When I was a young girl living in the bosom of my very big family, I couldn’t help but notice how frazzled my Mom was. She worked from the crack of dawn until well after we were all in bed. Sometimes she took a quick nap with a baby on her shoulder.
There were 3 teenaged girls in the family and one teenaged boy and then 4 younger children. We did help some in our hapless, lazy, self-absorbed teenage way. The girls helped with dishes and ironing and we liked cooking so we often helped with dinner. We were supposed to set the table each night for dinner, but we often malingered until a parent (usually Dad) got angry enough to say “never mind, I’ll do it myself”. Our punishment was to suffer the silent treatment for a while, which could be quite unpleasant.
Babies need endless attention but even teenagers are lots of work. Everyone had to have a nicely pressed outfit to wear each day. We all had to have lunches put up for school. We had to get the occasional help with our homework and there were lots of personal issues to discuss. If you are a parent you know the drill.
Mom did the housework and Dad did the repair work and the yard work, although Dad was not afraid to pitch in indoors.
As a young woman watching all this I could see that my Mom fit that image of women as destined to be “barefoot, pregnant, and in the kitchen” quite perfectly. I made up my mind early on that I did not want that.
Along came the Women’s Liberation Movement promising to free women from at least half of the housework since men and women would now pitch in and share household tasks. This would allow women to have careers and not feel tied down by their home and their children. Perhaps women could escape feeling that semi-brain-dead space that is part of child rearing, at least the first few years when each child is too young to carry on an intelligent conversation.
However, Women’s Lib upset a lot of men. They were not necessarily ready for housework and child rearing. And while the “new man” might find himself occasionally barefoot and in the kitchen, he never found himself pregnant.
I don’t know if families began to unravel as a backlash to Women’s Lib or for social and economic reasons; probably a mix of causes, but we started to find that a lot more people were living a single life, both men and women, sometimes with children, sometimes without. The problem with this sort of “freedom” is that now both men and women find themselves in charge of both the indoor work and the outdoor work.
So much of housework is repetitive. Whether you wash and dry dishes or put them in the dish washer, they still have to be cleaned day after day, year in and year out. Laundry is repetitive, dusting, vacuuming, cleaning bathrooms, mopping and on and on. Thank goodness we rarely iron these days. So how can my Mom, now turning 98, bear to do these tasks one more time. At least she feels proud of the things she can still do and says that she will feel useless when she can no longer do these household jobs. I, however would gladly give them up if I could.
Wouldn’t our world be a much more productive place if we were freed of these repetitive tasks? Yes, if you have enough money you can hire a housekeeper, but they shouldn’t have to do these things either.
So what I want to know is
WHERE ARE OUR ROBOTS?
By Nancy Brisson