Thinking Aloud On a Different Day

Housework.

I have been getting on with some housework this week, so it wasn’t a huge surprise when I woke up with that on my mind this morning.

Most people just do housework without thinking about it. Others know it should be done, but don’t bother with any, until they can’t stand the sight of their own surroundings. It’s a mundane subject for a blog post, I know. But bear with me, as it had a huge impact on my life, resulting indirectly in the failure of two marriages, and the loss of a huge amount of money too.

I was brought up in a very different time to what we have grown used to in the 21st century. From my earliest memories and life experience, I soon became aware that only women did housework. And they did a lot of it. Washing by hand, boiling the clothes in a huge pot on the stove, then scrubbing at them using a serrated metal board. Taking the wet washing across to a mangle, and turning the handle constantly, to wring all the water out before pegging up the items on an outside line. They scrubbed or polished front steps of houses, and struggled with ancient, ineffective vacuum cleaners to remove bits from the floor. Carpets were taken outside to have the dust beaten from them, using specially-shaped devices made just for that purpose.

They swept using stiff brooms, then swept again using soft brooms. When the washing was dry, they ironed it, using feeble irons plugged into light fittings, laying the clothes flat on any handy table. There were no proprietary branded spray cleaners, polish came from a tin, and it was hard like soap. Baths and toilets were scrubbed with scourers until they gleamed, and windows washed with a combination of water and vinegar, then polished later using newspaper. It seemed that almost every woman I ever saw, of any age, was wearing either an apron or a housecoat, and doing some chore or other. And when all that was over, all they had to look forward to in the evening was getting a meal on the table, and washing up afterwards.

Men and housework were two things never mentioned in the same sentence. Men just didn’t do it, full stop. Furthermore, they were not expected to, and many women would send them out of the house, to get them out from under their feet as they carried on cleaning. Sons living at home were not expected to do much more than to occasionally help carry in some heavy shopping bags. Husbands were expected to do ‘Man jobs’. This involved anything to do with ladders, general repairs, clearing drains, changing light bulbs, and fixing electrical items. If anyone was lucky enough to have a garden, the man would be expected to mow the lawn, and grow any vegetable there was room for.

So I got to get married at the age of 25 without ever having had to do so much as iron a shirt, turn on a washing machine, or run a hoover around the carpet. I didn’t see anything bad about that. After all, I was a product of my environment and upbringing, and I genuinely knew no better. I didn’t even consider it. It never once entered my head. And I am not talking about ‘the old days’ here, oh no. This was the late 1970s. Eight years later, when I was 33 years old, my first wife approached me and told me she wanted us to separate. I was naturally shocked and upset, especially when she told me that one of the reasons was because I had never done any housework. I had to admit to that charge, even though I found it unusual that any woman would even want me to clean the house, or iron my own shirts.

With the benefit of hindsight, I confess to being very stupid. But I suppose you ‘had to be there’, to understand where I had come from. Society and married life were changing, and I was failing to keep up.

I learned my hard lesson though. By the time I got married for the second time, in 1989, I was a housework demon. If I used a cup to drink some coffee, I went straight into the kitchen to wash it, dry it, and put it away. The same with my meals. Knife and fork down, food eaten, washing up done immediately. If I noticed a mark on the coffee table, I would get the spray polish, and give it the once-over. I was so clean and tidy, you could have eaten your dinner off the floor of my small house, with no need for a plate. Mirrors shone, furniture oozed the smell of polish, and carpets were spotless. And how I could iron. In one session, I would happily iron all thirty uniform shirts required for a month at work, as well as anything else on the ironing pile. Everything had its place, and it was all put in it.

Bringing someone into that world, in this case a new wife, was possibly always going to end in disaster, I should have seen that. My regime was set in stone, and carried out with military precision. She did her best to adapt, taking over the chore of ironing, thereby saving me a lot of time. But other obsessive aspects of my housework routine were less attractive to her after a long day at work, or during the precious two days off at the weekend. I carried on though, refusing to slip back to my former ways. And as I did so, I grew to resent her lack of involvement in the process. Eventually, I decided to split up with her, and one of the reasons I gave was that she didn’t do enough to help around the house. My life had turned full circle.

Many years later, I am 66 years old, and living in the countryside. I am no longer physically capable of keeping up such a manic routine of housework, and less bothered about what is considered to be acceptably tidy. I still get down on my hands and knees to clean the stone tiles on the kitchen floor, but it’s more of a struggle, and takes me a lot longer than I would like. Once it’s done, I have little enthusiasm for more, at least until tomorrow. I don’t wear many clothes that need ironing these days, and I don’t polish a surface every time I see a mark. Ollie makes small messes with his biscuits or stuffed toys, and I am content to leave them until the next time I have the vacuum cleaner out.

I went from nothing to everything, then back to something else in between.

70 thoughts on “Thinking Aloud On a Different Day

  1. In our home Mr O does the majority of the housework. He is at home and I am at work so that’s the most practical arrangement and the most fair. Especially as he has help with Little O so he has time for it. I do cook and do things like emptying the dishwasher, packing away laundry. I am very conscious of making sure I do whatever bits I can when I can because I can tell how exasperated he gets when the house feels like it is out of control… especially with Little O leaving a constant trail of destruction.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Seems like you have it worked out well for you both, Abbi. Having a toddler around makes it almost impossible. I remember that from when our grandson lived here. πŸ™‚
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Like

  2. I was raised by a tyrant who obsessed about a clean house. It was so hard to break that cycle in my brain but I let things get dusty now in protest. You are a good man Pete. You figured out a good balance.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I loved this, Pete. I loved it because it is so honest and personal, not to mention your stellar writing. And so, in the spirit of your piece…I’m on the verge of being a terrible housekeeper. I hate housework. Always have. I don’t mind clutter…I don’t mind laundry piling up as long as I have clean clothes…I hate scrubbing, but, thankfully,I have an aversion to nastiness–I’m very hygienic–so that saves me from being a terrible housekeeper. My husband, on the other hand, is a neat freak. We’ve been married for 32 years. It’s been quite the adjustment for both of us and we still fight about it, but we’ve got past the vicious arguing…for the most part.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, Pam. I love that you loved it, and don’t care whether you enjoy keeping house or not. πŸ™‚
      Honesty has always been my starting point, ever since I started blogging. I am pleased that comes across for you.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Delightful post, Pete. Your prior situation is still common today and women constantly moan about their husbands not doing enough around the house. Throw in babies, and the problem becomes intensified. But then you did an about face. That is amazing. I think where you finally settled is just right.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Jennie. I know some men who do nothing at all, and others who are best described as ‘hen-pecked’, and seem to be expected to do everything. I try to strike a balance, but I occasionally feel that old ‘obsession’ for tidiness creeping in. I unconsciously straighten cushions on the sofas, or find myself wiping down surfaces for the tenth time in one morning. πŸ™‚
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I like the stories in “Thinking aloud on” so much. It’s always written so well and interestingly.

    It is really very personal and impressive that you write about it that way.

    It was similar in my marriage in the eighties. Fortunately, the attitude of the men has mostly changed. Today, women go to work like men, so it is only fair if the housework is done together.

    I am very happy to found a man, who is able to do every kind of housework.

    And he loves to cook! That’s perfect for me!

    “You have to kiss many frogs before you find a prince”. I found my prince! πŸ™‚

    Liked by 2 people

  6. What an amazing post – to cover so much change in so few words – lovely. I was brought up with a stay at home mum and a working dad and , unfortunately, let our sons live like that, much to my daughter-in-law’s disgust. Mind you, they changed once they got married and do help out in the house now. As for us, hubby was in the army so has his own ideas on ironing and shoe cleaning. He does the garden and I potter in the house but I’m one of those women who only see the mess when I can’t move for stuff. I have started to shred paper this week as, being a writer, I have pages and pages of manuscripts that I don’t need to keep as it is all on computer or published. I have such a reverence for words that I hold onto magazines and travel brochures for years. We only have a small bungalow and it will have to go!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I am right at sixty and was raised on a farm and as you said-women did the housework and the cooking.. I was groomed to follow suit. Now I am a single woman, who must work outside the home and I may be the only one sorry about it-but I love a tidy house and really enjoy it=My husband died very young, and I have five children, tho they are all grown now. They all helped and two of them are as tidy as I am, two are pretty good and one is a mess!! The four acre yard is about to kill me though-and especially now that I had rather be playing with my grandchildren!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Four acres is too much, Michele. I think you are right to think about downsizing, so you can spend more time with your family. I have never had children, but from what I have seen with my step-children, the ‘tidy gene’ is not necessarily inherited. πŸ™‚
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Yikes, those are some pretty tough consequences over housekeeping Pete! When I was growing up it seemed like my mom had all of us pitch in and help. When I got married I was happy to find Bob always helped, especially as we both worked. He’s always done the laundry and that has sometimes resulted in my clothes getting shrunk or faded. I’d still rather have him do it. I agree with you that the floors are the worst and the mops don’t seem to do the job. And tile is hard on the knees not to mention getting up and down. Time to relax our standards or get someone else to do it! πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  9. How interesting your history. I admire your willingness to be personal. Trying to live up to expectations is the quickest way to become disappointed–in others, in ourselves.
    I only clean on Saturdays. If something stellar arrises, I will let the house cleaning wait until Sunday. Usually, I break up the cleaning into two days. I would never get on my knees to clean a surface. I only clean the fridge and oven a few times a year. I wash but rarely iron. I just buy clothes that don’t need ironing. I do cook. Daily. Frequently I clean up afterward. I will pout and become angry if I feel I’m doing the majority of the daily tidying up like making the beds and clearing off the clutter on the countertops. I let Jim slack for a bit but will let my thoughts be known about the equity of work (since he’s semi-retired and I work multiple jobs). He wants to make me happy, and I am a benevolent Queen. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I put my life ‘out there’ soon after starting this blog, Cindy. I thought, ‘oh well, I am what I am’, so never concern myself too much about being frank and honest about my past life. After all, it is more or less a matter of record that I got divorced twice, and why.
      Though I rarely mention anything about my current personal life, for obvious reasons.
      Your cleaning regime sounds about right, it works for you and Jim, and that’s fine. Whatever works for anyone is fine with me. πŸ™‚
      Best wishes, Pete. x.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. That made me laugh, you are exactly Cyberspouse’s age. Long long ago, when he wasn’t Cybeerspouse, just Jock to everyone else, he took my up to his home town and his mother told me his older brother cleaned through the whole house every Saturday! His wife stayed home with two little ones, but he had to get up very early on weekdays to go and work at the bakery – I thought I was on to a good thing with this family!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Heehee. I grew up like you Pete. Mom did all the cleaning, with 3 sons and a husband in the house! Of course she was a stay-at-home mom. Dad worked and did the “man” chores and mom cleaned and cooked. When I got married my wife worked for ten years. I had to join in the cleaning on the weekend, which I viewed as only fair. She was out making money. When she ceased working she began to do most of the cleaning and cooking. I did the outside work; lawn, yard, car washing, gutters etc.

    Now that I have lived alone for almost 15 years I will admit that my house is not always “clean” but it is always neat. Everything in its place. I will “clean”, periodically – floors, dusting, glass tables and doors. I no longer do windows! I will do major cleaning when I expect company. Of course I have a washer/dryer, dishwasher, self-cleaning oven, garbage disposal etc. so my chores are much easier than they used to be for my mom.

    On the other hand, a little dust no longer bothers me at all!

    Regards from Florida

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I wish I could be like Quentin Crisp, the English writer.
      Quentin Crisp. Quotable Quote
      β€œThere is no need to do any housework at all. After the first four years the dirt doesn’t get any worse.”
      Best wishes, Pete. πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Interesting thought my friend……I grew up with a single parent so I had to chip whenever I could for Mom was working her butt off trying to make ends meet….now that I am retired I am lazy….my wife truly cannot sit still since she retired….so she is always doing some form of house work or another….I chip in when she starts bitching at me….I know it is time to be a good spouse and help….LOL chuq

    Liked by 1 person

  13. The first Mr.Fraggle used to say we had the only hoover in the world allergic to dust…. πŸ™‚
    The second Mr.Fraggle does a fair bit more housework than I do, but I do most of the cookiing and all of the ironing, so we’re about even. Am glad you got there with the moderation!!

    Liked by 2 people

  14. I actually really like this post despite the fact that you mention the divorces. Just to be a bit nerdy for a minute I like how you’ve taken cleaning and used it to drive home what is quite an emotional-driven piece and which packs a bit of a punch. I like novels written with this sort of intensity – seemingly on the mundane – but in reality on ourselves. You should write one! πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Avriii. I have written about my own failed relationships many times on this blog. They have generally collapsed due to an accumulation of otherwise mundane details of daily life, and not because of affairs, or singular catastrophic events. I appreciate your kind words about writing a novel. Despite producing long fiction serials on my blog, I’m not sure that I have the discipline for constructing a novel. Maybe one day. πŸ™‚
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. I tried mops, John. They just didn’t seem to work that well. I still have one, in its ‘wringer bucket’, out in the shed. There is a certain satisfaction in knowing the floor is clean, but that’s shattered by the marks that start to appear all too soon after I have finished. In an ideal world, I would do it every morning. πŸ™‚
          Best wishes, Pete.

          Liked by 1 person

  15. “And I am not talking about β€˜the old days’ here, oh no. This was the late 1970s.”
    The life you describe sounds like America in the 1950s.

    “Others know it should be done, but don’t bother with any, until they can’t stand the sight of their own surroundings.”
    That’s me!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Sorry about the two divorces but I did smile while reading this. I’m sure thee are still a few men out there who consider housework to be ‘women’s work’ but on the whole things have changed a lot for the better in this area of life.

    Liked by 2 people

  17. Golly … that’s a story and a half. And I don’t know what the moral of it is …! Moderation?? Not my forte at all. In my first marriage I was a completely 1950’s style wife. I cleaned, cooked, had babies and looked after my husband who was a difficult so and so. But I stopped working, I stopped having so much to talk about because of this, and nobody wants to talk about the children in the play park … my husband found a pretty girl in the office who was fun and bubbly and that really was that. He left and I then had 15 or so years of bringing up the children. I finally met someone and have since remarried. He is military, cleans like a demon and irons as though his life depends upon it. I am trying now to find a balance, a middle ground. I hope to God it works … I can’t be everything, perfect in every way for a person, but I hope I’m enough. I try to be the best that I can, yet I worry. Thanks for being so honest in your post .. it’s wonderful. Katie

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I am sure you are more than enough for the man in your life, Katie. And thanks for appreciating my honesty. I always try to be honest, especially where my own failings are concerned. πŸ™‚
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  18. I had a good laugh at this one Pete, even if it did end in two divorces πŸ™‚
    I’m more of a season cleaner now, in that I help out more in the winter and always manage to take it to another level. Yesterday I cleaned the bathroom, still using vinigar and water by the way on the mirror and shower screen, but then I had to take down the light fittings to give them a good clean. The scrubbing brush came out to do the floor and I even tackled the radiator which was a good six months overdue.
    What amazes me is how Gosia does what she does. I’m here babysitting and will do little else other than feed the children, keep them from danger and try and keep the mess to a minimum. Gosia on the other hand would do that and all the ironing, cook the dinner, makes some soaps and probably decorate the house, all whilst looking after the kids πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

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