A clean house?

“Are you really going to vacuum in stead of writing an article?”, my husband said to me before leaving with the kids for school in the Melbourne rain. It is actually a very relevant question. The decision is binary: I either finish up the short communication piece I have been preparing the last days or I vacuum the house, clean the floors, and scrub the bathrooms. I come to think of a Swedish couple we knew – they were both visiting academics here in Melbourne. They had a small child and took turns looking after him equally. BUT, as soon as the child went to sleep after the morning’s activities – HE would jump to his computer and work away until the child woke up again. SHE told me she admired his ability to do so, but she herself could not stand the mess so on her home days she would clean up, start the dishwasher, load the washing machine and then start to work, often just in time for the child to wake up. On her “away for work” days she came home to chaos and helped her husband clean up the mess in the evening. The result? He soon became a professor, she still has not – and they divorced.

The two things couples fight most about is money and cleaning. Since we never fight about money there is plenty of space left for discussing cleaning at a high pitch. This is a new situation because in the past 12 years we have had fantastic au-pairs doing the cleaning both quicker and better than we would and happy to hold a job. So everyone was satisfied. But now what? Here I am, staring at he vacuum cleaner, trying to decide what I want more: a clean house or a published article. Thing is, I want both. Problem is, no one else seems to care about either so it is up to me to fight the urge to clean now and find a way to coax my family into a new lifestyle where we all help out. Wish me good luck with that!

The morning was cold and windy and the kids set off to school in their raincoats above their uniforms. We still think it’s funny to say: “Do you have trouble deciding what to wear?” in the morning. Having uniforms is actually very nice. I cannot count the number of fights I have had with Fanny on what appearance we do and do not have in school at home. Or the number of times I had to ask Johanna to put on summer clothes in the summer and winter clothes in the winter and not the other way around. Here it is all very simple with special summer, winter, and physical education uniforms. Of course, teenagers have a need to express their individuality and Fanny has already learned the tricks of hauling up her uniform skirt without creating a look of being five-months pregnant, and how much makeup she can put on without getting “busted”. The thing is – everyone knows the rules and there is room for other types of expressions for individuality. I see more focus on schoolwork than I ever had in Sweden. I am not saying we should have uniforms there as well, but some very clear guidelines on appearance and conduct rules would probably be useful in setting the agenda: school is a workplace with a focus on learning, not looks, accessories, or attitude.

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