Shawna Atteberry

Writer, Editor, Researcher

Five years ago on Shawna R. B. Atteberry: You mean I can be a feminist homemaker? Really?

In order to start writing for the blog again, I decided to take a look at what I have done in years past. This one popped up for me right away as I still have a love/hate relationship with housework. I love a clean house; I hate cleaning. And as a feminist the idea that I should do the brunt of the work rubs me the wrong way, even if I do work from home, and it’s convenient. I decided since I have never resolved this sticky issue, to post this post again. Earlier this summer I was glad to see that I’m not the only Christian feminist woman who just doesn’t know how to resolve the tension between feminism, house work, and being a good Christian. Melanie Springer Mock, Kendra Irons, and Letha Scanzoni took up this very issue at Christian Feminism Today in The “Final Feminist Frontier”–Housework. (You’ll also want to check out Melanie and Kendra’s awesome blog: Ain’t I a Woman?)

(Originally posted 8/28/2008) I’ve never been a great housekeeper. Normally I’m barely a passable housekeeper. I watched my mom work all day then come home and clean and clean and clean. I decided that I was not going to do that. (I made it very clear to my husband before we married that I would not be doing all the housework.) Housework was not that important. It didn’t help that for the last two years I’ve struck out as a freelance writer and do a lot of work from home, where a lot of the time I feel like a glorified housewife. But lately my feelings have been changing, and I have been wanting a cleaner house and less piles. I’ve always been a pile person, and it used to not bother me. But now it’s getting cumbersome and tiresome. I think it’s because I’m getting older, and I just don’t have the energy to dig through piles to find one piece of paper or a book. Plus I really do like being able to see the top of my coffee table and not have to crawl over a pile of books to get into bed.

Of course this put me into a crisis mode. After all I’m a feminist. I’m a feminist who came out of the group of Christians who think the highest calling for a woman is to be a wife, mother, and yes, housewife. So for me to admit that keeping house wasn’t that bad (and might even better), was nothing short of an existential crisis. And before you start gloating, Mom, I’m still not going to clean like you do. I still think you cleaned far too much. There has to be a happy medium between piles and dust and spotless clean. Then an online friend, k8tthleate introduced to me a wonderful book: Home Comforts: The Art and Science of Keeping House by Cheryl Mendelson. The book begins with these words:

I am a working woman with a secret life: I keep house. An off-and-on lawyer and professor in public, in private I launder and clean, cook from the hip, and devote serious time and energy to a domestic routine not so different from the one that defined my grandmothers as “housewives.”

I think what I like most about Mendelson is her emphasis on house-keeping. Oh yes, there is cleaning, but that is just one part of keeping a home and making it a place of welcome for the family, comfortable to live in, and a space we feel comfortable inviting friends into. I’ve discovered that’s what I want to do: I want to keep a home. I want to be able to invite people over without having to do a hurricane cleaning out before they come over (again not as easy to do now I’m no longer 20-something). I’m taking baby steps: putting stuff away, finding homes for things, and vacuuming and mopping on a more regular basis (once a month really isn’t enough). And we’ll see how it goes.

Are you doing things you didn’t think you’d do? Are there things you’re changing your mind about?

Updated 8/21/2013: I am still a lousy housekeeper with multiple piles, and my floors wished they were mopped once a month. And unlike what I wrote five years ago about liking the concept of “house-keeping,” I’m not too keen on the idea right now. I’m definitely more on the hate side of my love/hate relationship with housecleaning right now.

What about you? What are thoughts regarding the keeping and cleaning of your home? Where do you fall on that love/hate continuum?