As I crawl around underneath the babies chair picking up single grains of rice I decide I'd
like to get both of my hands chopped off and replaced with something more useful. I kneel there on the hard wooden floor daydreaming about a new high-tech interchangeable attachment system. A sleek screw on contraption that withholds various cleaning implements, like a Swiss army knife. Something with a shiny silver dustpan that folds out from the arm and a perfect horse hair brush that clips on and off. I could swan around the living room scooping and sweeping, squeezing and scrubbing. I could even have a little rubbish bag attached. I could become the first ever human hoover.....
Then the baby starts crying, I'm snapped back into reality where all I have is my dry ageing hands and another trip to the long cupboard in the kitchen to retrieve my dirty dustpan and hair filled brush.
Clean up, mess, clean up, mess. Welcome to family life.
My life entails following a never-ending stream of dirt around in circles. It’s like I’m running behind one of those machines that draws yellow lines on the road and no matter what, I can’t keep up. I can’t scrub that line fast enough… it just keeps on coming.
Crumbs, rind, crisp packets, raisins, pasta spirals and rice. It comes out of nowhere. Leaking out of crevices and pumping up through plug holes. When I think I’m done, there’s more.
It’s falling out of highchairs, slipping off dinner plates and getting stuck on to my naked feet. I peel unknown entities from the sole of my foot once every 2 hours. Squashed fruit feels warm and wet. I flinch, hoping it's not poo. Sometimes it is poo.
My house is old, the grime feels ingrained, saturated deep into its bones. The mould in the shower looks ancient, it’s blackness doesn’t dull. I pour toxic liquids on it, still it stays, inbedded. I stare at dead cockroaches stuck in fly screens, hoping they will dissolve, turn to dust. I ignore cobwebs in high places and I stuff clothes into the back of my wardrobe instead of putting them away.
I can’t tackle everything; I don’t have time. There’re the jobs I’ve given up on. Things that can never be done. They sit like dormant volcanoes around my house hoping for attention. They will be waiting a very long time.
There are two main reasons why household chores are so devastating to me,
1. I’m allergic to dust – I’m literally allergic to cleaning! I sneeze and piss my pants when I clean. In fact, when I’m cleaning all I’m doing is creating more washing. Wee drips down my thigh at the mention of a jay cloth.
2. I just fucking hate cleaning.
Cleaning is boring and hateful. But somehow, it’s all I do. When normal people are having office affairs and planning nights out in the city, I’m plopping around the house, wiping surfaces, cleaning out draws and sucking dog hair into a handheld vacuum. I’m crawling around my house, without a bra, scrubbing at stubborn floor stains or picking hairs out of drains while the rest of humanity nibbles on a Pret a Manger sandwich and thinks about which Netflix boxset to binge on.
I do try my best to revel in my chosen role of motherhood. I endeavour to make my cleaning sessions more upbeat by shouting at Siri and Alexa – I stand in the centre of the kitchen and yell at the speaker on top of the fridge,
“ALEXA! PLAY 70’s DISCO PLAYLIST!”
“ALEXXXAAAA AHHH FUCK IT”
The bloody robot in my house listens less than my children. Eventually I stick on a podcast about people whose lives are far more interesting than mine and get on with it.
There’s not one cleaning job I enjoy. I hate them all, every stinking one of them. Yet I find my life (life makes it sound like I’m living ) My sad existence revolves around cleaning. How the hell has this happened?
When I got married, I didn’t say I’d ‘love, honour, obey and spend my entire lifetime cleaning toothpaste from the edge of the sink’ No sir! My plan was that we would be rich enough to have a full time live in handsome man-maid that would do the washing up in a thong and give me massages. I wanted to be like Goldie Hawn in Overboard, drifting around in a yacht in a floaty kaftan holding a glass of champagne.
But, I married a window cleaner so the only boat I’m going on is the ferry to Dover.
Soon after our nuptials, I multiplied. I spawned three filthy children and I went from being one messy person living in my van to 5 messy people living together in a ramshackle house. My mess grew. With each child came a new mountain of rubbish and at each milestone a different level of junk.
It started with nappies and vomit and shit, then plastic toys and the emptying out of every cupboard as soon as my back is turned, then Lego in piles, then clothes on the floor of the bedroom, then plates under the bed and then (I guess, my kids are little still) CSI Teenager (come stain investigation) the discovery of tissues and soggy socks. Even when they’ve fucked off to Uni they will still come with heavy bags of washing.
Married life – Family life is cycle of cleaning. Eat, sleep, clean, death. There is even washing up to do at a wake. You can’t get away from it. Cleaning is a permanent state from which death is the only escape. Depressing if you really think about it. Sorry to be the bearer of such crappy news.
I hate it so much that some days I hang around too long multi-storey carparks and hide in foam filled pits at indoor trampolining centres. I’m avoiding going home because I know what’s there…what needs to be dealt with. I find it totally overwhelming and unbelievably boring.
I dream of a time when the toilet will clean itself or Alexa can hold a mop. A time when I don’t feel like there is a job that needs doing. I’m sure this global cleaning pandemic (gcp, I made that up) causes most mums an underlying sense of shame and anxiety, a feeling of having never completed a job. It sits on all of our shoulders, niggling at the back of our minds… what hasn’t been done, what needs doing….
“Shit! I haven’t put the bins out”
“Oh god, the washing is on the line!”
The problem is this - there is always something.
I remember watching an episode of The Simpsons in which Marge has a mental breakdown in her car. She stops in the middle of the highway and bangs her head on the steering wheel. She’s had enough. Enough of cleaning, enough of answering questions from kids, enough of not being herself.
I know how she feels, I’m lost under that pile of washing some days. It’s frustrating being the one person that is responsible for the house. My husband tries, but we all know who is liable. Me. Drinking or not drinking doesn't change this. Hiding with hangovers made the cleaning go away, but it was still there when I was recovered on Wednesdays. Then it was worse.
I wish I could tell you that when you sober up cleaning becomes a therapeutic journey of love and fluffiness.
Although I would like to be happy in my mess, accept it, embrace the gunk and grime. But I’d be judged, by myself and others if my house was a tip.
And who wants to live in a dirty house? No-one.
So, I get up, I cook, I clean and clean again. My family doesn’t die of Salmonella, rickets or scurvy and the house is nice when snotty kids and judgy Mums come over for playdates.
But that doesn’t mean to say I’m happy about this world of cleaning. I despise it. I will never be joyful about it and I will never be very good at it.
But I might still contact an engineer and get my magic, multi-purpose arm attachment made into a reality. I'll get them to add a bag and a sucky tube that inserts into my bottom.
Not for cleaning…. Just for fun.
Note - I’m going away for a night on my own tomorrow – I’m off to see Russell Brand in Brisbane and stay in a hotel where someone else can clean up after me. I might drop some crumbs on the floor and leave my bed unmade. I might even go full rebellion; leave a wet towel on the floor and undo a soap packet then not use it – crazy days!
Now, where is that website for thong wearing man-maids?
Pic - birth of first born before the real mess began.