Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Keepin' It Clean

My step-mother called last week and said, “Are you coming home this weekend to help me clean?”

What the hell? I was flabbergasted but managed to hide my true reaction; I even told her I loved her at the end of the call. Maybe I should have told her that it hurt my feelings that she wanted me to come home, not just to visit, but to help her clean. I know she loves me and misses me, but as evidenced by her query, she’s missing my help around the house more than anything else.

I’ve always helped out around the house, and especially now that she’s shown me so much (financial) support as I’ve transitioned to grad school, I want to help her. But I can’t help but be a little bit angry at her for asking me to help clean. My step-brother did his undergraduate degree here at Northern Illinois. She often talks about how he would come home with laundry and she would do it for him. She never does my laundry and I can’t for the life of me picture her calling him and saying, “Will you come home to clean this weekend?”

So because I’m her daughter, her female child, I have to worry about not only adjusting to my new life here on campus, but also housework back home. Maybe I’m overreacting; maybe she’s just working long hours and got a little behind on housework; maybe my father is getting on in age and unable to help her with these duties.

Yeah, right. He’s getting old, but not that old. She wouldn’t expect my father to clean the bathroom or give the kitchen a real scrubbing—she never has, no matter how inconsiderately messy he is. She has scolded me and told me to my face, that, “As a woman, you should want to live in a clean house. Women prefer these things.” I had to look her in the eye, in a rare moment of defiance, and say, “I don’t agree with that. Because I’m a woman I’m supposed to naturally want to clean the bathroom? No way.”

She didn’t come to see things my way during that particular encounter. She believes in clearly defined gender roles. So even though I expressed my views and stood up for myself, I still went upstairs that day and scrubbed the bathroom, just as I did this past weekend. Sigh.

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