Men beware. A woman in the White House might inspire the woman in your house to get you off your ass to do more housework. It is astonishingly true that more women now are more likely to have paying jobs then do men. Presently more women are going to college then are men. More women are graduating from college and graduate schools then are men. Women are entering the professions at a higher rate then are men. More women vote in elections then do men. Women on average do much more housework then men. This is true even if you take in account jobs like landscaping and house structural maintenance, improvement and repair. It might not be long before more men will be asked to clean the bathroom and do laundry.
If you are a man that believes a man’s place in the bathroom is reserved to getting it dirty and a man’s place by the washing machine is as far away from it as possible, there may be a lot riding on this year’s Presidential election.
There is a great deal at stake for the future. We are close to living at a time where any boy growing up in America can realisticly fear living the nightmare of being primarily responsible for sanitizing their household toilets.
If you are a man hoping to keep your domestic service to a minimum, hoping that Donald Trump wins the election might not be your best plan. Mindful household chore doing and mindful laziness, may be a better answer.
My bad, “you have to do more housework” news came before Secretary Clinton was nominated by a major political party as a candidate for POTUS. I was forced by illness into retirement. Fortunately my illness has not yet prevented me from doing more around the house. It is kind of unfortunate in a way too.
I loved my job. I liked having working as a believable excuse for being too tired to clean up, other than after myself. I had reason to believe that I was a good guy for doing that much. That was then.
I grew up like many boys, with the teaching that chores needed to get done before you could play. I, like many boys, learned how to resist this notion.
I learned how to feel guilty about skipping out on household responsibilities and to accept forgiveness, freeing me to do it again. I learned that doing a poor job saved time and reduced the likelihood of being asked to have that job as a routine duty. I learned that if I procrastinated and complained long enough my mother might give up in exasperation and do the chore for me. She always did it better. She might warn me that when my Father got home from work he would hear about my housework ethic, but she often forgot to. My father needed to relax from a hard day at the office and not listen to his wife whine about his whiney son.
When my mother was in her fifties she decided that she wanted to go and get a paying job. My father asked that she please not do that as this would reflect poorly on his ability to provide for his family. My mother won that argument. It was ironic that when my Mother did get a job, it was as a special education teacher, specializing in teaching, what was then called “home economics.” Now this was not real estate investment she was teaching. It was teaching students, with learning disabilities, how to do well the kinds of chores that she failed to teach me how to do at all. While my mother was studying to be a special education teacher, I was safely away at college.
I learned a great deal about housekeeping in college by living in a dormitory on campus. I didn’t know what living like a pig meant, until I got to live with my first roommate. I had little choice but to live up to his standards, in order to share that small space with him with little conflict. Our room was so bad that it was shown to visiting parents by fellow students. The generic presentation was referenced by some version of, . . . “and you think my room is messy.” As parents left shaking their head, my roommate and I knew that we had provided a valuable, “it could be worse” optic service.
The dorm provided a weekly bed sheet exchange program. I learned that to reduce time waiting in that line by forgetting about weekly. I discovered that I could sleep in stiff sheets as well as in soft.
I did my eating in a college cafeteria. This meant no food shopping, no cooking, no dish washing. I had long thought that this was the way to live. I found out that I was right. I loved it.
I graduated from college got jobs, went to grad school, got jobs. Got married. Got kids.
I mowed lawns, shoveled snow, chopped firewood and unclogged toilets.
I did what my father never even thought of doing, I changed baby diapers, no matter what was in them. As a parent, because my wife had a keen sense of smell, I even volunteered to be the soleI cleaner upper of vomit. As an adult housekeeper, I exceeded my own expectations. This could not be said of the expectations that my wife had of me.
I frequently employed the skills I used to resist my mother’s invitations to join in housekeeping. I did pretty good for myself. Retirement screwed me, because my wife still works full time. We needed her paycheck and health insurance benefits.
I had figured that my freaking out as to what I was going to do with myself now that I was retired, would drive me to cleaning as a past time. It didn’t. I discovered that I could work against the neurodegenerative progress of the disease that forced me into retirement with physical exercise and mental stimulation. A big source of mental stimulation turned out to be writing stuff like what you are reading. If you haven’t found reading this stimulating to your mind so far I don’t care. It works for me.
I found that forcing myself to make collages by cutting and pasting helped my fine motor coordination. Short, careful, hikes on uneven ground helped my balance.
I was startled to learn how much I enjoyed solitude and looking at flowers and clouds. Days became filled with all sorts of things to do. Aches, pains, fumbling things with my fingers, slowed thinking processes didn’t stop, but they were not holding me back from enjoying life.
I was in the mood to do more housework no more then I had been before.
Coping with anxiety and depression better lead me to mindfulness meditation. Meditating well still escapes me, doing household chores mindfully has been liberating. You may find it liberating as well.
The idea is simple. Stop looking at household chores as something you need to get out of the way in order to do be able to do something better. Think of them as a goal in their own right. But here is the key. The joy of housework is not primarily in the finishing the job, it is in the whole process, experienced moment by moment.
This can be done, by “coming to your senses.” That is, feel the things that you touch doing the job, see the sights, hear the sounds, notice the smells – good and stinky. Taste what there is to taste, really taste it. With this sense avoid the stinky.
Notice how when doing a chore your mind can drift off to thinking about other problems, anticipating better things to come or that song you just heard that you can’t get out of your head. Gently bring you focus back to the chore at hand.
You may notice a sense of urgency with getting the job done or frustration that you are wasting precious time with mundane toil. Pay such thoughts little mind. By focusing on what you are doing you will tend to get the job done more effectively and efficiently. Let me say that another way. If you don’t focus on getting the job over with, it will be over before you know it. You will find dull jobs can become sources of great peace while doing them.
There are much better places to learn about mindful housework than here. I am just one more guy saying this stuff works. Check it out. Zen Buddhist monks have been doing it for centuries.
I doubt that mindful chore doing will cure your laziness. For that try mindful laziness. You may think that you have mastered the art of goofing of, when you really haven’t. Try being fully present with your sloth. Don’t dwell on guilt. Don’t vow to do be more responsible tomorrow. Just lie their and savor the joy of being non-productive. Also, you may need the rest.
You may find that conscious laziness leads to spending less time on the couch. Pay attention to your mind wanting to make better use of your lazy time by worrying about this or that or making plans or “to do” lists. Consider doing these things at times, other than when you are being lazy.
An effective coping strategy for worrying is to schedule a time for worrying. If you find yourself worrying at other times, gently remind yourself that it is not worry time yet. The key idea here is that while worry helps identify, solve and prevent problems it is usually done to excess. Too often worrying is done far in advance of a good time to take problem solving action. This can lead to skipping around from problem to problem to worry about. This wastes time you cold be devoting to knowing the peace that comes with mindful housework.
If you live with a women, who would appreciate you doing more housework, I hope you found this post before she did. This will give you time to develop your arguments as to how mindful housework would never work for you. I wouldn’t add that you agree with working to perfect your laziness skills. That would be pushing it.
I recommend you don’t worry about what you might get in return for you doing more housework. Rather just experience the peace that comes with mindfulness.
If what happens is increased demands for you to do even more housework, don’t worry. You are either in for even more peace or opportunities to use those chore avoidance skills that you are already very good at.
I am sorry that I used the word “housework” so often in this article. That was my wife’s idea.
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Photo: Photo: Getty Images