We had the opportunity to speak to comedian/singer/radio presenter/mum Em Rusciano about her role as 'house cleaner'. Em is the brand ambassador for Bref, a line of toilet care products being launched in Australia. As part of this, Em is getting the opportunity to bring awareness to how women (especially mothers) are portrayed by advertisers and the media and also to spread her message that it's ok not to be a domesticated goddess.
AMN: Do you have a go to line when people make the comment: ‘but you are at home all day what do you do?’
Em: My go to line is not really suitable to print. Sometimes I just say “ohh nothing I just sit on the couch and watch TV.” I work from home when I’m not on tour so people think that I’m available to do jobs for them. My husband will often ask me to run errands for him, no babe I can't drop your bike off to the repair shop I’m on a writing deadline. “But you’re at home” - he’ll protest. Sometimes I think it would be easier to pretend to hire an office space and say I’m there all day.
AMN: What does a 2016 supermum look like?
Em: There isn’t just one image of what the modern day mum looks like and that’s the problem with the stereotype. Advertising depicts us as having a basket of perfectly ironed clothes and a perfectly clean kitchen. Only we’re not perfect. Sometimes we’re targeted as mothers first and people second when it should be the other way around. All of us were exciting ladies pre-children, we danced and travelled and showered each day! I think Mother’s need to be reminded of that as do advertisers. If you remember to look after the person you are separate to the children then I believe you’ll be a far better and happier Mother.
AMN: Do you feel pressured to tidy up before you have guests?
Em: Yes. The kids always know when someone is coming over because I walk around the house yelling at them to tidy up. I think it comes from my grandmother; the fact that I need to have a clean house for company. There is no in-between with my house it either looks like a display home after spending 5 hours cleaning ready for guests or it looks like a hovel. People comment on how clean my house is but they don’t know the hard work that has gone on behind the scenes.
AMN: Is there a level of mess that is more acceptable? Are having the kids toys lying around better than having dirty dishes in the kitchen?
Em: Yes. Kids aren’t going to remember whether the house was clean or not when they were growing up. What they will remember is you getting down on the floor and playing with them. Sometimes I do feel bad that my husband is coming home to a messy house but then I remember that it’s not 1950 and if he so desires he can pop a dish away.
AMN: Do you ever feel judged for not having as tidy house?
Em: Only by myself, which is ridiculous. Sometimes I’ll walk around among the chaos and feel like an utter failure, I’m trying to be less tough on myself though and the children are at an age where they can take over a lot of the housework- in exchange for cold hard cash of course! I grew up with very busy parents, my mum worked full time and studied at uni and Dad had 2 jobs so our house was not always perfectly tidy.
AMN: What is your best cleaning hack for when you need to tidy up in a hurry?
Em: I pick one room and focus on tidying it it. When my guests arrive, I usher them into that one room and don’t let them leave. I hold them hostage in a friendly fashion. I grab everything else and put it in another room and shut the door. I always make sure the toilet is clean, especially when I know the kids have been in there. Although I do try and get them to make sure the toilet is clean after they use it. I tell them if you are old enough to flush, you're old enough to brush. Before I have people over I will drop in a Bref ball for some extra freshness (See how casually I just dropped that Bref reference in?!)
AMN: What can we do to challenge the stereotype that cleaning the house is a woman’s job?
Em: We can demand more from people selling us cleaning products. Social media is a great tool to get yourself heard. But allowing women to be portrayed in a more realistic light will go some way to achieving this. That’s what I enjoyed so much about this Bref campaign. I had pretty much free reign on how to go about it. I got to poke fun at how advertising portrays women and their role around the house.
Watch ‘Tips for a Happy Home with Em Rusciano’ which parodies the outdated stereotypes of a 1950’s domestic world.