The XX Factor

The Kind of “Bad Parenting” I Can Get Behind

Tracy Hahn-Burkett has an essay in Babble today about her rarely clean house. Reading it, I felt as though I could have written it myself. I hate clearning. Last Sunday, after I spent an hour doing dishes (I think they multiply like rabbits if you let them sit overnight) and then cleaned the master bath and master bedroom, I marched up to my husband and asked him, “Are we going to dinner, or is it coming to us?” Mostly because there was no way I was going to make another mess that had to be cleaned up.

At the same time, I hate the idea of a messy house. Seeing mail and school papers and toys and books pile up on the kitchen island drives me batty. Especially when I have to shove them out of the way to serve breakfast.

One legitimate reason I want to keep the place clean is that I want to teach my boys how to do chores so they won’t think it’s “women’s work” when they’re grown and married. But I really think that, sometimes at least, part of my aversion to a messy house is that I’m only worried about what other people-and by which I mean other women-would think if they were to pop over unannounced. So, unlike Hahn-Burkett, if I know I’m going to have guests, I turn into a cleaning-or at least a straightening-crazy-woman. Am I alone in my madness, or is this something else we do to ourselves to help project that superwoman image: “I can work and raise the kids and keep my house spotless. What, you can’t?”