This is picking up from last week, where I mentioned that Toni Morrison had a housekeeper during her work days — which led to her getting published.
Mind you, she did this because she was writing, but, being Toni Morrison, naturally, she was also employed full time, as she composed her award winning first work.
In other words, she was manifesting Super-womanhood: The single working mother doing all of the other million things that are necessary to make that kind of arrangement work.
I know quite a few superwomen and let me just admit right here and right now: This is not something to aspire to. Quite the opposite.
Sometimes I like to go to my Room of Her Own and take it all off: The clothes, the responsibilities, the expectations, the politics, the gender politics and definitely the damn brassiere and the shoes.
Then I lollygag and read, and read, and watch stuff, and read, and eat, and rest, and think, and read and sleep.
All of which is a part of my particular process of writing that is made possible because I have The World’s Best Housekeeper 2.0 taking care of business.
There is a reason why so many (not all) of us gain the stereotypical reputation of slightly wafty daydreamers. But it eventually kind of pays.
The kicker is that I actually like domestic work as a meditation, and as communion.
Few things bring more satisfaction than taking care of people through food. Cleaning a room, doing dishes, laundry, etc, all come with their own satisfaction in the forms of rhythm and immersion and repetition and even immediate gratification.
However, I can’t do that and be there for the ridiculous social To-do list and also make money and keep my hair twisted and remember which child doesn’t eat which vegetables and are we stocked up on chia seeds? and not lose my mind. Like, Tyler Perry movie nuts.
There are those that can have and do it all. In my society, they are called men. This possibility is subsidised by unpaid and unacknowledged domestic work overwhelmingly performed by women, which is not news because feminists have been talking about this since, well, the loss of the family income.
Hence my love for technology. We all know that women entering the formal labour force seem to depress wages, blah blah blah... Capitalism and, like, that’s why all the domestic machines got invented from the washing machine to the rumba.
The ideal situation is not a complete abdication of housekeeping so much as graduation.
The day will come, fellow Africans, when there will be no one to make your tea. This is why I advocate investing in labour-saving devices for my housekeeper and ultimately myself because at the core of all domestic work is care.
Yes: the real job is care, not mindless repetitive tasks that can be taken for granted.
Domestic workers’ help has allowed many of us women to hold down jobs. In return, we owe them the respect of decent conditions and good wages as we wait for the playing field to level.