9 Aug 2022

Separating motherhood from housework

From Afternoons, 3:10 pm on 9 August 2022

It's not a moral failure - it's just laundry.

That realisation helped American woman KC Davis cope with feeling overwhelmed by housework after the birth of her second child during lockdown.

"My house owned me. I was just running around serving my house," she tells Jesse Mulligan.

KC Davis

KC Davis Photo: supplied

As a therapist, KC knew what she needed wasn't advice about the magic of tidying, she needed to stop judging herself.

She shares housekeeping tips and candid videos of her "real" house with 1.4 million followers on TikTok and has a new book called How to Keep House While Drowning.

KC says her social media followers often report the same thing - they thought they were the only ones feeling like a pinball endlessly bouncing between domestic tasks.

For many of us, not keeping up with housework is a huge source of shame, she says, and from that feeling, it's a "real short road" to a paralysing sense of being unlovable and unworthy.

Shame, instead of motivating us, is actually the enemy of functioning, KC says.

"When people internalise the idea that their main problem is that they're lazy… they just sort of sit there and beat themselves up while everything piles up around them. It doesn't really help.

"The way that we talk to ourselves during these daily activities absolutely impacts our overall mental health."

Brushing her own teeth was the hardest thing for KC to get done in the months after having a baby.

Personal hygiene tasks are what people feel the most shame about, she says, and her most popular videos are about how to tackle "barriers" to doing them.

"There are so many reasons why brushing your teeth might be something you avoid - it could be a sensory issue, maybe you don't like the taste of mint, maybe it is that you have small kids and you don't have a morning routine anymore."

Mask-wearing during the pandemic made many people even less motivated to brush their teeth, especially those, like KC, who have ADHD.

"People with ADHD really struggle with internal motivation so when the external motivation got removed from that task a lot of people were struggling to make that a part of their routine."

That said, we all have "bottlenecks" in our domestic workflow and KC has found being realistic about your own barriers to specific tasks is more effective than telling yourself to "just try harder".

"Give yourself permission to treat your barriers as though they're legitimate - as you would with a broken leg."

The task KC always especially struggled with and procrastinated on was folding laundry.

When she realised it was totally fine to skip it, she created a family closet where everyone had their own bin of (unfolded) clothing.

Like many parents, KC also used to feel that when the children went to bed she had to choose between cleaning and resting.

Now each night she performs "closing duties", doing only what's needed to enable functioning in the morning, i.e. clearing enough counter space and washing enough dishes to make breakfast.

Domestic tasks have nothing to do with whether you're a good or bad person.

"It is no reflection on your character or goodness or validity."


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