Cleanliness standards here are based on an antiquated division of labor in the family that is obsolete.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