It’s late, almost 1am at night (or I guess I should say early the following morning) and there I am, sitting awkwardly with my laptop on the sofa bed in our ‘office’, in the dark, typing away. A sickly Rascal is sprawled beside me in a semi-conscious state – legs propped up on mine, picking opportune moments to aim a good kick at the screen. As soon as I start concentrating on something difficult, he breaks into incoherent sleepy babbling about burgers (our dinner) and beds. I wish I could say I’ve been up spending some quiet time catching up on emails or facebook. But no, I just finished submitting an assignment for an online course I’m attempting to do in my non-existent free time. It’s been one of those weeks where I seem to have bitten off that bit more than I can chew.
“What?!”, says my bread-winning other half the other night. “You fired the cleaner?!”
“I wouldn’t quite put it that way”, I say.
“But she’s not coming back?”
“Well, no… she won’t be back”
“How did you do it? Call her and tell her you weren’t happy and we don’t want her services any more?”, he wonders aloud, picturing an awkward conversation in his head.
“Um, no”, I admit. “I might have texted her and said that we were going away for the summer due to your job, so we wouldn’t need the house cleaned anymore?“.
“Oh”, he says, “So you went for the ‘it’s not you… it’s me’ method to let her down lightly… but you totally fired her!”.
Yep, that’s anti-confrontational me. My husband finds this news so hilarious that he’s dying to tweet about it, but can’t quite figure out what exactly he wants to say.
It’s been busy in our house lately. Daddy has been working crazy hours. I’ve been tackling our neglected ToDo list – arranging dentist visits, sorting and storing the Rascal’s old clothing up in the attic, and catching up on some very overdue spring-cleaning. We had tried hiring the aforementioned cleaner for a couple of hours every few weeks, but it wasn’t really working out. A cleaner might sound like a totally frivolous expense, in fact it did to us initially, but as the Rascal started to walk, the amount of mess he generated was increasing just as the amount of attention he demanded also increased. As a result, the house was really suffering. When I tried to attack the dust and dirt that was accumulating, so did I. I have what used to be mild allergies. House dust is one. After dusting or vacuuming I generally spend the rest of the day sneezing, nose streaming. Since being at home all day means I spend much more time cleaning, I’ve discovered I also get a nasty rash across my hand that itches and burns the more I cook and clean. It’s hard to avoid cleaning products with a toddler in the house, so it’s a choice between living in squalor, or deal with the intense discomfort. We thought the idea of hiring a cleaner for a couple of hours every few weeks was a bit out there, but when we started looking into it more seriously we came to the realisation that apparently EVERYONE else has a cleaner, except us. We’re late to the party! (Ok, not everyone – but a growing number of families in Ireland are choosing to avoid disagreements about keeping the house clean by just getting someone else to do it).
Our cleaner experiment didn’t get off to the best start. We got a recommendation for one and duly arranged for her to come out. However it was actually her cousin who showed up, which only later emerged during stilted and confusing conversations. Unfortunately we were at the tail end of a bout with the vomiting bug, so the house was in some state. The Rascal and I left to traipse about a shopping centre, dying to get back home to bed as soon as possible. The second time she came out, she was over an hour late. The reason (as far as I could understand her broken English) being that she had been microwaving eggs for breakfast and it had resulted in one exploding in her face! My husband didn’t believe that one, but I’d seen the evidence of her red shiny skin. Things settled down, and the third visit passed without incident. However my (possibly unrealistic) dream of having a cleaner, was to only ever use the vacuum cleaner on the sitting room rug, and to rarely, if ever touch the mop. The less contact with household cleaning products, the better. That wasn’t really happening.
In theory, having a cleaner was great. I could take a break from the daily cleaning drudgery and come home to a house that was less messy than the one I left. In reality, having to be out of the house for three hours at a particular time with the Rascal was interfering with his naps and she couldn’t come more frequently for a shorter time. I was spending too much of the night before making sure all the rooms were clean enough to be cleaned (I realise that doesn’t entirely make sense, but you want a cleaner to spend the time hoovering/washing, not picking everything up off the floor before they can start!). And while our toilets and mirrors were sparkling for a short periods before the Rascal finger-printed them again, there were dust bunnies gathering under and behind furniture. My hopes of never touching the vacuum cleaner again were going to depend on how long we could avoid looking at the areas of the house that weren’t getting sufficient attention.
Perhaps it’s a case of finding the right cleaner. One that takes the initiative and maybe vacuums under the bed, or wipes the fridge down periodically. One with good enough communication skills to understand when I request a particular thing be done. Not nod agreeably at me, but not actually do it. Overall the cost was too high for the amount of time I was saving by not doing the light cleaning myself. By now I was finally keeping my skin irritations at bay through a combination of avoiding stronger cleaning products, and the wonders of coconut oil. Some liberal applications of this magic oil have cleared up both an unidentified rash across the back of the Rascal’s legs, and the irritated skin I’ve had for at least 6 months. The Rascal is also now able to play independently for at least 10 minutes here and there, meaning some housework during his waking hours is possible (depending on his mood). Our cleaner trial period was up and it felt like we were really only putting off the inevitable when my husband was coming home and asking if she’d been, rather than marvelling at a sparkling house.
At the start of last week I was feeling ambitious. The sun was out, I was feeling a burst of energy. So I bit the bullet, and cancelled our next cleaning appointment. Back to tackling the household chaos solo again. My new plan for engaging in the war against dirt involves picking zones for each week and decluttering as much of our worldly possessions as possible. The week started out well with lots of housework, and plans of lovely free family time at the weekend as a reward. I was plugging away at my coursework aswell during nap times. It was all going so well… But then the Rascal was struck down with a nasty head cold. No more getting longer stretches of sleep at night. No more getting through coursework during his nap, or in the evenings after he’d gone to bed. Velcro toddler needed to be able to reach his little arms out in his sleep and feel about like a blind person until he located my face for a pat and a rub. Otherwise his cries echoed about the house like a klaxon. Inevitably, I picked up the bug aswell. Not surprising with him coughing into my face all day. We’ve spent the days lurching from one irrational toddler meltdown to the next, our nights having coughing conversations while the Rascal leaves snotty snail trails all over the bed before vomiting up any offending mucus in his chest. So the housework has been put on hold. Coursework has remained undone until the last minute. It’s back to googling things in the dark, watching out for stray kicks, pressing submit late at night on an assignment that has been half-heartedly attempted while husband and son toss and turn in their sleep. Ah, the joys of taking on too much. Then I got an unexpected call about the possibility of taking on some part-time work. In hindsight, this might not have been the best week to, as Daddy put it ‘fire the cleaner’.