We had the surrogate family over for Easter lunch yesterday; no pressure really but it meant that my slovenly attitude to housework was at risk of exposure and that the dust on the floors may need more than a gentle push under the sofas.
It’s funny how that works: how you can live in denial like a deliriously contented pig in shit for weeks and the only thing to push your shame button is the judgment from your friends. What’s even stranger is that once I commit to a clean, I get an almost perverse sense of pleasure out of it, and after thirteen house moves since the kids were born – a lifestyle choice they attribute to our general dysfunction – I’m actually not that bad at it.
In general, though, I give pretty much zero fucks when it comes to housework, mainly because I resent the archaic belief that it is “women’s work”, but also because at this age you realise that there are far more interesting ways to fill your time than cleaning the grout between tiles with a toothpick – such as watching Netflix and eating chocolate. NOBODY NOTICES, ANYWAY.
The old man does his share of the housework in our house, but badly, in the hope, I imagine, that his half-skewed attempts will be shameful enough for me to do them next time. So apart from the chores that one does to prevent the whole family coming down with gastro, the bare minimum normally has to suffice in our crib.
I’ve found that “training” is the key. Usually, after six weeks, our bed sheets walk to the laundry of their own accord and “doing their own laundry” is one of the ways I’ve taught the kids about responsibility. So, in theory, all that’s left to do before guests arrive is a quick whizz around the bathrooms to pick up hair and to pop my head in the pantry for a quick head count of the moth population.
I am a tidy person, but cleaning is boring. It was one of the reasons I hated my maternity leave – that expectation that I would have time to clean just because I was incarcerated in the house for long periods of time. The old man might pretend to be clean, but the depth of toast crumbs and nose hair and the tesselating coffee rings on his desk tell a very different story.
Sometimes I think my paternal grandmother would turn in her grave if she saw how far hygiene have been compromised in our house. A mother of the fifties, she was one of those women who took pride in polishing her front doorstep until it gleamed with a brilliance that put everyone else’s in the street to shame. She used to spit on my glasses to clean them, much to my horror. She would be horrified if she knew that I’m the kind of lazy that will wipe the bathroom floor with bath towels in desperation and whose fridge only gets cleaned each time we move house.
Which, fortunately, is often.
But having said all that, the kids have rarely been at death’s door and I have always believed in building up their immunities through exposure to bacteria and dirt. In my opinion, the ‘sniff’ test” is a pretty good guide when it comes to clothes washing, especially since the old man decided that one wash a week is more than adequate. And as young adults, the kids do their own clothes washing these days, even if typically they are at opposing ends of the clean clothes spectrum – while Kurt washes his entire wardrobe every day, NC (for once her mother’s daughter) and ever the most logical of all of us, admits to reversing her undies to stretch the cycle that bit further.