Outsourcing our dirty work

Later this month, I'm seeing a cousin in regional Victoria. On my previous visit just before the pandemic, she mentioned something her mother had told her.

It was that her mother and mine shared a bedroom during their childhood years. Her mother said that my mother was a good student but she was untidy.

According to my observation of the trajectory of their adult lives, that was true. Her mother was in fact the epitome of domestic virtue, and my mother less so.

Thanks to my cousin's anecdote, I have a better understanding of why my mother paid more attention to our education, than cooking and cleaning the house, while we were growing up.

The state of my house suggests that I inherited her instinct. My bookshelves offer plenty of intellectual stimulation, but there is dust and disarray elsewhere.

Last week my brother sent me an article my niece Mahalah Mullins had published in the most recent issue of the Undergraduate Philosophy Journal of Australasia.

The title is 'Life’s a Chore: Menial Household Labour, Aristotle, and the Outsourcing Dilemma'. She explores the 'moral discomfort' associated with 'paying someone to do your dirty work'.

I have reached the stage where I could afford to pay a cleaner to do my dirty work. I have thought about it. But I've concluded that my moral discomfort would be greater than the physical and spiritual comfort of living in a professionally cleaned house.

However, as Mahalah suggests, it's not so much about avoiding moral discomfort as embracing domestic virtue as a positive, in the form of promoting social cohesion and 'well-rounded human flourishing'.

It seems she is using Aristotle to reflect on sharing chores among the members of her student household.

I wish that I had been able to apply such principles to my life as I was studying Aristotle when I was her age.

But I have a companion in my house, and it's not too late for me to employ domestic virtue to achieve greater social cohesion between the two of us.