I’m coming clean about my aversion to housework
When I approach our shelf of candy-coloured cleaning chemicals, or take the vacuum in my hand, something happens to my attention span. It collapses in on itself like an anemone.
As a cleaner, I exhibit all the worst characteristics in any worker – I’m inefficient, tardy, lacking in initiative and I can’t concentrate on one thing long enough to get it done properly.
So that’s me. As to the other cleaner within the family, I will table the last census as Exhibit A. The census landed like an incendiary device in our household. All thanks to that one little question, which asked Person 1 (me) to calculate the average weekly hours Person 2 (him) spent on domestic work.
The first option you could select was along the lines of “less than, or equal to, 2 hrs”. It wouldn’t be true to say I ticked it without a moment’s hesitation - I spent about five seconds adding things up in my head first.
At this point, it’s only fair to note that, upon hearing of my response to the census, Person 2 labelled my calculation as wildly, if not unconscionably, inaccurate. Whatever. The way I look at is that even if I am 200 per cent wrong - which is a big concession and a lot of wrong - we are still only looking at six hrs a week from Person 2.
Some people get a little help on the domestic front from the wider family. I have friends with relatives who do remarkable things like walk in and start doing some dishes, or independently decide to pop on a load of washing, or even pump out a bit of ironing while they are voluntarily babysitting for you. Relatives like this constitute a strong argument for genetic engineering.
When I started having kids a decade or so ago, I tapped my mum on the shoulder, and I know she’ll be round to help out just as soon as she works out whether to enter the appointment under “home”, “family” or “work” on her BlackBerry.
Since my mother is an ironed table cloth kind of lady though, I know there are days when simply entering my house would offend her sensibilities, and that’s before any of the kids open their mouth. My mother’s coup de grace though was the day she did actually come over to lend a hand, and then did not stop walking. She came in the door, did a long loop through the battlefield, and then walked right back out.
By my reckoning, if a person who is a cleaning dud pairs up with a cleaning star, its going to end up in one of two ways – martyrdom or simmering resentment. So in this respect, at least, I am glad that both adults in our house are cleaning duds. This can only end up in one way – dirty. Unless, that is, you call in the big guns.
When I was a young, single, corporate pawn, a guy I was seeing was the first to suggest it. One day when he was over at my place he said, “You know you really should think about getting a cleaner”.
He said it in the way a close friend might say, “You know you really should think about getting braces,” or, “You really should get someone to look at that rash”. So although it was, I now see, a pretty damning comment to make, I took it as friendly advice, and I did as he suggested.
A cleaner is, of course, a luxury, and just as habit-forming as any other luxury. But then red meat and professional haircuts are luxuries too. And I will be getting a basin cut in the kitchen and dragging home sacks of bulk legumes before I relinquish Ana.
Ana is universally great. And I don’t actually call her a cleaner. I call her a housekeeper. Not only because I have fantasies about living in a Bronte novel, or any novel with Mr Darcy in it actually. I call her a housekeeper because she keeps our house from descending into chaos. Like a Marlboro-smoking, female Atlas she holds us aloft.
Ana has only one major catch. She has more relatives in Europe than Queen Elizabeth. And they all want her to visit. This involves regular epic European vacations. These protracted trips are always grave news for us. But when a six foot tall, Slavic woman with steely blue eyes and cheekbones that enter the room a few seconds before the rest of her tells you she’s going to Europe on a six week vacation, she’s going to Europe on a six week vacation.
So I’m standing on my own two feet, or kneeling on my own two knees, as the case requires, this summer. This morning I’ve been removing what has to be concentrated pineapple juice (because otherwise it must be urine) off my son’s skirting boards. Then I will deal with the living room where someone has filled a toy aeroplane with rice bubbles. The plane has now discharged its crispy cargo all over the carpet.
A subsequent person has seen fit to walk over most of this breakfast goodness, crushing the bubbles into a fine white powder, and making it look like someone is dealing from our couch. Looking in the laundry I also note that the dog needs to take a right at the coloureds, a left at the whites and execute a small jump over the delicates, in order to find his bed, but he likes the challenge.
After a morning at it, my pansy hands are stinging from the chemicals, because who knows where Persons 2-8 have put the rubber gloves, and my brain is numb. And then the bottle of vodka left on the bench starts whispering to me - every time I pass it on my way from one chore to another.
Finally, I talk back. I tell that loose-living son of a bottle that, “It’s only 2 o’clock, and no, I’m not ready to party.” Then I assure the kids they didn’t hear me talking to anyone and I grab the Preen, by the neck.
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