I want my sons to know how to clean.
For many reasons. Some of which are probably scrolling through your thought-ticker right now.
The big one, of course, is that cleaning generally sucks baking soda-covered lemons. And all the chores that add up to the equivalent of a well-run household tend to be things one would not relish doing. And when a smidgen-over-half the population is socialized to equate the masterful performance of said tasks with their femininity, it is a set-up for endless misery and frustration. As well as for economic disparity, creation of an underclass of workers, calcification of gender roles, etc. etc. etc.
I know first-hand, that having a neat, clean, tidy, and organized home would be a lot easier if I didn’t have a desire for our house to be a home. I know my husband feels equally torn, in the balance of what needs to be done and what can be done in a reasonable expenditure of energy and resources. He is amazing compared to men of his generation. He truly can do everything that I can do, in every single area of home and childcare (no, he couldn’t breast feed, but gave the wee creatures their bottles full of breast milk).
He can do everything. He just isn’t driven to. He is not identified with it.
So. A few months ago, in a social experiment in gender parity, I told my sons I was going to show them how to clean the bathrooms. They didn’t have to do anything, but if they wanted to help they could.
And what happened was totally unexpected. There was no groaning. There was no disgust or “ewwww”.
They practically killed themselves trying to be helpful. They were so excited to contribute. They fought over who got to clean the toilet.
I have witnesses, by the way. When they wanted to earn money for holiday presents, I gave them a list of household chores to do under supervision of our amazing friend and babysitter, Heather. Heather said, and I quote, “I have never seen a male of this species so eager to clean a toilet.”
The most important point I would like to extract out of all this has something altogether different about it, though. My experiment quickly went from social to spiritual. I go in to clean the bathroom with an over-thought weariness about me. I carry all of my angst in there. I try to do it perfectly. I hate it. I hate that I hate it.
My kids? Do what all kids do. They made it fun! They brought fun with them, and they enjoyed themselves. Being sensory and alive, they noticed everything about the cleaning products (Method and Mrs. Meyer’s do have a way of making it better). They were fascinated by the systematic way I had made it efficient. They loved doing something new. They turned the spray cleaners into germ-ridden-alien-invader killers.
There was this moment when my youngest went a little nuts with the soap, and I felt my whole body tense up. I watched myself totally mortgage my peace of mind, and joy, and fun, for control, control, misery, more control, hurry up, control.
It felt gross. Way more disgusting to turn my inner light off like that, than to clean the worst toilet in the world.
On earth, we will always be perfectly imperfect. We will always face our conditioning and limitations. That’s part of why we come here, to be fully human, to be exactly that.
But who says we have to cut ourselves off from the Source that channels through us? I can force myself to get stuff done, and experience the impermanent, fleeting satisfaction of a completed task, which I then use to prop up a false identity of some social or personal ideal…..OR, I can become a Freedom-Fighter In The War Against Deranged Inter-Planetary Toilet Zombie Invaders of Doom.
I can push the Sisyphean rock that is laundry uphill every single week, only to have it roll down again, OR I can play the Underpants and Socks Bonanza. That’s the game the boys made up to put away all the underwear. You get points for throwing the clean folded laundry (keep breathing, I must keep breathing) into the appropriate drawer of your dresser. The further back you stand, the higher the score.
The choice is mine. May I take the risk to live joyfully today.