- Housework Doesn't Pay
- My last name is not Kirby and I am darn sure not a Swiffer
Don't you try to dodge the ball… the penalties are much stiffer
Get to work and do your thing in the household every day
And just remember that housework really doesn't pay
If you are a typical stay-at-home mom slaving everyday...
Cooking and cleaning and laboring your precious time away...
You must be doing it for love not for a tangible reward
It's an invaluable service that only your love could afford
It's the love of your children; it's the love of your family
That keeps you cleaning until it all looks so pretty
Dusting and waxing and cleaning everything with no pity
I know the feeling people because I, too, have been there
Trying to deal with the housework and the daily wear and tear
Some folks say housework is a very satisfying feat
But I say they are crazy, housework is not a treat
If everyone would do a small part the house would remain neater
I have no desire to be in the kitchen suffocating like I'm in the heater
I don't want to be the last person who always has to stay
After everyone else is gone to put everything away
I'd like to sometimes be the one to go to bed early
And rise next morning confident I would get a cup of tea
I'd like to leave the dishes in the sink and go my own way
And know that there'd be nothing left for me to do next day
But I could dream now, couldn't I?... at least for a little while
Let me have my illusions people, please, don't you cramp my style
--Pamela deLeon- Lewis
I realize that this poem has serious problems with the meter, and the style is not really consistent all the way through, and that the poet didn't bother to put in the punctuation that would have helped a lot. At the same time, her rant is appropriate for what I have to say today. My sister-in-law forwarded an article from the Salt Lake Tribune that talks about the reaction some women have had to Sister Beck's conference talk, Mothers Who Know. I think it's important for me to put into words how I feel about this talk.
It's amazing how one's point of view and attitude at the time of hearing a talk can change one's perception of it. A few years ago, I heard a talk on Mother's Day that had me in tears because it implied that I wasn't a fit wife or future mother because I couldn't keep up with work and housework at the same time, and was putting off having kids. The email I wrote at the time is here (for people who aren't part of that yahoo group, I'll post it on my other blog. You won't get to read the whole thread, but it's better than nothing). I mention this, because I want you to know that I can see clearly that some of the statements in this talk could be interpreted as condemnations of the way some people are living, and it could have been very hard to hear if one wasn't in a position to have the ideal.
When I listened to Sister Beck's talk however, I felt differently. I heard her saying, "There are many of you who have chosen to forgo the honors and money that a career offers, and stay home with your kids. The world tells you that you're demeaning yourself and that housework is akin to slave labor. I want to tell you that this choice is a good one, and that your sacrifice and housework bless your family in more ways than just hygiene. Your work and dedication is a spiritual gift as important as the gift of tongues"
There are many differences in the talks, and I'm aware that currently my choices are justified rather than condemned by the speaker, which may have something to do with my reaction. I still believe that it's important for women to do the work that their family needs -- and if that means working outside the home, or "doing man's work" on the farm rather than just looking pretty, then she ought to be able to do that without feeling condemned. On the other hand, a woman ought to be allowed to make the other choice without stigma as well. As the newspaper article points out, many women in the world don't get to choose whether they get to do housework or not, and it seems to me that they ought to be able to hear from church leaders that the work they do is valued by the Lord.
Another thing that may be part of the different interpretations that this talk gets is the choice of examples she used. It would be very easy to think that she was saying these were the only acceptable ways to be. It's easy to see how people heard, "If your dress (and your children's clothes) isn't cleaned and ironed to perfection, then you aren't taking the Sacrament covenants seriously -- and there should be no excuses here in the USA because even African women who live in dust and filth can manage it." If you take it as an example rather than a dictate though, then you can take it as saying, "It's important to wear your Sunday Best to church and make some sacrifice to make sure that Sunday Best is different than what you wear the rest of the week." Not all of our nice clothes need to be ironed, but that doesn't mean we're less spiritual. When I was little, I often had my hair curled for church, even though it meant extra work for Mom and discomfort for me. When I was in the Singles Ward, I had a hard time with talks from General Authorities that said girls ought to wear nylons, and not wear flip-flops to church. I was really trying to get my wardrobe up-to-date at the time, and I had bought a special pair of flip-flops to wear to church because that's what the fashionable people were wearing at the time. For me, that was special Sunday Best, and not lazy disrespect.
During this last month, I've really come to see how much my own Mom's sacrifice in staying home with us was a blessing to me. I've been going to Prepared Childbirth classes, and there has been a lot of focus on breastfeeding and infant care along with the Lamaze breathing. The instructor has been consistently surprised that I know things like how many times a newborn will poop during the day (as many times as it eats), or that I know the mechanics of breastfeeding. I finally told her that I've seen how to take care of babies first hand because my mother did it, and I know about breastfeeding, not only because my younger siblings were breastfed, but that my mom took the time to teach other women how it was done, and she took me along on these visits. I don't know whether she did it on purpose to teach me or if she just didn't have anywhere else to leave me at the moment, but I feel as prepared to take care of a baby as a new mother can be. That is a HUGE blessing in my life that has been YEARS in the making, and I know that Mom gave up a lot in order to give it to me.
Back in October, we were talking about teaching the ideals and allowing for exceptions. I stand by the comments I made at that time (email or blog) and I don't think I need to rehash them again here more than to say that the Lord recognizes that there are exceptions, and will be just and merciful to those whose circumstances make it impossible to reach the ideal, but at the same time, He wants us to know that the way to have the most happiness and joy in this life and the next is to strive for the ideal. We need to have our church leaders reminding us what that ideal is if we're going to strive for it.