3 Good Reasons To Be a Bad Housekeeper
More women embracing bad housekeeping as a lifestyle choice just might help us move beyond gendered expectations about housework.
When we were kids, my sister and I and one of our friends wrote a musical, “Not All Fortune Lies in Sewing.” The heroine, Passalina, is an ordinary girl in an enchanted medieval kingdom. She’s hopeless at the domestic arts she’s meant to master, and dreams of a bigger life for herself. “Not all fortune lies in sewing, you will see!” she sings defiantly at the end of Act I, before running away from home to become a knight in shining armor — disguised as a boy, of course.
Growing up, I always saw myself in the Passalina-like characters. My favorite was Jo March, from Little Women, who desperately admires the traditional womanliness of her sisters and mother, yet can’t tame her fiercely independent writer self to fit any ready-made domestic mold, and wants to be a boy so she won’t have to.
My own mother is such a good housekeeper that her in-laws created an honorary “home improvement” award named after her. She did her best to teach her ways to my sister and me. Luckily at least my sister learned well. She not only knows how to make a bed with hospital corners, which apparently we were taught at one point, but she is an impressive seamstress, regularly cooks magazine-worthy meals, has undertaken several jaw-droppingly gorgeous home renovation projects, and now ably manages a couple acres of orchards and vegetable gardens.
I, on the other hand, seem to be missing the housekeeping gene. As a child, I exhibited what I’m sure was a consistently frustrating combination of innate ineptness and willful lack of interest toward learning anything remotely domestic. In the end, I managed to make it to adulthood, wifehood, and motherhood with very limited skills in cooking, cleaning, sewing, gardening, and basically every other component of housekeeping that you can name.
In other words, I am a bad housekeeper.
I firmly believe — and research backs me up here — that old-fashioned social expectations around gender are the impetus behind expecting women to be good housekeepers and men to be “lazy slobs.” Yet even among young…