About Parenthood

Judging by the Mess

KODAK Digital Still Camera
My mess

I’m feeling a little bit depressed right now because I did a stupid thing today. On impulse I bought a book called “The Home handbook-Quick and Easy Ways to Keep You Home Tidy, Clean and Beautiful” (by Rachel Simhon). I’m not really ruing the cost, it was only €4.99 at the supermarket (although that’s half a kilo of steak or a large chocolate cake). No, it’s because I randomly flicked the book open when I got home and my eye fell upon the section titled Children’s Bedrooms.

Suspended breath, I tentatively read. AH NO. Why oh WHY did I buy this book?! ‘Children’s rooms should (ugh THAT WORD) routinely be cleaned along with the rest of the house (haha) – tidied daily, when the beds are made, and cleaned once a week (bigger HAHA). The housework can be incorporated into play even with very young toddlers…’ I haven’t read any further in that paragraph, I’m feeling waaaay too inadequate, little tears are pricking the corners of my eyes. And it gets worse, I just took another peek at the end of the chapter and guess what? Teddies should be laundered weekly too! I think we have enough teddies between my three girls – and myself (I have a few including an adorable soft pink bunny on our bed, which is not very manly but my DH is an understanding sort), as I was saying, enough to stuff a king sized mattress. So if I laundered them all every week, plus all the sheets, duvet covers and towels and also the clothing plus occasionally the contents of the dressing up box I would definitely need to employ a full time laundress and buy another extra large family sized washing machine. Plus some more tumble dryers as we live in Ireland.

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Actual real-life teenager’s mess

You know, maybe I lied a teesny bit, it wasn’t completely an impulse buy. The truth is I like to read up about stuff. When I was pregnant I read a lots of books about how to be pregnant successfully. Then I read even more books on how to give birth. Mad really seeing that’s only one day’s worth of useful knowledge. And you can read all you like, your body seems to know how to do it anyway and if not the doctors will cleverly help it. Then I read up about breastfeeding, raising babies, being a wonderful wife, teaching art, teaching Bible studies. Anything and everything I want to know more about I read as much as I can. And a book gives the appearance of being more trustworthy than on-line articles, as somebody apart from the author must have thought it was good enough or true enough to publish.

Now housework may sound like a trivial issue but actually I spend quite a bit of my time looking after our household (we have four children, two dogs, two bunnies and two goldfish as well as two giraffes, two porcupines, oh wait sorry, that’s a fella I read about in another book). It’s my primary job so would that not require a certain amount of research and education? If most of my time is occupied by cleaning and tidying and making my home beautiful I’d really and truthfully like to know I’m doing a good job. Maybe that’s my type-A personality kicking in, I’m wanting to be a nerd housewife. The problem is I never went to the university that teaches one how to do the job that takes the most time in my day -with eagerness and joy. I know I didn’t pay much attention growing up about how often toilets should be cleaned. And in fact I grew up in South Africa so my Mum could employ a full time lady to clean our house when I was in high school and I can’t confess to taking too many tips from her.

I really hate housework some days, it is so dreadfully boring and repetitive and thankless. Remarkably it’s taken me most of my life to realise something fairly fundamental. It’s just not in my genes. Ask my Mum, she’ll confirm I’m sixth cousin or something to Catherine Middleton (Duchess of Cambridge), so, all I’m saying is, that could have been me you know. I absolutely know I would be an excellent manager of staff.

Somedays I look at the chaos and ask myself, what do I hate more the mess or clearing the mess? Well I know the answer is usually the mess. The thing is, I can’t do anything until the certain level of the mess is sorted. I am paralysed by the mess!! I need the mess cleared and the fundamental jobs to be done before I can go out and do anything else remotely creative or helpful to anybody else. I do take my work reasonably seriously and it has to be done. Shut up all those people who say housework can wait. It doesn’t, it’s like dough that I forget about in my warm car, it gets bigger and overflows and then takes on a life of it’s own that causes further chaos. If you don’t keep up it smells really bad and nobody would visit. And you’d become lonely. Your children would be miserable as they can never find anything, which mysteriously always seems to be your fault. Your husband may be at the pub a bit more.

So there’s another reason why I bought the book, I need help. But it lied!! The ‘quick and easy bit’ on the cover beguiled me. I get the feeling I’m going to read the book and be left feeling more and more inadequate as I go along. I need to be brave and to be resolved, I need to bring the book round to my friend Hazel so we can support one another in this. I need encouragement to be happy doing the stuff that sucks my joy. Because although I know there is no such thing as quick and easy in any job, I do love it when everything is orderly, it has such a rightness about it that I am nicer to everyone. Job satisfaction sensation overload supreme on those rare days when the beds are stripped and remade without any injury to myself (high bunks and tight mattresses pose a serious threat to the bank of your hands as well as your head on the ceiling). And when I make my bed then really do lie in it, straight away, at 10am, from bed-making exhaustion, I can relish that lovely fresh laundered smell thinking how lovely to take a little nap on the job. Can’t say many bosses would allow you that.

So in about three years time I’ll let you know if the book’s any good. Or you could come and visit and judge for yourself. Although I know you’d never judge me by my housekeeping skills.

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