HOUSEKEEPING: the management of a house and home affairs
I recently read an article called “The Opt-Out Generation Wants Back In.” Like most articles in the working vs. staying home mommy genre, it had plenty of valid observations, a few meaningful insights, and lots of conclusions that confused cause and effect.
There is much to say about this article, but I want to focus on one particular passage:
“…even among her cohort of devoted supermoms, [Carrie] was a standout. She cooked healthful meals and concocted clever art projects, arranged play dates and drove to lessons, hosted creative birthday parties and planned inspired family vacations. She decorated her home for every holiday. She oversaw a large yet tastefully cozy house renovation. She did a turn in all the top parent leadership positions at her daughters’ prestigious preschool. And she made sure no grandparent went a year without an updated album of family photos…”
I can’t think of a single co-worker I would describe in a similar way. Can you imagine?
…even among her cohort of devoted attorneys she was a standout. She always brought a healthy lunch in a non-toxic glass container. She kept her business cards in a charming macramé holder she made herself. She frequently organized lunches out with co-workers and offered to carpool to conferences. She brought in cakes for office birthday celebrations. And, she kept the candy bowl on her desk stocked with seasonally appropriate M&Ms (pastels for spring, red and green for Christmas, etc.). She served on the photocopier efficiency committee and helped plan the firm picnic. The photos in the frames on her desk were never outdated…
That wouldn’t happen.
If I wanted to describe why a co-worker was a standout, I would describe the co-worker’s personality traits and skills and maybe use a few examples of those traits and skills in action. I would capture the things that make my co-worker unique; the specific ways his/her personality influences his/her work. But I wouldn’t talk about how tidy his pencil drawer was or whether or not she regularly cleaned her keyboard.
We do a disservice to mothers when we describe the value of their work as the list of tasks they do. We talk about mothers who impersonate Martha in the kitchen and have homes and gardens that could be featured in a magazine as if that is evidence of their fabulous mothering. Those women are impressive and their artful eye and cooking prowess are noteworthy. But…
We are confusing excellent housekeeping with excellent mothering. The two aren’t related. You can be an excellent mother who keeps a beautiful home. You can be an excellent mother who doesn’t.
A mother’s ability to love her children has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not the laundry is folded. A mother’s ability to engage her children in meaningful dinner conversations has absolutely nothing to do with the recipe featured on the plates. Whether or not children will become good grown-ups has absolutely nothing to do with the date on which their grandparents photo albums were last updated.