The added benefits of housework

There is no home where it is not necessary to do the shopping, cooking, washing up, kitchen and bathroom cleaning, laundry, ironing and bedding. Technology advances at a pace, with new time-saving innovations being introduced into the home such as dishwashers, sprays to remove creases from the laundry to keep ironing to a minimum, robotic vacuum cleaners with built-in timers, supermarket deliveries to our homes and numerous kitchen gadgets that make life easier… and busier homes can outsource many of the chores, such as ironing or cleaning, getting others to lighten the workload.

But as heavy, boring and tedious as these tasks seem, the truth is that I find them useful in many ways. When you are little, they make you participate in the running of the home, they teach you to take on responsibilities, to do something for others, even to understand that however unpleasant our obligations seem, we must fulfill them.

Being in charge of these tasks at some point in our lives also teaches us to value the effort and work they require and in this way, understand how much it means for others to do them for us.

When you are an adult, you take charge and distribute the tasks, and whether or not you complete some yourself, it’s an opportunity to lead and to teach everyone to be generous and dedicated to their work. In this way, the home is built step by step and remains stable, whereas a disorderly, badly managed home can hide deeper problems that may not be visible on the surface.

When people reach retirement age, curiously, they often fully devote themselves to the work of the home, because it helps older people to stay active, to feel useful, and know that they can still bend over, still remember their mother’s recipes, and feel better prepared for whatever the future may bring.

Less is more, or not!

The more children you have, the less quality of life? Think again!
I have a friend who is something else. I don’t usually brag about friendships but I can’t help giving this dear friend a special mention.  Regardless of the particular country where I happen to be working or visiting, the circle of friends in which I find myself – be it a family reunion or a discussion about children and family life – my friend immediately springs to mind. Some people call her and her husband crazy but I haven’t noticed a constant stream of what might be classed ‘sensible’ people in my travels.

Each time she says she has a big announcement to make, you know in your heart it must be the news she has been sharing with us for a number of years – that they are expecting another baby. They now have 9 children – and as you come to get to know each child, your whole perception of what it means to be part of a large family changes.

The first comment people usually make when I talk about the family is “Of course they will surely be from some radical religious group?” And I am amused because my answer is, “I don’t know or care, but what I do know is that they belong to a group of people who possess a quality we should all imitate -generosity.”
That doesn’t necessarily mean that their like-minded group of friends have equally large families but, economics aside,  they are all generous and give of themselves completely. I might not pass that test of sheer selflessness.

When you walk through their front door it immediately feels like a home. The first thing that hits you is the buzz and vibrancy of children offering to help. The disorder expected is non existent as everyone has a designated role to play, something they’ve been taught from a young age. Their five-year-old was setting the table, taking dishes from the cupboard at his height level and carefully arranging the knives and forks on the table. I could have offered to do it for him but I thought better of it.

There’s no need to speak about equality in this house because clearly, their home belongs to everyone. Their sons and daughters divide the chores equally and both parents manage to work outside the home, neither having to give up their chosen profession.

People often ask me if they have lots of nannies and are rich to afford so many children. The answer is negative to both those questions. But sometimes I don’t even bother to answer as it’s clear that, even after explaining everything, they still don’t understand that a team of 11 is much stronger than a team of just 3 – for prejudices of this nature are hard-wired into the human brain.


Too Posh To Wash?

-By Joanna Roughton

Is cleaning a moral virtue?

If there is an answer, then it is to theologians or ethicists that we might be tempted to turn. But it is a question with growing real-world relevance and, as such, it is something which affects us all.

I say this in light of the latest row in Britain regarding standards of care in NHS hospitals. There is a raging debate within nursing about whether some of our nurses, many of whom now have degrees, are “too posh to wash”. The theory, and that is all it is since proof would be impossible to come by, is that highly educated staff see mundane domestic tasks as beneath their pay grade. And here lies the rub, if you’ll excuse the pun. Since it is in the exercise of these very tasks that an intimate relationship between a carer and cared for, begins to take shape. 2

When we wash someone who is bed-ridden, we are involved in an intimate encounter. It requires, by its very nature, tenderness and frank communication. There can be no standing by the door, barking instructions. A carer who also cleans must, necessarily, be up close and personal. So cleaning, in the caring context, might be seen as morally, as well as pastorally, virtuous. But it might be possible to extend that analysis. On the macro scale the act of cleaning connects.

When I pick up my brush and sweep the yard, I am forming an invisible bond with all those people – predominantly women – for whom such tasks remain a daily necessity. It is brief opportunity to live out a universal and global human experience. One which provides a nexus, not only with the somewhere else, but another time too. As long as there has been dust, there have been cleaners! And on the micro scale, cleaning can be seen as a act of goodness. 3

Sometimes housework is presented as a straightforward binary choice between home and work. But this is to ignore an obvious, but frequently overlooked, third choice. It is entirely possible to elect to stay at home and do little or nothing. There are many men and women whose lives would be given form and structure, if only they could find the discipline needed to do the housework.

A “Shockingly Domestic” Actress On The Red Carpet

It’s a strange thing. We are so conditioned to the idea – the caricature really – of what a Hollywood starlet should be, that we are shocked when they don’t always play by the rules.

Take Julianne Moore. The actress has been doing a battery of interviews recently to publicise the release of her latest film, Non-Stop, co-starring Liam Neeson. She must be a showbiz editor’s worst nightmare. Her interviews do not reveal toe-curling neuroses. No diva tantrums. No history of self-harm or drug addiction. Instead there is domesticity and a passion, not for the leading man, but for home-making! In one interview, with the Sunday Telegraph, she outed herself as “tremendously, shockingly, domestic”.
Photo: AFPNot for her an army of helpers in the kitchen. This is a woman who rejoices in telling the world that: “I make a hot breakfast for my children every day, and I always put out place mats and napkins”.

Moore, 53, says she does all her own housework. “My house is very clean and organised,” she said, reminding those of us who have never had to fret about who to thank at the Oscars, that glitz and glamour are not everything. Indeed, her comments suggest that it is possible to imagine a world in which an orderly home might be a lifeline. For those navigating their way through life in the movies, with its reputation for high-octane living, instability and short shelf-lives – there is something to be said for the deeper roots provided by a well-run home.

On one level, it might be said that Moore evinces a desire to assert some control while working in an industry whose practitioners are famously vulnerable to the whims of fashion. A home where, as a mother and a spouse, Moore draws sustenance from the  quotidian drawing-up of household rules and development of domestic regimens. I imagine that amid the ephemera of the entertainment business, the ability to pick up a vacuum cleaner or a cooking pan, and instantly see results, could be quite an antidote to the long, drawn-out process of film-making. Could the humdrum and practical throw all those sensitive showbiz egos into relief?

This is not to endow housework with transcendant properties. As Be Home has argued before, there is necessarily much about home-making that entails unheralded drudgery. But there is also something about being in control of our most sacred personal space – our home – which amounts to a privilege. It is refreshing to hear someone like Julianne Moore state candidly that she sees it that way. This is a woman who has the financial wherewithal to contract out every aspect of household management – and elects not to.