I heard that Michelle Obama was once being teased by her children about not being a very good cook, and responding that being a great cook wasn’t her purpose. I tried to verify this and couldn’t find it. But someone must have said it, and I like it. I’d like to apply it to housework, if I could just bear to stop doing it. Housework is my Achilles’ heel. I don’t suffer from ‘mum guilt’, generally, or many of the other things working mothers specifically struggle with, but what does drag me down is the amount of hours I’m compelled to sink into housework.
My idol Laura Vanderkam says, ‘the house will just get dirty again’, and it’s the one thing she says that I can’t fully endorse. I’m very affected by my surroundings, I feel like, and it makes me stressed and anxious to be around mess, disorder and ugliness, and conversely it makes me relaxed and almost purringly happy to be somewhere lovely. Worries melt away when you can gaze upon a spotless table.
I am that corny.
The sort-of ceasefire I have found in the war of Housework v Higher-value Pastimes is that I will do enough to keep us in clean dishes and clothes, and while I would rather be doing something actually fun / educational / beneficial in the long term, I’m focusing on the twin benefits of being able to listen to podcasts while I do it and also the, you know, it looking like a human habitation instead of one belonging to a different mammal altogether.
I’m particularly pleased when one of these podcasts comes up in my listening queue:
- Best-Laid Plans by Sarah Hart-Unger. Podcast about planning, planners and everything planning-adjacent.
- The Dream. Started out as a reportage on MLMs in the first season and then branched out into other scams. Really interesting and they take angles I wouldn’t have thought of. Good drama level too.
- The Rest Is History. I don’t generally go for educational podcasts but this one is excellent. The hosts, two historians, chat to each other about a topic rather than it being a scripted lecture. Go for the banter, stay for the impersonations.
- Best of Both Worlds with Laura Vanderkam, aforementioned idol, and Sarah Hart-Unger, aforementioned podcast host of Best-Laid Plans. About work / life balance.
- Deep Questions with Cal Newport. Deep work, the deep life, ‘slow productivity’. Nice mix of him pondering his philosophy of life and work, work culture more widely and more practical aspects of getting things done.
- Writing Class Radio. People read their true stories and two writing teachers give critiques. It’s really good both from the point of view of learning to write better and also the stories are always interesting.
- Where Should We Begin? by Esther Perel. She is a couples’ therapist and amazingly talented at seeing what people’s issues stem from.