OPINION EXCHANGE | Counterpoint: Spirit of service finds dignity in housework – Minneapolis Star Tribune

In “The gender inequity of a clean household” (Variety, Nov. 21), Laura Yuen claims: “There is no task more soul-extinguishing than folding clothes … .”
I counter that there will always be dreaded tasks. Yet why should someone else want to do the work I dread? Could there be a hidden dignity I miss?
Dr. Kevin Majeres, a Harvard Medical School faculty member, proposes three keys to transforming work in his OptimalWork Master Class. These three keys are: reframing, mindfulness and challenge.
Looking at household chores with these three keys in mind, folding clothes will not be “soul-extinguishing,” unless I waste the opportunity.
The minutes I spend folding laundry are a real part of my life. If I prefer to have unwrinkled clothing, then it is a job that needs to be done. If I dread the task, I need to ask myself, “How can I have a ‘can do’ attitude about this task?”
I can reframe the task as a way to serve my family. Then, being mindful, I can focus on the task by turning off the television or podcast. Lastly, I can challenge myself. Can I do the task better by turning all the socks right-side out? Could I pray for or think kind thoughts about the person whose clothes I am folding, even when folding my own clothing?
The problem is not the task; the problem is the way it is approached.
If a task loses its dignity for me, I should not pass it off. Instead, I ought to give it my full attention and find its value. Then, I can continue to do the work myself or delegate that work and its value to someone else.
Calling folding laundry, or any other kind of housework, “soul-extinguishing” or a “drudgery” is missing the dignity of the work that needs to be done.
Now to the larger argument that housework is hindering the gender revolution.
A home is not an accident. It is set up by someone with a purpose. My husband and I consider our home a joint project. How we feel about the work does not change the fact that it needs to be done and has dignity.
The columnist posits that “moral judgment could be in part what drives women to still carry most of the load of housework drudgery.” I have already argued that housework should not be labeled as “drudgery.” I now want to address the “moral judgment” the columnist admits to fearing.
A home, especially one with children, will, I hope, have a lived-in feel to it. Toys will be played with. Flour will probably end up on the floor. A home should show signs that people live there, but it should not be neglected. Signs of neglect deserve the brunt of moral judgment because responsibility has been neglected; but signs that people live in the home should be appreciated.
A home’s purpose is not display or perfection. Homes are meant to house people.
This being said, everyone in the home should, according to ability, help care for it. If a woman is bearing the majority of the work while her family sits idly by, something is wrong, not with the work, but with the training of the household members. It is not a matter of who does which chores, but that all members take part.
Children learn what it means to be an adult by watching and imitating their parents. Will they learn that it is OK to sit by and watch others work, or will they learn to take part, no matter what work is being done? This is not a problem of the “gender revolution.” This is a problem of learning the value of work, especially work in the home.
Our society tends to value work in an individualistic way. We ask, “Does this work give me a sense of self-fulfillment?” This is not the proper question. The proper question is, “How am I serving and loving the people around me?”
Service and love should define everyone’s work. And the perfect place to learn to work, motivated by service and love, is in the home.
Lucile Foley lives in West St. Paul.
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