Tuesday, April 10, 2007

A woman's touch and the guilt factor

DEAR GRANNY, please read no further if you don’t want to disown me, because I have a very serious confession to make. I’ve organised a cleaner to keep my house in order.
Although I know it will make my life 101 times easier I am experiencing a degree of guilt over the whole shebang because my granny managed to keep her house like a new pin with 10 wains running under her feet. In theory, having only the one wain, I have no excuse. (Although in terms of mess creation my other half counts for at least three wains and, apart from washing the odd cup and the occasional wheeling of the blue bin to the pavement, does not contribute to the overall maintenance of Chez Allan).
But over the past few months the task of keeping my house looking half decent has become somewhat of a burden. It’s no secret I have dreams of having a house that would look perfect in the pages of the Next Directory, but at the the moment it bears more of a resemblance to the before shots of an episode of ‘How Clean is Your House’ with Kim and Aggie. * I can manage to keep it tidy.
On occasion I do a blitz and it looks great. We’ve just repainted the two living rooms (My preferred form of cleaning- just paint over the dirt rather than clean) and done a few other home improvements. I have even decluttered the understairs cupboard which bore more than a passing resemblance to Monica’s ‘cupboard of shame’ in ‘Friends’. The wee man’s toys have been tidied, sorted and those which he has grown out of have been shipped off to the charity shop or dump and yet my house seems to have been rebelling against my attempts to make it ship shape. It has developed a Forth Bridge mentality in that no sooner have I reached the end of my cleaning efforts that I find a film of dust on top of the TV and a suspicious juice/ milk/ water/ pee pees** type stain on the laminate flooring and I have to start all over again.
Perhaps I am copping out by hiring a cleaner. I mean, if my granny with 10 wains managed it, and my mammy with four wains managed it and almost everyone I know (with or without wains) manages it, then why can’t I? The answer, as I see it, is simple. (And no, it’s not that I’m bone lazy and would prefer to spend my free time drooling over Mike and Tom in ‘Desperate Housewives’ *** ). I work hard, and I work long hours. When I get home the last thing I want to do is throw a mop around the floors. I want to spend time with my son. I want to chat with him about his day. I want to sit down on the floor and play lorries with him. I want to read to him, brush his teeth and say his prayers and snuggle him before bed time.
And then, when that is done I want to sit down with my laptop and write without noticing a new cobweb in the light fitting, or that the hearth needs a dust. When the weekends come I want to load us all in the car and head out for the day without worrying about the pile of ironing in the Chinese laundry that my kitchen has become or about whether or not the toilet needs bleached. There are those who have said I don’t need to justify my decision, but somehow I can’t help it and I think, looking at it properly, it all comes down to that faithful friend - guilt. I feel guilty that my house isn’t perfect. But then if I make it perfect, I feel guilty that I’m not spending time with my son.
But if I spend the requisite quality time with my son AND make my house perfect, I feel guilty that I’m not writing the way I should, and that my agents/ publishers /bosses at the ‘Journal’ will cast me out of the flock and we will lose our house and have to take up residence under the bridge in a cardboard box. **** Essentially, I feel guilty a lot and I figure that the guilt at hiring a cleaner can’t possibly be as bad as the guilt of being a substandard parent. However, nothing is simple in my life and on Sunday I announced to my husband that there was “no way a cleaner is coming into this house in this state”. Suddenly every smudge and mark seemed magnified 100 fold and I set off to Tesco to stock up on cleaning products. First of all I decluttered and cleaned my cleaning cupboard. Having found and dealt with the source of the foul and mysterious odour at the back of the cupboard, I rearranged my bottles and powders neatly and then set about decluttering the rest of the kitchen. Three bin bags of clutter later, my kitchen was gleaming and now ready for inspection by a cleaning lady. I’ve been told our cleaning lady will start next week, and as I have a few days off over the Easter break, I’m sure that I’ll be able to tackle a few of the other rooms before she arrives. My husband has stood and looked on with bewilderment at my antics, but no Derry woman wants to be shamed by the state of her coving.
I’m sure, however, that I will learn to relax as the weeks pass and maybe, just maybe, the guilt will subside just that little bit.
*It’s not that bad. Honest. I’m exaggerating. If our cleaner is reading this, please don’t let it put you off.
** The pees pees are only very occasional. The wee man is almost entirely potty trained now. Best not to do a taste test though, just in case.
*** Well, again, that’s not entirely true. I do like to drool over Mike and Tom... and Ian too, while we are it. **** Which, in fairness, would be easier to clean than a three bedroomed terraced house.

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