I've been thinking a lot about domesticity and such, lately. More specifically, how bad I am most of it, and how stay at home moms really need to enjoy much more credit than they currently seem to earn.
It all began because of the whole unemployment thing. Much like my husband, I've always been absolutely hopeless at housework. We can throw a great dinner party, but the two of us are terrible at maintaining even a modicum of neatness. Granted, we live in a tiny house with pets and way too much stuff, but even if we lived in a place three times the size, we'd still live in a whirlwind of crap. It's just the way we are, especially when both of us are working. We're not proud of it, it's embarrassing when my father draws a happy face in the dust on the t.v. screen each and every time he comes over, but it sort of just became the status quo.
However, when my contract ended and I realized I'd be home for some time, I decided there was no excuse for living in chaos. I had grand plans for a massive spring cleaning, including repainting the bedroom (which I have done) and making sense of the office/spare bedroom (which I have not mustered the will to do...yet) and finally ridding the basement of all kinds of unnecessary crap, as well as getting the garden ready for the summer, planting vegetables, staying on top of the mountain of ironing (we really need to start wearing more jersey and less broadcloth) and making a gorgeous dinner every night.
It took me a few weeks to get out of the habit of staying up all night reading and sleeping in half the day (left to my own devices, I revert entirely to my undergraduate ways), and it took a few more to get out of the habit of listlessly shuffling through the mess every morning and then deciding to go out for coffee with my non-working friends instead. It wasn't good, but eventually the level of household chaos got to me and I reaffirmed my commitment to living like a grown-up.
Which is when I realized how much bloody, bloody work it is to keep a house (even this one, which could double as a set for The Borrowers) tidy and pleasant. Some of it, such as cooking, baking and most gardening, are joyously creative and provide enormous satisfaction. But a lot of it is dull, dirty, and often strenuous work. And the thing is, it never ends. I no sooner have the bathroom spotless, for example, than little drifts of shed pet hair begins to eddy about in the white-tiled corners. The livingroom is cleaned thoroughly and then, like magic, tiny piles of receipts and bits of mail begin to pile up on various surfaces. The neverending cycle of laundry is another thing -- apparently, without thinking, the husband and I have become serious clotheshorses and the ironing pile reaches about 6 feet in height if I don't stay on top of it. And the dust! I know that living in an industrial city means extra dirt but for the love of pete, what is with all the dust???
So, as I work my way through the house, a cyclone of mess, often leaving the rooms I've cleaned looking slightly worse for wear, it occurs to me that this job would be that much harder if we added children to the equation. Can you imagine? Any child of mine would end up looking like that Pig Pen character from the Snoopy comics, abuzz with wavy lines of smells and dirt, whether it wanted to or not. Surely, I'd eventually develop enough of a routine to keep us out of the diphtheria zone, but I fear the child would be off to university before I managed it.
I blame myself entirely, of course. When I was growing up, my mum was always at home and I realize now that I never really paid attention to all she did to keep the house running smoothly. Not that I took her for granted, but I just didn't pay enough attention to the mechanics of running a household. Now, however, I'm beginning to appreciate just how hard it is to keep things spotless while also having enough time to do the things you truly love.