Preface: I admit this blog is not my hippest or masculine of topics, yet last week my wife completed a 3-year long MSN program at UT-Austin. During this period I assumed most management responsibilities of home and family. The following are just a few personal observations gleaned from my more concentrated time at home.
Our house lies within 150 yards of a Northwest Austin two-lane, east-to-west road, which, in effect, serves as a boundary marker between quarter-of-a-million-dollar (or less) houses and those 2 to 4 times that amount.
We live in a 3/4 mile-long sliver of a neighborhood where the two residential zones (for lack of a better descriptive) overlap.
Differences between communities on either side of the boundary road are noticeable.
One noticeable difference, is the prevalence of small business home cleaning companies in the more white collar zone. Cleaning ladies (I’ve yet to see a male) usually arrive in personal, nondescript cars, which contain a variety of house cleaning solutions and equipment. Occasionally a company fleet car is parked curbside, with a logo and slogan painted on the side, such as this one from a Chrysler PT Cruiser I photographed last week and then cropped for blogging usage:
Is house cleaning really so menial a task that it detracts from and diminishes life? Is there no inherent or transferable value in a few hours of weekly or bi-weekly house/yard cleaning?
I say yes.
Insisting on each family member’s weekly/bi-weekly participation in house/yard cleaning chores, provides at least the following benefits:
It counters negative minds and inert bodies. It’s Behavioral Therapy 101.
For example, you have a pressing project or assignment due, yet you feel lousy, depressed, and flat. Somehow you force yourself off the couch and away from the TV. You start clearing the kitchen, while simultaneously stealing glances at the show you were watching. The show ends but you’re now well into the job, and it’s a short step to the laundry room, where you start folding clean but thrown-in-the-basket socks and undergarments. Before you realize it, you’ve done a mini-clean of the house and your body and mind feels invigorated and focused enough to engage that procrastinated project.
It teaches respect for the other(s).
Unless your house is obscenely large, personal and collective activities take place in “shared spaces.” Children need reinforced reminding that consideration of the other’s needs, preferences and (quirky) mannerisms are of equal importance to one’s own. What is one family member’s “clean & tidy” is another member’s stressors and vice versa.
No two families are alike. One family’s siblings do well if they talk or see each other once a year, while another’s are best of friends. My experience is that teaching respect for another’s “life and living space” is a painstaking role parents need to help facilitate.
Keeping house is perhaps a minor yet far from insignificant area where respect can be taught. Respect for sibling, certainly, but also respect for the diversity of people, cultures, customs and beliefs our children are increasingly encountering on a daily basis.
It provides an opportune and safe place to help children learn how to resolve conflict.
In my family conflict always occurs when cleaning chores are requested, assigned, and finally inspected. House cleaning is almost always a once (or more) a month moment when disgruntlements necessitate we sit down as a family and discuss not only the cleaning assignments, but also underlying and dormant grievances that ‘magically’ somehow surface, yet which in hindsight were developing for days, if not weeks.
As my wife once and wisely remarked, “Parenting well can’t be done in just your spare time.” It’s time and energy consuming.