Have you ever wondered what would happen if you just stopped? Stopped doing the mindless chores that keep your household from tipping into chaos (or at least disarray)? Stopped begging for the various people who live with you to pitch in (and then, when they do, say, bring a dish to the sink, to act as if they deserve a prize ribbon)?
One mother on Twitter decided to find out. On March 15, user @MissPotkin went on a cleaning strike and the ensuing showdown went viral. She begin her sage with a photo of a countertop covered in dirty bowls with the message, “Two days ago, I decided to stop doing the dishes. I make all the dinners and I am tired of having to do all the cleaning too. SINCE THEN this pile has appeared and at some point they are going to run out of spoons and cups and plates. Who will blink first? Not me.”
It’s an adventure that should come with a trigger warning for parents like me who are oh so done with the household micro aggressions of a plate left on the counter and, worst of all, the “sausage of death” left to rot in a frying pan.
After her initial decision to stop cleaning for her family (our heroine never identifies whether she’s talking about children or a spouse, but I think it’s safe to assume at least a few male offspring), Miss Potkin stood her ground. And just as she predicted, her family initially didn’t acknowledge the pile of dishes. Then there was the laundry. Piles were left by family members in heaps on the floor, making the house look “a bit post apocalyptic.”
Still, she did not budge. Even when one family member finally decided to load the dishwasher, but didn’t turn it on. At that point she reached out to the thousands of followers who were riveted by her cleaning strike to ask, “Do I switch on the dishwasher? It’s killing me. Knowing the dishwasher is full but just sitting there is KILLING ME.” She held strong, perhaps because her followers were in her corner telling her, “absolutely not. You go to a neighbor to eat off a clean dish, and come right back here and continue this thread.”
The dishwasher was eventually turned on. By someone else.
After three full days of refusing to do dishes, laundry, or picking anything up, Miss Potkin declared victory. She shared photos of a sparkling clean house as well as video footage in which a vaccuum could be heard in the background. And the reactions from fellow moms over her brilliant success was real, pure joy.
This pandemic has made it crystal clear that there is an unrealistic expectation for what moms can or should do. Work and clean and tidy — the latter of which I’m convinced is the worst. The constant daily tidy that never ends and seems to go unnoticed. As Miss Potkin wrote in a truly moving tweet, “We keep our homes tidy because love. We cook food and set tables and fill the air with scents of roses and fresh laundry because love. Love is patient but love is also f**king tired because she works 14 hour days.”
Yes, we do all of these things because love. But it’s okay to remind your family to love you right back. By changing the toilet paper roll, for starters.