I’m really conflicted about my new cleaning lady.
She does a great job, but I’m horribly guilty about letting her work for me. I feel a pang of anxiety every time I watch her polish my floor, carry the washing, tidy the toys, or even put the dishes in the machine.
She’s not an illegal immigrant so I’m not worried about her being hauled off to a detention centre (which incidentally just happened to the cleaning lady of a friend of mine). My cleaner’s English isn’t absolutely fluent yet, but I know for a fact that she’s an Australian citizen.
And not that she’s elderly, like my mother’s ex-cleaning lady. (Honestly, that poor woman must have been 86, I thought she’d expire just walking up the path to the front door). No, this cleaning lady is young and sprightly and full of energy. She can’t wait to get the broom into her hand and start sweeping.
And it’s not that she is overqualified for the job – you know, a paediatric neurosurgeon from Bosnia who can’t get her degree recognised here. She has absolutely no formal qualifications; in fact, she hasn’t even finished school.
Well, actually, she hasn’t even started school.
You see, she’s only two years old.
Yes, my latest cleaning lady is my very own daughter, a vision in her pink skirt, flower top, and yellow rubber gloves.
It’s her latest obsession. Toddler loves to clean. Give her a messy floor and she’ll sweep it. Give her a puddle of water and she’ll sponge it. Give her a box of blocks, and she’ll tip them onto the floor, only to put them back again.
Look, don’t get me wrong, one part of me is utterly ecstatic about this turn of affairs. The problem is, her new interest kind of clashes with my feminist tendencies, and the values I am trying to instill in my children.
My son, at the age of ten, has still never voluntarily cleaned anything in his life, not even his teeth. Honestly, the child expects a treat just for putting his feet into his shoes in the morning.
But my other daughter, now eight, also seems to have been struck by the tidy fairy. What’s more, she is quite the stickler for detail. Just the other day, for example, my husband walked into Pinkela’s room to find her surrounded by piles of clothes which she had pulled from the drawers in her wardrobe. He was about to discipline her, when he noticed that she was conscientiously folding each item of clothing and returning it to its rightful place. She simply hadn’t been satisfied with the way that I had done it.
So here I am, trying to teach my kids about gender equality, as my son runs around the house ridding the world of imaginary enemies, whilst my daughters run around the house ridding the world of imaginary stains.
How do I resolve this conflict? Do I encourage Toddler in her newfound hobby, ignoring the cries of my feminist conscience? Or do I prise the scourer from her hands, and try to interest her in a family game of Sword-Fighting Car-Worshipping Devil Monsters from AFL Hell?
Then again, perhaps there’s no conflict at all. It’s possible that I can have my cake, and get my girls to brush away the crumbs, too.
After all, isn’t feminism about a woman’s right to choose?