Friday, March 14, 2008

Theories of entropy

We’re having a prelaunch cocktail party tomorrow, for the baby. Because I’m sure he’ll want to know how cool his parents were before he was born and they turned all gouty and stay at home. In honor of the celebration, Will has not only made a cocktail party playlist (20 hours long and counting) but he has also taken to housework.

In a spurt of nesting not seen since just before Caroline was born, Will has been sighted vacuuming the tops of wardrobes, scrubbing obscure bathroom tile and considering mopping the floor. If you were to check the attic shelves today, you would even find them dust free. (Sunday would be another story, plaster walls shed dust at a remarkable rate, demonstrating the second law of thermodynamics with abandon).

This preparty cleanup has impressed our babysitters to no end. Yesterday Marie sat me down and, over our daily coffees, told me what a gem Will was, so clever and hard working yet still willing to dive into house help. From there we jumped into a discussion of nationality differences, and how men’s attitude towards housework seemed to vary from one country to another. After further thought we decided that the political system men grew up under might have more to do with how much they helped around the house rather than their nationality.

Marie said that before World War II, Czech families had a balanced approach to work. Women worked inside the home and took care of the children, men worked hard at work and took care of house maintenance. A balance existed between what they did and no one worked much harder than the other. Then came the war, and the advent of communism, and women were expected to work at home, take care of the children, but also work full time at work. Men were only expected to work at work. This created an imbalance of power between the genders, and led to what Marie calls the "degeneration" of several decades of men.

Before we reached the bottom of our coffee mugs, Marie had concluded that maybe, with the current twenty-something generation, family life would rebalance itself. I agreed and privately told the baby in the belly to get ready to dust with his dada, but not to worry, we had a great sound track ready for him to clean along to.


Anonymous said...

I like it best when they MOP.

Julia said...

My least favorite chore too - it always seems so ineffective and messy. In its place I tend to scrub the floor while chatting on the phone. Will hasn't quite gotten to that point yet. Since I can't scrub any more I think I'll have to call in the professionals soon!

Ellen said...

I just tried to imagine DH mopping... if it would bear any similarity to his vacuuming the end result would be a wet pool in the middle of the floor with a few dabs of water in well intentioned? locations. No worries though, it won't ever come to that...

Karla said...

I've always thought you had a winner in Will, whether or not he mopped. But I think Marie is a bit off on her image of labor division before Communism. Off the top of my head, I think something like 25% of Czech women worked outside the home during the First Republic (no, I'm not going to run and fact-check this just now but somewhere in the dissertation I cite a percentage). There was a lot of discontent about two-income couples, both from the side opposing it in principle and from the side representing the women whose jobs were threatened because their spouses worked. But of course I do agree with Marie that under Communism it was unfair to make both spouses work outside the home and only women do the household work!

Julia said...

I'd really be interested in the stats, because I do hear this theory about communism and housework enough to make finding out what happened beforehand interesting.

Honestly, based on anecdotal evidence, I'm not convinced the balance of power really is readjusting here even for younger generations (women still work outside of the home and do most of the housework), but to be positive I'd like to hope that it does.

What do you think, do you think this type of balance or imbalance could be regime related?