The Situationist

The Situation of Messiness

Posted by The Situationist Staff on August 5, 2009

Messy KitchenMelissa Kossler Dutton has an interesting article, “Letting it Slide,” (for AP) on changing standards of house cleaning.  Here are some excerpts.

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When Amy Herendeen first became a stay-at-home mom, she dedicated a lot of time and effort to keeping house. But the chores were often interrupted by her daughter’s needs. Trying to be the “perfect housewife” and take care of an infant left her feeling frustrated and angry.

So she changed her priorities.

“I didn’t quit my job to stay home to clean house,” said Herendeen, 31, of Manchester, Mo. “My daughter is my job. I am a stay-at-home mom, not a maid.”

Now Herendeen strives for a house that’s clean enough — meaning the bathrooms and kitchen are clean and the house appears tidy. But she doesn’t spend a lot of time scrubbing floors, washing windows or deep cleaning. And she doesn’t feel guilty if the laundry doesn’t get done.

Many people are making peace with messier lives, casting off the expectations they grew up with. Busy careers, super-scheduled children and less interest in housework have contributed to the new mindset.

“Over time, housekeeping standards have lowered,” said Francine Deutsch, a social psychologist at Mount Holyoke College, in South Hadley, Mass. “There’s no question about that.”

And while houses might not be as clean as they were a generation ago, that’s OK with today’s women.

“It’s about `what are the standards of my generation?'” Deutsch said. “If push comes to shove, housework is going to go — not child care.”

In fact, mothers devote an average of four more hours a week to tending their children and 14 more hours of paid work than they did 40 years ago, according to a report last year from the Council on Contemporary Families, a non-profit group based at the University of Illinois-Chicago. They do 14 fewer hours of housework a week, the study said.

“I don’t think we really had a choice,” said Alana Morales, a mother of two and author of “Domestically Challenged” (Wyatt-MacKenzie Publishing, 2006). “We don’t have time to wash baseboards every day. You have to learn to let things go.”

Morales said she noticed standards changing about five years ago. Women are realizing, she said, that you don’t have to have a perfect home to be a good mother or wife.

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To read the entire article, discussing some of the ways that families are coping with busier situations and messier homes, click here.  To read a sample of related Situationist posts, see “The Situation of the American Middle Class,” “January Fools’ Day,” “Women’s Situational Bind,” “You Shouldn’t Stereotype Stereotypes,” and “The Space & Place (Situation) of Rural Women.”

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One Response to “The Situation of Messiness”

  1. [...] Greet BoxIn an article by Melissa Kossler Dutton excerpted by The Situationist in staff post “The Situation of Messiness“: mothers devote an average of four more hours a week to tending their children and 14 more [...]

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