Today marks the one-quarter finished mark of my 100 Days to a Happy Housewife project. Given the occasion, I thought I'd try to round up some of my thoughts and feelings about the project so far.
First, I am loving doing a blog-based project. I am finding I get a lot more out of blogging when I have a focus, rather than just using the blog as a place to spill whatever is on my mind. I don't think I'd want a permanent housekeeping blog, but I am wondering about whether What If No One's Watching? can become a place for projects in general, one leading into another, rather than just a personal blog. I'm also really enjoying blogging every day. I find it much easier to get into the habit of blogging, and to enjoy doing it, when I expect myself to keep it as a daily habit. So I want to incorporate that into my life after this project is finished as well.
Doing this project has also reminded me that I really do care about blog traffic. I love getting comments. I love the idea that people are reading what I write here, and that they are interested in it. I try not to look at my Google Analytics stats very often, since it makes me feel inconsequential, but I took a peek and my traffic is up 16% in the last month. I like that. I'm averaging over 400 visits a day, which is great, and folks are spending an average of about 45 seconds on the site each time they hit it. All of that makes me happy. The comments, though, make me ecstatic.
I'm also kinda jazzed about the new blogs this has all introduced me to. Housekeeping blogs isn't a category I ever expected to have in my reader, but there are some really good ones out there. Really lovely, well-written, well-photographed, oft-updated work. So that's a great bonus.
On the subject matter itself, I've come across a few surprises. I thought I'd be more annoyed--angry, even--at the sexism inherent in the sources I'm using, particularly the vintage ones. It may say something for all the countless hours I spent in college history classes that I'm not. I am able to look at these books as artifacts of their time and not be incensed by them. (Which isn't to say I don't have a running list of the very most ridiculous passages--I do, and I will share it at some point.) The subtler, but still very real sexism in the modern books does irritate me, but it's an expected irritation, and I haven't given it much thought.
I wondered, before I began this project, if it would help me to find some sort of value or peace in doing household chores. I thought, I guess, that if I learned to scrub a floor correctly, then maybe scrubbing floors would start to give me some sort of fulfillment? So far, not so much. I'm definitely a fan of the results (way more than I thought I would be, actually), but the process leaves me cold. Household chores are still chores, still work I'd really prefer not to do. I'm proud of myself when I accomplish something that makes my home a nicer place, or even just something that really needs to be done, but actually doing it doesn't bring me any joy.
One concern I had before beginning was that putting myself in this role, of "happy homemaker," might be to the detriment of the fairly carefully constructed equitable housecleaning arrangement that previously existed at my house. If I start cleaning more, and more seriously, will Mark start doing less? So far, I'm happy to report that this hasn't been the case. Mark and I have had a pretty peaceful, if hard won, division of household labor for quite a few years now, and this doesn't seem to be disrupting it. In part, I'm betting this is because of the nature of the project--I am taking on distinct tasks, rather than attempting a whole new schedule of cleaning, as I'd originally thought I would. In part, I think it's because I have a rare gem in Mark--a man who has no real concept of cleaning and household chores as "women's work." While there are definitely other things that he treats as my default responsibility even when they shouldn't be (like making plans, which is a whole other gripe), he really doesn't consider keeping the house presentable to be my job any more than it's his job, and that hasn't changed.
Another thing I thought might come out of this project is a greater respect for the labor of homemakers. Trying to keep my house at a mid-century standard, I hypothesized, would teach me just how much work that is. That's certainly the case, as you can tell by my (so far) complete reluctance to take on more than one finite project at a go. I have no problem thinking that mid-century style housekeeping, particularly in combination with raising one or more children, is a full-time job. However, the woman this project has really increased my respect for is the working woman who is still the major housekeeper (i.e., most working women, see Arlie Russell Hochschild's brilliant The Second Shift if you don't believe me). Even though I work from home and have a fairly flexible schedule, and even though I have a partner who, for the most part, pulls his weight, and even though I have no children, there is simply no way I could keep a perfect house while working. My days do not have enough hours, and I am completely unwilling to give up my very protected leisure time. I'm left wondering, pretty much every time I take on any major cleaning task, how the mythical "Supermom" does it all. There are the same number of hours in her day as in mine. Does she truly just never have a moment when she'd not doing for someone else? I can't tell you how depressed that idea makes me.
If I have to sum it all up, a quarter of the way through my 100 Days to a Happy Housewife project, I'd say it's been a complete success so far. I'm learning, I'm thinking, I'm writing, and my house is (marginally, so far) cleaner. Plus, I love the aprons.