Why I gave up housework

(I’ve been slow getting back to this blog because I couldn’t think of anything interesting to write about. Then I remembered that I used to be able to write lots about absolutely nothing, so decided to give it a whirl. I won’t be offended if you decide to skip it.)

In the early years of my marriage I acknowledged that I would never be a good housekeeper. I mentioned this in a letter to a good friend in the USA. She replied, “Well, I’ve never heard any of my friends say they loved their mother because she was a good housekeeper.” That was good enough for me. I passed the comment on to a friend whose husband had been complaining about her poor housekeeping habits. I also suggested she challenge him to name one fascinating woman who had a tidy house. He couldn’t. I’m sure there are some fascinating women with tidy houses, but I doubt there are many … especially if you turn up unannounced. If you think you’ve found an exception, check for the possibility of paid housekeeping help lurking in the background.

I blame my mother for my poor housekeeping habits. She was a meticulous housekeeper, and my sister and I had to help with the housework. The two of us always did the dishes , made our beds and kept the room we shared tidy, swept floors, and I’m sure there were other tasks I’ve now forgotten, Our two brothers were exempt from all this, which I thought grossly unfair. (I can’t recall their helping Dad with outside work either, but perhaps I just didn’t notice.)

My ‘special’ job was to dust the ledges once a week. This was extraordinarily boring because there was never enough dust to make it worthwhile. Once a month would have been more than often enough.

Some children emulate their parents, others take the opposite path as soon as they are able, which for me was as soon as I left home. During my single years I was fortunate in sharing with other girls who weren’t fussy housekeepers either.

(Aside: I also blame my father for my becoming a ‘late person’. He always caused us to arrive at destinations so early that we had to twiddle our thumbs with boredom for ages.)

I don’t want you to think that I have a disgustingly untidy, dirty house (though A-class housekeepers would probably disagree). I’m pretty good when it comes to bathroom and kitchen where cleanliness is important. It’s not that I don’t like clean, tidy houses either, but I’d rather someone else kept them that way.

So that things don’t get completely out of control, we make sure we invite visitors now and again, to give us an incentive to do a general cleanup.

Such an occasion occurred about a week ago. Guests were coming the following day and I suddenly noticed the kitchen floor was decidedly grotty. My husband, who has taken on a number of household chores (bless him) washes it intermittently, and fairly ineffectively (but it would be petty of me to complain). It’s one of those vinyl floors I’ve only encountered in rented houses—the kind that has a sort of indented textured surface, which (I suppose) is intended to make it unslippery, but which captures grease and dust in such a way that it is completely resistant to normal cleaning. In the olden days a woman would have got down on her knees with a scrubbing brush. That was out of the question, of course, but I found some heavy duty cleaner, spread it on the floor, and attacked it with a hard-bristled broom. This worked, but only with great effort. And then I had to mop the floor 3 times with clean water to remove all the soapy scum. Hours later, exhausted, I had a clean floor.

For a few moments I regarded it with pride. Then I realised that, if I were to die the following day, I’d be really annoyed to have spent so much of my last day house-cleaning.

The guests, needless to say, didn’t notice. And my son didn’t give me a big hug and tell me I was a wonderful mother. He has told me on a number of occasions, however, that he’s glad he has such an interesting mother.

Probably I should have just gone to the beach …

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Lovely, typical winter sea at Scotts Point