Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Dirty Women

As per Kate´s request, I have decided to address the dreaded issue of housework in the context of mixed Spanish/American marriages.

Cleanliness standards here are based on an antiquated division of labor in the family that is obsolete.

I can rationalize this shit historico-sociologically until I am blue in the face, but the fact is, if someone were to stop by my house RIGHT NOW (A Spanish person, that is), they would not think “Oh my god, those people are slobs”. They would think “Que perra es la Bluestreak”, and dear husband would be left out of the equation altogether. They might even sympathize with the poor guy for living with a woman that does not own up to her responsibilities (which have done nothing but multiply exponentially over this period of egalitarian “progress”).

I think this is what bothers me most of all regarding this whole topic, the frowning upon the wife who does not do her job. Not that I was not also bugged by the marital problems I experienced in the past when I realized that I, Bluestreak– biggest slob I know, and utterly incapable of cleaning up after myself-- had somehow mistakenly been designated RESPONSIBLE for an even bigger slob than myself if that is humanly possible; my husband.

Initially I kicked and screamed. Nothing would extinguish the feminist fire in me (really the slob in me). And then one day I said, “Fuck it, I´m getting a maid”.

And I did. Marriage no longer a juggernaut experiencing downward spiral.

What a cop-out feminist I am, you say. And, yes I HAVE thought about the fact that my privileged situation has allowed me to employ another woman/cheap laborer and perhaps I AM contributing to the problem and not solving anything. My ability to NOT clean has been allowed by cheap female labor. Progress???

I do not see things this way though, as I do not undervalue the profession of cleaning (or childcare). This work is low paid (well, wait, it actually is not that low paid here) and has a stigma attached to it because it just so happens that it has always been associated with women. But that is not the real issue. The real issue is, I just do not have time for everything, dammit.

And if I am gonna work 50 hours a week TOO, I will be damned if I am gonna spend Saturday cleaning the entire house BY MYSELF. So I decided, it is either fair and square chore list or fork it over for a cleaning lady.

This has not solved everything. My dear cleaning lady only comes once a week for four hours. The dishes still need to be done, the crap still needs picking up, and the laundry still needs to get done. I would love to say that all this stuff has been so fairly divided between my husband and I but that is not the case. But, my husband is one hell of a cook and this has saved him many a hard night of wife-nagging. That combined with the cleaning lady, and, well, I am in a much better mood nowadays.

I do not think this addresses Kate´s question about the unrealistic expectations in Spain with respect to domestic cleanliness. But I think that will be solved a generation (or two) from now when houses are altogether dirtier because there just is not enough time in the day. Or, maybe kids will even have to do chores over here, just like we did in the U.S.

I think in the future the old ladies will definitely stop sweeping the street.

No time for that in our future.


Jul said...

I need to get me one of those housekeepers. That would be heavenly! I would probably feel guilty about it, but I'm betting that wouldn't last too long...

Theresa in Mèrida said...

I was told that in times past the abuelitas would toss water (from cleaning their houses of course) onto the streets to keep the dust down. When I was a working single mom with 3 kids and a bunch of volunteer activities, my answer when someone would ask how I did it all was simply "I don't do it all, something has to give. I don't do housework".
Now that I live in Mexico where labour is cheap compared to NOB (north of the border), I have a lovely lady who comes twice a week to clean and organize. It's wonderful.

Sarita said...

Such a funny post girl!

I think we're in a unique position in that our men were raised not to lift a finger at home by their stay-at-home moms and now we're expected to do the same for them, but we have jobs too. I've fallen into the overworked housewife position too and it kinda suck - I'm dying to see how the chores are divided once the kiddies come!

kate said...

Hey, thanks for answering!

I used to think I would never get a housekeeper, but now I won't rule it out, once I start working.

My husband is a rarity in that he actually does clean-- before kids, when we were both working, we split it 50/50. Now our circumstances have changed, and I am home all day and he isn't home until late evening, but you're right, regardless of the circumstances, it's always seen as the woman's responsibility (from the outside, even if the couple in question sees it differently.)

I refuse to clean the way the stay-at-home women do here, but it's hard knowing that if any of my neighbors saw the inside of my house, they would freak out. "Not doing housework" really isn't a very viable option here.

On one hand, I really do need to buck up and start doing more around the house, but my inner feminist (and slob, might as well admit it) blaks mightily at the prospect.

Acercatec said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kristy said...

My inner feminist has definately refused the woman doing all the cleaning even though she works too role in my aussie/spanish relationship, as I am also a slob, and definately do not feel like housework on a saturday. We split the chores pretty mch 30/30 and that means probably 40% of the housework that should get done doesnt get done, so we find ourselves over time feeling more and more comfortable living in a certainly degree of filth! (for spanish standards). M is a tacaño and refuses to get a cleaner, he can suffer the consequences then! My ability to ignore a dirty house is far stronger than my will to clean it!

La Gringa said...

Love your blog! I think every woman deserves a housekeeper and housekeepers deserve a housekeeper, too. It does make us much easier to get along with. My Hispanic husband realized this a while back and went out and found one for us, and then another, and then another.

Unfortunately, it hasn't worked out so well for us in Honduras as I've written time and time again in my blogicito. :-/

I'm enjoying your blog and will be back. Thanks so much for the link to mine!

La Gringa said...

So true in Honduras, too. It's absolutely incredible that women can be such slobs, worse than slobs really. It isn't really that hard to leave a restroom as clean as you found it. No, you really have to work it at to do some of the things that women do in public restrooms. You have to wonder why? Because they can?

That sign is hilarious and should be put in every public restroom.

I had such a hard time commenting on your last article! I sincerely apologize if it posts 14 times.

La Gringa said...

Oh jeesh! That last comment is supposed to be on Spanish Paradox #12,072. Sorry. I'm an idiot today.

Mamacita Chilena said...

I wrote a post a while back ago, just like this, about the paradox of to get a maid, or not to get a maid...and am I contributing to the bad situation that women face or I am helping by employing someone with decent wages? I don't know, I still struggle with that question once a week when my maid comes actually.

My husband is very much his mother's son, and fortunately for me he's a great cook and VERY organized. Actually he's too organized for me...which is why we got a maid. Because he was getting sick of doing the dishes only to be greeted by another massive pile upon his arrival home so he said, if you're not going to do it, and I'm sick of doing it, we should just get a maid.

And like I realize how privileged we are to be in a situation where we can afford a maid, and I am SO grateful!