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Cleanliness, Godliness, and All That Jazz

I’m about to take a much needed public digital break to spend a little time fall cleaning, preparing for Thanksgiving, and doing a hard reset of my homeschooling and housekeeping schedule just in time for the start of the New Year. It is in the midst of all the strategizing, printing and reoganization that I ran across this news story:

Italian wife faces jail for not doing housework:

An Italian woman faces six years in jail after her husband accused her of not doing enough cooking and cleaning at home.Her husband made a formal complaint to the paramilitary Carabinieri police, saying that his wife was slovenly, failed to put meals on the table and left their home in a dreadful mess.

Rather than dismissing the case as a domestic dispute, the police referred it to judicial authorities. They decided to send the matter to trial, with the 42-year-old wife facing between two and six years in prison if found guilty of the charge of “mistreatment within the family”.

Lest I be misunderstood, my home is not a “dreadful mess”. Dishes are washed after every meal, floors are swept and mopped daily, clean clothes are always available, and three square meals are cooked each day. Okay, two square meals. Lunch is usually some piece meal affair based on whether or not we have leftover from the night before. But you get my point. Stuff gets done.

However, it rarely gets done perfectly and there are some chores which are a perpetual battle, particularly in the midst of homeschooling. I am very grateful that my husband is satisfied to have his clothes clean and ironed while not being a stickler about the seemingly perpetual basket of clean laundry that magically refills no sooner than I get the previous load folded and put away.

Frankly, I feel perpetual guilt about that. It’s one of the three things I cannot get a handle on. Never mind the other two, because that’s not the point of this exercise. I saw this article from a woman who was aghast (aghast I say!) that this Italian husband would put his wife through such an ordeal:

Worst husband ever sues wife for not cooking and cleaning enough:

Right now I’m sitting at my kitchen table, writing. The surface surrounding my laptop is strewn with crumbs, kids’ artwork, and hardened pasta-filled dishes from last night’s dinner. There are papers piled on my once-beautiful kitchen windowsill and Cheerios all over the floor.

And that’s just the kitchen. Don’t get me started on the rest of the house (Spoiler: Piles of dirty laundry, piles of clean yet-to-be-folded laundry, and toys. So. Many. Toys.).

Luckily, I’m not married to this man, because I would most definitely be in jail.
As I read the piece I thought that she must be married to the most lenient husband ever.
crazy-kitchen

That kitchen was a mess, and even it were an anomalous moment in time (she made it sound as if it wasn’t), I have never in my life lived in a home where dishes from the night before have been left in the sink overnight. And yes, I mean never. Lots of chores could go undone for a day or two but dirty dishes in the sink overnight? That was a no-no! And the laundry in the kitchen cracked me up, but I still have to pause before resorting to tsk-rsk-ing this lady.

I have thought quite a bit  about this notion that a housewife’s primary job is to keep a neat and tidy house. I have pondered that old saying about cleanliness being next to godliness. What I have come away from after all that pondering is that it is just another area in which we women create certain standards on which we can judge, criticize, and one-up one another.

Any housewife worth her salt is going to make a decent effort to ensure that her family doesn’t live in filth, that clean clothes are available, and that her husband and kids have a decent meal every night, even it means the occasional rotisserie chicken from the local Sam’s Club with a salad on the side. You shouldn’t have to spend every waking moment cooking, scrubbing, chopping, and mopping.

Now…if your floor is so dirty that it’s sticky, stop reading here and go mop your floor. If there’s nothing in the fridge but a half a quart of expired milk, get thee to the grocery store stat! I mean, seriously.  But there is more to housewifery than a spotless house.

I learned it the hard way when I was so consumed with keeping things cleaned that I was dropping the ball in the one area where my husband had clearly expressed his desire for me to direct the lion’s share of my attention. For us, that was the education of our kids. Thankfully, the flexibility and small “class sizes” associated with home education makes it more than easy to make up lost ground and even surpass the public system in many ways.

But this means that there is usually an unfolded basket of laundry (which is not presently being folded because of direct orders that housework ceases after a certain hour). It means that there is usually a table with homeschool books and papers all over it. This menas there is usually a little spot here or there that could stand a bit of attention that it lacks for days on end. That’s life.

So, I agree that we should each do our very best to be good stewards of the home and family we have been blessed to care for. If it’s so bad that your husband calls the cops, you might want to do an inventory. But if I drop by your house and you have a dish on the table, or a load of laundry waiting to be folded, that’s your business.

I won’t judge- unless you have dishes left from overnight :/

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6 thoughts on “Cleanliness, Godliness, and All That Jazz”

  1. I always have at least some dishes left over. It somehow fell into the schedule that they get washed up at 7am if there’s any left. Sorry to disappoint. :p

    I think routine is key, though. For instance I can’t always tidy the house up properly before bed. Sometimes my lessons end just before bedtime, or I’m just done ironing and things need to cool, or it’s too late to hang laundry out. So I have a morning routine and an evening routine to get as much done whilst the day hasn’t yet started. If I didn’t feed the pets, tidy the house, do the dishes and clean the patio every day at 7am or 8pm, I’d probably either not get it done, or I’d start using it to procrastinate other chores, like hoovering, or paid work, like writing.

    I grew up in a horrendously messy house. As in, unhygienically, dangerously messy. And the main factor was that there was no routine. We’d just do an emergency clean when social services came to check on us. And it always felt like it was taking forever because it wasn’t scheduled, so it just got awful before we cleaned.

    That said, I DO think it’s important to remember marriage is still a contract. And if part of that contract is to take on a proportionate amount of work, then you have to do it, whether it’s earning a second income, tending to a farm or nurturing the family. There SHOULD be clauses in place to deter people marrying to go along for an easy ride.

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  2. I agree with your overall point about upholding one’s responsibilities in marriage. In fact, I found both of the articles interesting precisely because of the extreme nature of the approach.

    We don’t have any real intel on the state of things in the Italian couple’s home, but filing suit is a pretty big move.

    The second woman was, in my opinion, glorifying and excusing something that should rather cause her to strive for a routine which makes it possible to live in a house that is at lest somewhat hygienic.

    And the main factor was that there was no routine. We’d just do an emergency clean when social services came to check on us. And it always felt like it was taking forever because it wasn’t scheduled, so it just got awful before we cleaned.

    Yes, a routine is key. Our kids used to talk about how their friends though it was weird that there are certain chores we did every day. That we were clean freaks or something, which couldn’t be father from reality.

    The house stays relatievly neat because we never let it get too far gone to begin with. That’s another reason I kind of marvel at people who insist that keeping house takes literally all day and a wife doing her job doesn’t have time for anything else.

    If I was trying to keep the place spotless…then yeah. Homeschooling disabused me of that notion and quite well. Spotless houses only work when the kids are in school all day.

    .

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  3. I live rurally and have near constant footfall, a dog, a cat and a husband who doesn’t quite have my eye for detecting mess and spiders. Spotlessness would be impossible already. Adding kids to the mix… I don’t have high hopes for it! Got to learn to let go where it doesn’t matter as much, and I’m just really glad to live in a home that’s hygienic, tidy and pretty. A bit of dog hair or mud won’t kill us.

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  4. I’m going to confess to not being a nighttime dishwasher. I either wash them in the morning or in the afternoon before I cook. There is a reason for that madness, my mom and dad split the chores when they got married – mom cooked, dad washed dishes. And then Dad had a night job. So he did the dishes in the morning. So, for me, dishes are a morning thing. 🙂 Chores are, mostly.

    ITA about the spotless house. IF I try for that I get seriously crazy and it does take every waking hour, just about. (Four cats, one dog, two kids, and a husband who wears work boots). Clean? Yes. Perfect? No. Especially on Monday, when everyone has been home… well,that’s when the cleaning cycle starts over again.

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  5. Chores are mostly a morning thing around here too. Except for the kitchen, LOL. That’s an all day affair. Or at least once in the mid morning early afternoon, and then again after dinner.

    I suspect that my utter refusal to leave dishes in the sink overnight is as much a habit I picked up from my dad’s standards as your habit of doing the dishes is in the morning, which you picked up from your parents.

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