Wednesday, 23 March 2011

From Civil Service Manager to Cleaning Lady

Hank would pay for a domestic maid but I just cannot justify it.  I'm at home all day and although I can't vacuum (it scares the dog into peeing on the rug - like he needs an excuse!), I just have so much time on my hands it'd be utterly wasteful of me not to keep the house in good shape.  So I'm always grateful for tips on cleaning and (let's be honest) emergency tidying up for guests - just to make it clear I have not spent all day playing Angry Birds.  

This How To video caught my attention with tips like using a fabric softener dryer sheet to dust.

Being a live-in cleaner may suck the big one, but doing the garden yesterday for six hours was satisfying.  Unlike housework, the fruits of garden labour (ha ha) are visible for the rest of the year, if not forever, much like the genuinely excellent DIY Hank does in our house.  The tedious thing about cleaning is that the minute you've done it, someone who doesn't do the cleaning themselves (or some thing in the dog's case) renders hours of your hard work obsolete.  The wooden floor I had just mopped gets marked with paw prints and dribble.  Within minutes, dog odours materialise on the newly-laundered dog blanket.  A red spotty bowl, a tupperware lunchbox, a coffee mug and a cereal bowl appear in the sink I just cleaned, or in the dishwasher I just emptied. Freshly-folded laundry migrates inexorably to the linen basket.  Yep, cleaning would be a lot more satisfying if stuff just stayed clean.  Ok, admittedly, then we wouldn't need to clean at all, but you get my point.  

To make things harder, Hank does not perceive a need for - or any value in - cleaning.  Don't get me wrong, he does help with chores.  He just cooked dinner two nights in a row and takes full responsibility for the dog's evening 5-mile runs, which is no mean feat after work.  But to my husband, a clean bathroom looks the same as a limescale-ridden one; it's only mess that he notices.  

This indifference to "dirt" but anxiety about "mess" is common among my girlfriends' spouses:  my former boss once had to cancel a holiday after her husband cleared away a pile of messy papers, which unknowingly included his passport.  He threw the pile out and the mistake was only noticed the day before the vacation.  My guess is that he - a notorious "surface cleaner" - probably didn't dust under the passport before throwing the papers away ;-)

In January (after living in this house for two months) Hank cleaned the spare bathroom and clearly hated it.  We had never used that room but it was a little mildewy from the last inhabitants, who'd evidently shared Hank's love of surface-only cleaning.  Hank kept saying we should get a cleaning lady because he understandably doesn't want to clean after a full day's work.  Which brings me back to square one.  

Would most couples get a cleaner if it was the man who was not permitted to work?  The wife, as sole breadwinner, would surely not be expected to keep the house clean.  But would the husband?  How would a man justify not doing the housework in my situation? (I ask because I'd like to use those excuses myself).  Seriously, I'd love to know what male ex-pats in my situation have done, especially those who did switch from career Managers to domestic managers, even if temporarily.

Better get on with mopping the floors, but my back is complaining.  Six hours of gardening and five hours of dog walking, running and cycling yesterday are obviously taking their toll.  Perhaps I need a break from my break from Work.  Actually, my eyelids are growing heavy and I could really do with a little snooze.  The dog's sleeping and the house is quiet, so why not?   Ooh and then I might have some of that Ben & Jerry's from the freezer for lunch.

Maybe unemployment does have its perks after all.

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