The Problem With Inviting People Over Is Then You Have To Clean The House

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. mini-pigs-2185058_1920

 

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.

The Fall From Domestic Goddess To Domestic Grossness That Can Happen In Middle Age

Do you ever get those moments when your own domestic grubbiness grosses you the fuck out?

washing-day-1040031_1280

I had one of those last night when I used the grill in the oven for the first time in months and there was that much smoke, I’m surprised the fire brigade didn’t turn up. It was a blinding plume of billowing grey, fatty smoke and it filled the whole apartment, confirmation to the rest of the block that no, I never clean the oven unless I absolutely have to, and yes, there are “grubs” on level 4.

 

Obviously I clean it when we move, or someone is coming over to stay, though…

 

And in my defence, we are in the habit of moving a lot.

 

I’d like to say that blind eye to dirt is some well thought out stand for feminism, a shot at all those men who continue to allow their working wives to take on the bulk of the share of domestic chores, but I admit that it’s more about laziness. I’ve become much more blasé about hygiene since the kids passed the age of dying from some awful gastro-related illness that the police could trace back to me. Added to which, since the old man began working from home and we divided the chores, there’s a kind of mental impasse between us where neither wants to appear subservient to the other by cracking when it comes to unacceptable dirt levels.

 

But the truth is, neither of us really cares anymore and because the apartment is so small we can almost get away with it. If someone threatens to come round, we can knock the space into shape superficially in a matter of minutes…and we know all the tricks.

 

So why aren’t we more methodical? Why are the venetian blinds coated in a layer of dust? Why don’t we clean around the microwave out of habit? Why do the bathrooms only get cleaned when a visible bacterial population begins to hug the plughole?

 

I like to call it prioritising. Because just as those days have passed when the fuck-off house and the latest car model mattered to us, so has the care factor when it comes to a bit of innocuous dust within our four walls. And there are so many more interesting things to do in middle age, like trying new wines and discovering new drama on Netflix.

 

We’re not complete grubs, we’re tidy, probably because we both score highly on the OCD scale, but our standards have definitely slipped. We prefer to spend our time doing things we love. I have my writing, the old man has his golf videos.

 

There is still so much learning to cram into whatever time we have left, so who the fuck cares if the kitchen floor sparkles or the mould is kept at bay in the shower cubicle?

 

 

 

The Male Short Term Memory Issue: A Valid Reason To Nag

You’ll be aware by now that I’m a fervent believer in gender equality and the old man and I have heated discussions on the subject most weeks over a bottle or three of wine. And the one area in our discussions where he really gets to me is when he argues that because women don’t have the same physical strength as men, there are some jobs that women simply can’t do. cleaning-268134_1280

 

So I admit, women probably can’t pull trucks with their bare hands for stupid tv programs such as The World’s Strongest Man. (Remember that?)

 

However, they can fight in wars, build houses and cut down trees and I believe that in all other areas of work, (given the same opportunities), they are equal. Apart from one – because in my experience men have an unfortunate handicap when pitched against women, that of a severely underdeveloped limbic system, the area of the brain responsible for memory.

 

First of all, let me say that this is not a general attack on men (or the old man), more a statement about the ‘nagging’ label that some men assign to women with such onerous ease each time they are asked to do anything something in the house;  and more so because in this age of equality, the old man does his fair share of nagging in our house.

 

However, and it saddens me to admit this, as much as I find the verb offensively belittling and sexist, sometimes the act of nagging is a necessary evil, due to aforementioned genetic mutation that some men are born with when it comes to remembering shit; one which seems to become most noticeably apparent on the domestic front.

 

It should be noted that some scientists believe that selective memory is also a co-morbidity of this serious condition.

 

I’ll give you an example. I have asked the old man, kindly and without raising my voice, for about five years now, not to pour crap down the sink onto the cleaning sponges, as well as explaining to him patiently the reasoning behind my request – in that we use them in the hygienic capacity of keeping the kitchen devoid of bacteria, germs and creepy-crawlies.

 

Yet every day I go to use the dish cloth or sponge, it is soaking in a puddle of unidentifiable ‘kitchen grossness’ that not only turns my stomach, but has the capacity to turn all our stomachs into a bad case of gastro.

 

So, between clenched teeth, I remind him again about the fucking irritation sad disappointment his lack of care causes me, and I will be told to stop nagging – about the same time that a force as powerfully threatening as a platoon of White Walkers climbing over the wall takes over me.

 

Men will always deny they’ve ever been told or shown how to do something foreign to their intuition, of course, or they’ll say it’s not important enough to worry about, or come back at you with helpful suggestions like maybe you should take ownership of the chore, ‘because you’re so much better at it’ than they are. But it’s a ploy, people, a sad little ploy not only to get them out of helping you, but to pass off their share of the chores back onto you.

 

The statistics speak for themselves, when 79% of working mums admit that they do the bulk of the housework.

 

Worse still, we women have been brainwashed to believe that it’s not worth asking, or wrong of us to suggest they help out for fear of that most heinous of accusations, being a nag.

 

Interestingly,  men appear to have a perfectly developed short term memory when it comes to how much money you spent on clothes shopping in any given month.

Helicopter Parents Anonymous and Grated Carrot

My regular readers might remember that the old man and I have been attending what we call ‘Bad Parenting’ classes for some time now, in an attempt to get our son ‘out of the woods’. Kurt might have his own inherent issues due to his ADHD, but as we are consistently reminded, ADHD is no excuse for bad behavior.

carrots-vegetable-mustache_MJk0ZyDu_L
So we’ve had to look at different approaches to how we parent him, because some kids simply don’t respond to the normal methods.

Recently, our psychologist recommended the Love And Logic style of parenting, which for me has been more enlightening than screw-top wine bottles. 

Love and Logic parenting divides parents into three sub-types: the helicopter parent, the drill sergeant parent and the consultant parent.

(My regular readers might also be aware that I am a fully paid-up member of Helicopter Parents Anonymous, too).

My own mother was a Drill Sergeant parent, as most parents of her generation were; added to which she was a single, working mother with three children and so really didn’t have time for no shit.

But when we parents from Generation X had our babies, we were the guinea pigs for a new style of parenting where you didn’t smack your children or shout at them, rather you praised everything they did (even if they were crap at it) to raise our children’s confidence and self-esteem out of love, rather than fear.

And the whirring overhead became deafening very quickly.

‘Helicoptering’, as a parenting method is more commonplace now than you think. I see the danger signs of it every morning when I watch mothers of primary school kids carry their kids school bags and I was horribly guilty of it myself when I used to take Kurt’s forgotten lunch into school for him, write the school letters to excuse him from sport and when I won (hands down!) all those Head Teachers Awards for THE BEST FUCKING PROJECTS.

But we ‘helicopters’ are naïve to think that we are supporting our kids by enabling them in this way, when in fact what we in danger of doing is hindering their growth and independence, which ultimately makes them less confident.

‘Consultative parenting’ is the ideal approach in the eyes of Love and Logic. This style of parenting is about showing love and support at all times, not shouting or over-reacting and using consequences instead of punishments. Acting as a consultant to your kids allows them to think for themselves, make their own decisions and mistakes and learn independence.

Which is great in theory…although the journey to success can be fraught at times.

I was very lazy when it came to getting our kids to contribute to household chores. When they were younger, I worked part-time so I had time not to have to deal with the moans and groans, the half-baked attempts and the inevitability of having to do those chores all over again myself.

But with our psychologist’s recommendations haunting our every waking hour, these days the old man and I are encouraging our kids to be independent and to do as much for themselves as possible.

In this particular area, Kurt is a model child, thanks to his OCD – in fact we have to book time slots with him as to when we can use the washing machine. And at twenty-one, NC is obviously not a child anymore, but as a student she still lives at home. Because NC has a part-time ‘proper’ job, is studying a full time science degree, is away every other weekend discussing the Earth’s orbit with NB (who I think I will rename from now as The Astronaut), (and I don’t want anyone to tread on the House Bitch’s toes), I have been slack about insisting on how much she does around the house.

She has changed her own bed linen for a while, although she is happy to leave it until it walks itself to the laundry. She does her own laundry – until the old man caves in when he can no longer relocate the carpet in her room under the thick layer of dirty undies that have begun to take root. And recently, she has started cooking for herself because she wants to eat more healthily than the old man’s nightly offerings of meat and rice in a different sauce.

But sometimes I question if the devastation in the kitchen afterwards is really worth it!. This morning I entered the kitchen to what looked like the after-effects of a grated carrot hurricane. There is no bigger EWWWWW! in my book than treading on food mulch in bare feet, first thing in the morning. Not only that, in spite of being a scientist, NC has unfortunately inherited her father’s oblivion to bench top microbes.

While I don’t want to nag her, mainly because I don’t want her to strop off, never cook for herself again or stab us in our sleep lose confidence, a Love and Logic approach might be to go into her room and have a grated carrot dance together so she can see how much it compromises my OCD to find grated carrot in my cup of tea.

And one of the other recommendations Love and Logic offers us desperate parents is how to communicate with your child. Rather than an accusing ‘WHICH FUCKER SPRAYED GRATED CARROT AROUND MY CLEAN KITCHEN?’, what I should say is something along the lines of, ‘Darling, you know how silly my OCD makes me and how although grated carrot in my tea shouldn’t bother me, IT DOES, so can we find a solution to your grating technique so that all the carrot lands in your salad?’

Still working on it.

My Husband, The House Bitch

An interloper has moved into our apartment. The teens annual Christmas wish of a cleaning fairy has finally come true, and albeit a welcome addition to the family, this new situation is making me feel strangely uneasy.

My Husband, The House Bitch
Cleaning Day by Jaymie Koroluk at http://www.flickr.com

Obviously, I’m grateful that the old man has taken over the major share of the domestic chores, but it takes some getting used to, seeing your partner in SUCH a different, less conventional role.

And frankly, I’m still a bit unsure about the pink rubber gloves.

For most of our relationship he has been my predictable caveman, a man who feigned not to know how to use the oven, and consistently used the ‘but you do it so much better’ excuse whenever I asked him to do anything domestic.

I thought he’d carry on the cleaning strategy I had cultivated – on a needs-must basis, or in other words, when people are coming around. I thought he’d pick up on my specialty of the ‘superficial’ clean, perhaps tweak it in places, but still run with it.

None of the family are super house-proud. We’re not pigs, but we put ‘living’ over cleanliness and lifestyle over the tedium of cleaning the grime from the microwave and the brown ring around the bath.

Not the old man, it seems.

He interrupts me when I’m Facebooking working to discuss the benefits of the cordless vacuum and eco-friendly cleaning products. He has moved everything around in the kitchen cupboards, so no-one can find anything. One minute you can be having a conversation with him about the benefits of vinegar over bleach down the toilet, and the next moment he’s lost concentration as his sensors pick up a spot on the carpet. Quick as a flash he’s back with the Vanish.

He tries to discuss meal plans for the week with me and looks hurt when I make no contribution. I’ve never created a meal plan in my life, and surely he must know that I don’t give a shit what he cooks, as long as he cooks.

It would be sexist to say that he is no longer the man I married, but something has changed…

Which is strange because I always yearned for a ‘new’, domesticated man, yet the nightmares I keep having of him in a pinny are perplexing. I’m a feminist, I believe in equality, so why does my man going against the traditional stereotype unsettle me so much?

He has become best buddies with the concierge in our building and I catch them giggling in the lift like schoolgirls as they discuss the latest glass-cleaning products and recycling ideas. Next thing I know, they’ll be opening the wine at five o’clock.

Where once my husband would begin conversations with ‘In this meeting today…’, most of his conversation these days start with ‘when I was in Aldi…’, and he bores the pants off me about the price of milk.

Was I really this insular and dull when I was the doing the housework?

Confessions Of The Worst Housewife

It’s been a hellish week at work so I’ve tried that strategy I used to use on the kids when they were toddlers, of ‘ignore them and they might just go away’, but the overflowing laundry basket is particularly persistent at drawing attention to itself and refuses to play ball – which makes me THE WORST HOUSEWIFE EVER.Confessions Of The Worst Housewife

What is it about laundry and that whole reproduction thing it does, particularly during manic work weeks and over-night?

I swear that I got to the half-way mark of the teen basket yesterday and then some asshole in the house decided that it was suddenly okay to change their fucking bedlinen.

FUCKING INCONSIDERATE, in my opinion. NO-ONE puts dirty bedlinen in the basket without permission in my house.

Adding bedlinen to a pile that is already out of control is like adding fat to a fire and my laundry basket already has some evil fertilising night fairy with an agenda and doesn’t need any allies. Which is why you have to get permission to change your bedlinen in our house; and permission only gets given if there’s enough wine in the house to ease the pain, it’s sunny outside or I can increase my medication.

The worst offender is Kurt, who is ODD and needs to change his clothes at least four times after school, thinks it’s a far better idea to put clean-ish bath towels towels in the laundry basket than re-hanging them (FUCK! SHIT! BOLLOCKS!) and has an irritating habit of dropping CoCo Pop milk down every clean shirt he puts on – although the odds are increased because he eats cereal for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

The worst part *deep breath* is sifting through the dry laundry, (and yes I AM AWARE that I’m beginning to sound psychotically housewife technical/anal/vacuous here) – its been a long week. You see, I can manage to get the laundry into the machine on autopilot and then into the dryer with the aid of wine, but once it’s dry I just don’t want to be anywhere near it. Because that involves brain-dead hours of sifting, sorting, matching and putting away and actually, I DO have a brain and there are frankly far more worthwhile things to do with my life, like going on Pinterest and watching The Bachelor.

onfessions Of The Worst HousewifeWhich is why I’ve been forced to resort to foul play this evening. I’ve pulled out ‘key’ dirty clothes from the basket, done the sniff test, carefully re-folded them, got the dog to sit on them for a while for warmth and added them to the ‘clean’ pile. Of course I live in fear of being found out if Kurt finds that giveaway drop of CoCo Pop milk down the front, but if that risk saves my sanity, it’s worth it. 

Father, forgive me for I have sinned. I am THE WORST HOUSEWIFE.

 

 

Sibling Relationships, Where All’s Fair In Love And War

English: A clementine covered with mould
English: A clementine covered with mould (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve mentioned before how like chalk and cheese my two offspring are.

 

One is going to be an ambassador for climate change and studies rocks out of choice (!) whilst the other is going to become an international rock star.

 

And because they are chalk and cheese in both interests and personality (as well as certain neurological conditions), they rarely communicate. NC is three years older than Kurt, and as girls are far more mature than boys, in reality there is approximately nine years of maturity between them.

 

Occasionally you might hear them exchange a ‘fuck off’ or ‘get out of my room’ but that is usually the extent of their relationship, like a lot of siblings I imagine.

 

But last night, family history was created when the two of them collaborated for the first time.

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kurt cobain (Photo credit: nyoin)

 

You see, NC is rolling in money at the moment, after scoring this great job in a local bar where the tips seem particularly generous. SUSPICIOUSLY GENEROUS!. I’ve been meaning to check out exactly what goes on in that bar for a while now, but unless they talk dirty in the language of geology, I don’t think I have too much to worry about.

 

Kurt, on the other hand, is completely broke at the moment because we’ve made the tough love decision to block all his financial resources until he spends his money more responsibly – I’ll leave you to work out what he has been spending it on, but suffice it to say, (and most of you know Kurt), it’s not Coke and lollies.

 

So yesterday, after I had one of those irrational, menopausal outbursts about the state of the pig pen at the back of the house that is NC’s room, (that would be just after I had trodden on the plug of her hair straighteners and spotted a mouldy Big Mac on her desk), she decided that she needed to appease me.

 

Her brother, for all his loveable faults, has one very handy little co-morbidity with his ADHD – he has just enough OCD which means that in general his bedroom is as tidy as a hotel room. He is also paranoid about cockroaches and has been known to break the Olympic record for high jump if one dares to enter our abode.

 

So big sister summonsed little brother into her room. Actually, he stood at the door, holding his nose and turning white while she explained her plan.

 

In short, she would give him $15 if he tidied her room.

 

He had to think about it, of course, but his addiction to nicotine sugar eventually overcame his fear of mould, rancid fruit, vintage water bottles and girl germs and within five minutes he had agreed.

 

There were a lot of retching noises to come out of that room during that half an hour but eventually we all heard the comforting sound of the vacuum and we knew that Kurt had earned his money.

 

I have obviously passed on some valuable life lessons to my kids. Kurt has finally learnt that you do need money to survive and that learning how to vacuum is a plus for appeasing the opposite sex, (before you get discovered and become a famous rockstar) and NC has honed the managerial skills she has been working on her parents for years.

 

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I’ve Lied To My Husband For Twenty Years

No, this is not a headline from the Sunday Telegraph. I have something I need to admit to my husband.

You see, as I write this post, the old man is winging his way back from the UK. He is without a doubt watching all the films I will want to see at the cinema over the next six months, and munching and drinking his way through all the freebie peanuts, chips and alcohol available, (because what else do you do on a 24 hour flight?), which means he’ll refuse to go out to dinner for ages too.

I, on the other hand, have spent the past eight hours cleaning the house, from top to bottom, in an attempt to return our home to the state he left it in before Kurt and I got into our student groove.

You see, I have been lying to my husband for the last twenty years about who I really am and how I naturally like to live.

The word ‘feral’ springs to mind.

When I think back to the past ten days of cohabitation with Kurt, scenes from Feris Bueller’s Day Off spring to mind.

It’s not that Kurt and I are physically unclean people. We shower. We know how to use the dishwasher. But let’s just say that we’re not as anal about stuff that doesn’t interest us.

Like tidying up. Putting things away. Organisation.

In our defence, the old man is an accountant and thinks and breathes organisation, filing, minimisation and order – it’s what he does best – which is why we need him. He often tells us proudly, about how his desk is completely clear of clutter at work – and we smile sympathetically. Kurt and I, on the other hand, have a preference for the right side of our brain, where randomness and creativity hold court over boring shit like tidying. Numbers, logic and over-analysis bore the pants off us.

In the words of Cyndi Lauper, given the choice, ‘we just want to have fun.’

Left to our own devices, we become modern-day hippies who bury our heads in the sand, and are happy to celebrate life and deal with the consequences later.

Add to the mix that wonderful ADHD trait of distraction, and although we might plan to clean up after ourselves – LATER – if something more interesting grabs our attention, we tend to veer off task horribly.

So while the cat has been away, the mice might have been a bit lax about things that aren’t as important to them.

Such as:

  • Opening the mailbox, its contents and filing. I am of the opinion that anything I really need to address these days comes in the form of a text, an email, on Facebook or Twitter, so I am not interested in what comes via the mailman unless it is the results of my latest online shopping splurge.
  • Eating. Kurt and I eat when we’re hungry rather than the traditional framework of three set meals a day. There hasn’t been lot of food in the house because I’ve been on the FML diet and they sell crackers and tomatoes at the local deli. Kurt eats voraciously off his meds, in which case we have to call in food-aid from the local restaurants, and when he’s on them the only things I can get down his throat are smoothies and one flavor of McCain pizza – usually around 12pm at night.
  • Putting things away. I hadn’t realised quite how slobbish I can become but I went into serious ‘writer’ mode while the old man was away and prioritised catching up on ‘the book’ and ignoring what didn’t need to be done. How I made the call on what needed to be done was simple – I simply asked myself this question: ‘will it physically kill us if I don’t do this? Putting away piles of discarded clothes didn’t make the cut, neither did clothes washing, linen washing, opening blinds or vacuuming. Luckily for the Princess, she managed to survive on Kurt’s scraps which I think has been a good learning curve for her – how to fend for herself like real Spoodles that live in the wild.
  • Any of my bad habits that really piss the old man off such as all of the above as well as staying in my dressing gown until midday, eating out of tins (and preferably in front of the tv), not cooking anything that isn’t microwaveable, stretching my legs wildly across the bed and making it a goal to have all the covers on my side by morning, reading in bed until the wee hours even if I have to resort to copious amounts of caffeine, snoring super LOUDLY, living in my joggers and proudly converting our house into a student slum.

So inevitably, the atmosphere in the house this morning was absolute panic when Kurt and I looked at each other across the breakfast table and realised that we had to somehow completely eradicate all evidence of our ten-day music/writing/lazy festival, before Mr Mature walked through the door and judgment day began.

We metamorphosed into those busy mice from Cinderella, minus silly voices and nauseating songs. 

Immature, I know. I’ve surprised myself at how well I’ve managed to conceal the real me, (which is obviously a teenager), thus far. The old man’s impending return to the house created the same fear that my father used to cultivate when he came home and caught me smoking out of my bedroom window.

Marriage can do that to you – it can make you lose your true identity. I think the marriage guidance books call it ‘compromising’, and in my case, it has probably been for the best.

More worrying (and perhaps a touch Freudian) is the question of when exactly I began to think of the old man as my father?

What lie have you managed to hide from your partner?