Today I was a domestic goddess. I killed it.
Determined to clean the toys, clothes, diapers, dirty dishes and general filth that caked our living spaces, I called my mother in law and asked her to please come entertain my children. I had some serious business to attend to.
I folded our laundry from last week then did another few loads, put toys in their respective places, vacuumed every room in the house and washed, dried and put away all our dirty dishes. Next I tackled mountainous piles of recycling, loaded the car full of empty cans and bottles (which consequently made me realize just how much our kids have driven my husband and I to drink) and picked up groceries on my way home, since our newly cleaned fridge was now empty.
Sweaty and feeling good from my masterful cleaning skills, I suddenly had a thought. What the fuck happened to my life? When did cleaning my house become a brag worthy accomplishment in my books?
I know that at one point I had larger dreams. I always wanted to be a mother but I also wanted to do things like backpack across Europe, get so close to the Northern Lights that I could hear them crackle and volunteer with baby pandas in China. Somewhere down the road, however, I met my husband and those priorities started to fade. Now I sit down and I’m a mother to two. Knowing that if I stay up past 11 I’ll pay for it in the morning, but the end of day is the only time I have to myself (if you don’t count hiding in the bathroom periodically to check Facebook).
What happened to the young teenage girl who got her first taste of feminism by listening to “I’m Just a Girl” by No Doubt? That girl had grand ideals of women and men being equal, and our roles in society indistinguishable. So when did I start to feel the weight of domestic responsibilities press down specifically on me? I love my husband and he does a lot around the house but dirty dishes and soiled laundry aren’t keeping him up at night. I know this because he snores heavily beside me while I fret about all the tiny pieces of food I should have vacuumed up so my son won’t eat them off the floor in the morning.
Somehow despite the ever evolving role of women in society, the running of a household still very much feels like a woman’s job to me. Nobody really says it but I can feel that unspoken pressure and expectation that my kids should be well behaved and my house should be kept immaculate and worthy of a feature on Apartment Therapy.
Yes my children are everything to me and I want to provide a safe and loving home for them but that doesn’t make my quick transition from young woman with utopian ideals to young-ish woman now known as mom any easier. Most days I feel more like a slave than a woman able to make her own decisions. The demands of my little humans are immense and most days my house is in a constant state of chaotic mess. The longer it’s left the heavier my chains of servitude become. On the rare days, like today, that I’m able to give the house a good scrub, and my outlook a clean slate, I can’t help but also feel bitter and resentful that I’ve allowed myself to get to this place.
So how am I to overcome this archaic yet ingrained notion that I should be the one maintaining this household? How can I no longer simultaneously feel pride and disgust for spending 8 hours cleaning in one day? I honestly have no idea. My husband is an understanding and incredible man who will always pitch in if I nag him enough. But that’s the thing, I am the one who feels it must get done. I am the one stressing out about it.
Unfortunately, it seems that until I can find a way to balance it, the cycles of filth and manic cleaning and the feelings of accomplishment and regret will continue. Perhaps on days like this I need to focus on the little things, like the fact that god awful odour coming from my fridge is now gone, or that I can walk into our pantry unhindered for once. Tomorrow when I wake, my home will be clean and tidy and if it stays that way until noon that’s gotta be some sort of accomplishment right? I also find hope in knowing that eventually the kids will move out and then I’ll be free to live in whatever state of cleanliness I choose.
About the Author
Amanda Buck is a mother to two beautiful children and began writing, after her daughter was diagnosed with the rare disease cystinosis. She started the blog Elsinosis: Living with Cystinosis to chronicle their story, advocate for her daughter and help other families in similar situations look for their silver linings. Her writing has appeared on The Mighty, Good Mother Project, Coffee + Crumbs and she was a cast member of Vancouver’s inaugural Listen To Your Mother Show. You can also follow her family’s story on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.