“Boring women have clean houses.”
Those are the words on a framed piece on the table as you enter my home. The sign shows I don’t escape the feeling that I “should” have a spotless and uncluttered house and, if I don’t, society will judge me harshly.
Intellectually, judging a woman (or a man) on how she keeps her house is absurd. It’s your house, live in a way that’s comfortable for you. Yet, we’re caught in a strong societal memory, a cultural legacy that still sees women’s job as “keeping house”.
A recent survey by The Working Mother Research Institute of 3,700 mothers nationwide found that:
Working mothers feel most judged about:
1. How clean my house is
2. Not taking care of myself
3. The amount of time I spend with my children
Stay-at-home mothers feel most judged about:
1. My contribution to family finances
2. How clean my house is
3. Not using my education
Think about it. When you die, do you really want people to remember you by how clean your house was? Imagine the eulogy: Cherry was a good woman, her house was so clean. Or better yet, on your tombstone: Here lies Cherry Woodburn. She kept the cleanest house in the neighborhood.
I want to be known for being a good person. For playing with my kids. For loving them and raising them to be kind and responsible adults. For my work of helping women increase their confidence so they live the life they want, not the life someone else tells them to live.
A Friend’s Uber-Messy House
Take the story of my friend, Linda. She’s a very bright, accomplished woman. A joint project with an extremely tight deadline necessitated me flying to where she lived and staying at her home. When I walked into her house and discovered it was a complete wreck, every single room messy, my breath was taken away.
I couldn’t imagine living day-in and day-out in that house. But here’s the thing. I had the thoughts I mentioned, but that was it. Period. I didn’t think less of Linda. She remained the smart, creative, funny woman she was before I went into her house.
Her house cleaning did not change the person I came to be friends with. She was the person whose daughter almost died in an accident, followed by years of trips in and out of the hospital. Perhaps Linda was “forced” to learn what we all need to learn: that having a clean house is not a top priority in life.
Our kids are more important.
Our personal well-being is more important.
“But it’s different when it’s my house.”
I know it can feel that way. Too often, it’s easier to be more accepting of others, than of ourselves. Especially if you have a “friend” who makes snide remarks, or talks about how she vacuums every day.
But really, is that the type of friend you want anyway? Someone who judges you and makes snide remarks? Someone who gossips about how you live your life?
I say dump them. Those judgmental types of people are energy-zombies. After that, spend some time reflecting on your priorities. What do you really want in life? What do you really want for your children? Is a sparkling, uncluttered home at the top of the list of what you want?
Whatever you choose is right for you. Live by your standards, not some outmoded paradigm of how things should be.
Readers, how much guilt, if any, do you feel about the cleanliness of your home? How do you deal with it?