15 years before starting work full time. I had no outside help during those 15 years. My job consisted of kids, house, yard, pool maintenance, shopping, etc etc etc. I was very organized and efficient.
    When I started working, nothing changed. I whined, I asked, I complained and I demanded. I got essentially no help. It's only been since I divorced, retired and now live alone that I have a yard service, a pool service, and an every other Friday cleaning help. I like pampering myself and I should have demanded more and sooner. No one should have to do it all whilst her partner watches football or ____ fill in the blank. Just like the kids' chores; you do them because you're part of the family, period. HE was part of the family too, but of the privilged part. End of rant...sorry to take so much space but you hit a sore spot!

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  42. I know I'm late to the table but I wanted to weigh in. When I was home full time I did it all: grocery, cooking, laundry, cleaning, errands, appointnments, banking, investments, on and on.

    Then there were the children.

    Oh, and the volunteering.

    So when I got a "Real Job", 40 hours a week, you bet your behind I sat my husband down and said I'm not taking this new job AND keeping my old job too. I hired a service for the cleaning. PLUS made the kids start doing their own laundry.

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  43. fannie mae - My point exactly. Thanks.

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  44. My husband and childrens meaning of clean and mine are different. Dad means get the stuff off the floor and sweep them. My meaning of clean is put stuff where it belongs, including throwing papers in the recycling bin, laundry to the laundry room, dirty dishes to the kitchen, garbage thrown out and the floors swept and washed, if necessary. When they do a daddy clean, they throw everything in the toy storage bins and sweep the floor. :( Then I make them sort it the next day I am home from work.

    My kids, especially my teens, do most of the housework. I wash laundry and dishes occasionally and sort clean laundry for them to put away. I put away my clothes and the 3 youngest kids clothes. I clean the bathrooms.

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  45. Amen, Sister. I've done working at home and working at home/somewhere else. Two full-time jobs.

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  46. Oh - and I wondered why my readership jumped up a few notches on Monday!

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  47. So true, it is a full time (as in 24 hour) job, just doing house and kids. Just keep that in mind, people, the suburban correspondent has spoken! Flylady is great in spirit, but I just can't follow her routine, I have to adapt it to my life. I can do most everything in the world without shoes on and my sink doesn't need more than comet, but my ceiling needs to be cleaned on a regular basis. Even though only one of us is even over 5' tall. Don't ask. Most people don't believe in levitation.

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  48. You definitely have a point there. But I do believe there are some people who just don't have the money for a housekeeper.

    I am really not looking forward to going back to work. Though this would mean doing less housework... Now I have to figure out the math.. household = full time job.. divided by two.. I work 3 days a week.. husband 4 days a week...

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  49. My husband's Mom, God rest her soul, told him when we got married that if both of us were going to work and we were going to have a house, he had to "get me" a housekeeper. I've used that for years.

    And I'm such a good negotiator (and terrible housekeeper) that I have managed to keep it since I stopped working too! I totally recognize that we are fortunate to have that. I justify it in a variety of ways...most of which involve being personal assistant to my husband!

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  50. Thanks for reminding me of this! We're simpatico on this issue, Suburban. Hope you're getting a discount on books!

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