Sesame Street Finding Out Encyclopaedia The WXYZ Book, Bay Books 1982
So why do I write about laundry? It started with a picture of a wet flannelette cloth on the line. Sodden with rain, that picture pretty much expressed how I felt that day. It was winter and I was home alone with Grace during the week. Domesticity, like it does for many new mothers, was closing in on me. I had just starting blogging and was the proud owner of a new to me digital camera. At various points during the day, I started taking pictures. The very act of documenting my life allowed me to see beauty or interest where before I had only seen drudgery. Then an idea popped into my head, what would happen if I wrote a blog that was limited in subject matter, never bothered about whether it was boring to others and didn't concern myself that it had few if any readers? About doing the washing perhaps.
As I went on, themes emerged. Some quite silly, some not so. One that emerged quite early on was Who does the washing? Posts in this category touch on domestic negotiation or gender issues and stereotypes. Everyone (almost) has to have their clothes washed at some point. How this happens and who does it speaks volumes to me about all sorts of class and gender issues. Twenty-five years from when I first heard it, the catchcry of second wave feminism still rings clearly in my ears. The personal is political. The political is personal. It infuses everything we do. I often find myself thinking about how, among all the other possibilities I would wish for her, I want Grace to be domestically competent. But I would never want her to think that in a family situation that it is necessarily her job alone. So it's important than I don't think like that myself, even when it would be the easier option.
The Berensteins Bears' Science Fair, Random House, 1977It never occured to me that writing about domesticity or even that following domestic pursuits myself might be inconsistent with feminism. I've always considered the skills I learnt from my mother and grandmother to be part of my herstory, a tangible inheritance from a long line of tough women. Every person has a domestic life, it is only women who have been defined and limited by it.
I could go on and on about the politics of domesticity but I'm not going to try and tie it all down too neatly. The best thing for me about Mrs Washalot is the meandering gentle pace, the banality, the way that she gives me another lens through which to view things. And she doesn't mind if I whinge when the domestic negotiation process falters or have a moan about the washing and folding. Indeed, I think she expects it. I like her much more than I thought I would.
***Sometimes I have imagined the things I could do if I had a wife to manage the domestic front. However, it's not a job description that appeals to many men, or even if you think closely, to many women. I have huge respect for people that take on "wife work" full time. It's a big job, the pay is lousy and there's not much kudos in it. Given that neither of us has a big career to pursue, we're going for a messier third way. It's not perfect, but then nothing ever is.
***Added later: In my late night rush, I omitted adding a link to Kate's post, the one that got me thinking and prompted the response from ozconservative. Go have a read here, it's brilliant.