Column: Something About Nothing, by Julie Seedorf from November 4 Week of Albert Lea Tribune and Courier Sentinel
I recently did an unscientific poll on Facebook. This is what I asked: “OK, ladies fess up. How many of you are the toilet bowl cleaner in the family? What would happen if you didn’t clean it? Would it stay grubby forever?”
I got many answers, all from women, none from men, but to be fair, I didn’t ask the men. I expected a few needles from the men. Here are a few of the women’s comments:
• You got that right!
• Yes, yes it would.
• Yes, it would. I was gone for a week, came home and cleaned toilets.
• Yes, I am. If I’m gone long enough, it does get cleaned.
• Eventually some new life form would emerge from mine.
• Mmmm, grubby doesn’t even describe the algae forest I found in bachelor’s pre-husband toilet.
There were more comments, but because they named names I thought it best for those names not to be broadcast to the world for the sake of world peace.
I did the poll because I wondered if toilet cleaning at home always became what used to be called “women’s work.” There were many things that were deemed women’s work when I first got married many, many years ago.
I remember being baffled the first time we had a holiday with my new spouse’s family. The men sat down to be served and the women waited until they were done to eat. That wasn’t the way it was done in my family. I was rather crabby back then, so let me tell you, that particular tradition didn’t last much longer when I was around.
In those days the women were in charge of the household. That meant, even if they worked, they were in charge of the kids, the laundry, the cooking, the cleaning and whatever else came along with the house and, of course, toilet cleaning.
When a friend of mine died of cancer, her husband had no idea how to turn on the wash machine or the oven. That is when things started changing in my household. Because I was brought up to believe in women’s work, I hadn’t educated my husband and family in the workings of a household. My husband could fix anything. He could repair anything, and that was his job. I realized that if something happened to me, his job would change and he would be like my neighbor, lost, unless of course he could call his mother.
I became stubborn and he became a better house cleaner, laundry person and cook. Although one of the challenges wasn’t him, it was me. I always micro-managed what he did because he didn’t do it like I did. I cringed when my new Colorado T-shirt now fit my 4-year-old. It was also easier at times to do it myself because I didn’t like the results. “Were you wearing your glasses when you dusted that corner?”
Many years have passed, and he washes his own clothes (now I don’t do it good enough for him), he cooks much better than I do, he does floors, but in all these years he doesn’t do toilets. He could very well survive with me, and the house would be picked up better than the way I keep it. It would be a little dustier (must be the eyes) and the toilets? I don’t want to guess.
As I watch my sons and son-in-law help their wives and take care of their houses, I don’t see the mentality of women’s work anymore except maybe when it comes to toilets. They seem to share their duties and in all fairness to their wives; occasionally they need to be reminded of certain tasks if they are trying to do the man thing with the television remote.
It is a different time in 2013 than when I and my friends were first married. There is more negotiation between couples and the chores that are needed to be done in a family. That doesn’t mean the older generation of men were lazy or not caring. It means that they lived by what society was back then and what was expected of both men and women was different.
If you are a man in 2013 and you do toilets, make it known because in my poll, toilets still seem to be women’s work. I am not sure what message that is giving to us and to our children and does it matter?
Facebook page is http://www.facebook.com/sprinklednotes.