So I’m going away on my own for a few days and the husband will be left with the children. While I lounge about in bed at my cousin’s house before pootling round museums and art galleries, he will be (trying) to get three children dressed, washed, fed and ready for school. Ha ha ha ha ha.
While I’m away wet towels will fester on the bathroom floor, teeth brushing will be forgotten, as will bath time. I have to force the husband to wash, enticing him into the shower with a sexy dance then quickly turning on the spray and hosing him down before he can run off shouting ‘My hair! My hair will go all fluffy!”
There’s no chance he’ll wash while I’m away, let alone encourage the kids. The children’s hair will remain in the plaits I put them in before I went. Crisp packets will lay forlorn and flapping in the hallway and on bedroom floors. Crushed Oreos will be trodden into the posh white rug and there will be a lot of family computer time and energetic bundles which will only end when something precious gets broken (hopefully not a child). All in all they’re going to have a perfectly nice time, in a perfectly messy house that reflects the fact people actually live in it.
I’m told I have OCD because my house is so tidy all the time. A backhanded compliment if ever I heard one. To look at me you’d never know I cared about neatness or order. I never brush my unruly hair, my jeans are always ripped, trainers muddy and t-shirt stained. I spend so much time cleaning, I don’t leave myself time to look presentable. I just walk through a cloud of perfume and dash out the house.
I don’t get my cleanliness from my mother. No offence mum, but we both know you are curled up in bed reading this, cobwebs dangling over your cup of tea and dust mites rolling across the floor. I’m not judging you. When I’m retired I’ll probably be the same (and I’ll do your cobwebs myself when I come over in the summer as part of my holiday-deep-clean).
I might get it from my dad, who I’m pretty sure drew round all the tools in his spotless garage so he knows where they ‘live’. That there is my problem. How can I ever be free when I think everything has to live somewhere? I’m constantly shouting “The shoes live in the hall! The milk lives in the fridge, wee lives down the loo!”
As a child I loved nothing more than designing room plans, then moving my bedroom round accordingly, often before moving it back, exactly as it was before, except cleaner. (No, I didn’t get out much, but we lived in a village with nothing in it except a phone box and a park bench so there was nowhere to go anyway. Yes, I cleaned them too.)
When I watch TV and bombs go off or stage sets get trashed I tut and say, ‘someone will have to clean all that up’. I physically can’t watch a food fight. It’s my idea of a horror film.
I used to fret this illness would be passed on to my children, but I needn’t have worried. They take after their dad. The middle one gets a bit angsty when her friend comes over. She gives me a list of jobs like ‘clean the floor in the porch’ and ‘make the taps shiny’. Like an idiot, I do. Her friend never compliments my efforts and I feel slightly miffed. I’ve resorted to hinting for praise, from a seven-year-old.
On Saturdays the family pleads for me to ‘not do jobs’. The husband offers to take me out somewhere, anywhere, just so I don’t ask him to sort the recycling or go to the dump. He’ll wander round charity shops looking for retro cups and saucers just to avoid chores. If I leave him a list of ‘James’ Jobs’ he adds ‘jobs’ for me on the end, which I won’t share with you, but are along the lines of ‘tit for tat’. Needless to say, the job list is never finished.
Obviously I’ve written a four-page essay of exactly what needs doing while I’m away. It’ll be used as kindling for the fire before roasting marshmallows and eating without a plate. By the time I come back the children will resemble feral street urchins who eat with their fingers and drink from the dog bowl, just like their father. I’ll tut and moan but be secretly delighted I was missed and the husband couldn’t cope without me. He won’t admit it of course, he’ll claim it was easy and has no idea what all the fuss is about.