For all the complaints I have about the little I can remember of my childhood, I did grow up in a very clean house. “The girls” came weekly to ensure that. They came, two middle-aged women, had coffee with my mother (I won’t comment that she had to pay someone to have coffee with her) and then they went to work on cleaning our house. They and the touch of OCD of each of my parents kept the house neat and in order. And whether it is nature or nurture or my own inkling of OCD, I continue to like want and need a clean, neat, orderly house.
I don’t know how chores are divided in other houses, but I do most of the house cleaning in ours. Since I have a weekday day off, and therefore have time without anyone else in the house, I spend a solid few hours every Tuesday straightening, dusting, vacuuming, mopping floors and cleaning the bathroom in our home. I like the smell of Murphy’s Oil Soap. I actually love the smell of bleach too, but Emily has convinced me that bleach is the devil’s handiwork. Plus, she won’t let me use it. I also do the laundry. Anyway, in general I like doing these chores. I feel productive and enjoy the feel, look and smell of the house when it has just been cleaned, not to mention the confidence a drawer full of clean undies provides.
But now that I have Cleo and want to take her for long walks and hikes and with my (highly in-demand, eagerly awaited) weekly blog post, I have less time to devote to the furbishing of the house. I brought the dilemma to Emily and she said, “Well, maybe we could hire someone once a month or so?” But for some reason that response rankled me. I don’t clean our house because I am the hired hand. I do it because it is our home and I care about and have a stake in the way it looks and feels and its upkeep. I know Emily cares about that too. She is ever researching and planning our next house projects and makeovers, designs and decor embellishments. But I was disappointed that she wasn’t more interested in participating in the regular maintenance of our home.
So of course, being the highly evolved spiritual being that I am, I got resentful and pissy. In my self-righteous indignation I ignored the fact that Emily does all of our meal planning, preparation and cooking as well as shopping for our food (which requires several grocery stores). Nor was I able to hold on to the fact that she is also the one who gets the kids up and about, ready for school and fed every morning – which includes cooking and serving of breakfast and assembling and packaging of lunches. Those things didn’t calculate in for me because I was so busy inventorying and tallying every little thing I do to keep the house running. Oh and I’m responsible for taking out the trash. By the way. But as a dear friend pointed out, you can never win the I-work-so-much-harder-than-you game.
Anyway, I figured I’d meditate on it, talk about it in therapy or with Tracy, and Emily and I would work it out like all other couples do. I think it all struck me more poignantly because of my last blog post on personal authority and permission. I don’t want to feel like I’m less than, ignoble, like Emily is the boss of me.
I mean, you totally are honey.
At any rate, I recently had a conversation with a co-worker slash friend at work. I was talking about having had to get Emily’s permission to get my Fitbit and we were laughing about “spousal permission”. And then she stopped laughing and said, “Oh shit, that reminds me, I have to get home before Bob today because I ordered a Fair Isle sweater and I want to get the package before he realizes it’s a new one. He’ll never know once it’s out of the box. But he’ll freak if he knows I bought another one.” She smiled a half shy half sly smile as she packed up to go. Yes, all couples do this dance.
The more I thought about it all, the more components factored in. I mean, I absolutely did ask Emily’s permission before I went ahead and got my Fitbit. But I didn’t feel the need to ask her before I replaced my shattered (favorite) travel mug. Or purchased the chuck-it dog toy that Cleo and I are loving. I did feel a twinge of I’m not sure what, guilt maybe, at the indulgences and what felt like extravagances of buying unnecessary material accouterment. But I didn’t ask permission. I didn’t mention them, though neither did I hide my purchases from Em. I also don’t question Emily’s packages when they arrive. I don’t buy things very often or on a regular basis, but, like most people, I do like getting parcels. And while I like getting new stuff and coming home to packages, our money isn’t illimitable.
As I was tossing all this around in my head, a few thoughts struck me. First, what if I took permission and authority out of the equation? Perhaps the real issue is being/feeling, appreciated, acknowledged, special? Like everyone else on the planet, I think I just don’t want to feel taken for granted. What if I could combine my pride in taking care of the house with the benefits of being a hired hand, with my love of buying things and getting packages in the mail? Is that enough to leave me feeling appreciated? What would we pay someone to come clean the house monthly? I think the going rate is around 125 dollars. So I made a proposal to Emily. I think being able to spend 25 dollars weekly on fun stuff (like the chuck it, a water bottle, a baseball cap) is a great idea. And so did Emily. We’ve been doing this for the last 3 or 4 weeks and it has really been great. Our house gets clean. I feel proud and appreciated. Packages come in the mail without the additional charge of guilt. And everyone is happy.
And here’s my public service announcement. Brought to you free of charge for slogging through the falderal and insanity of my ramblings:
Given that Emily is the boss of me and won’t let me use bleach (and can always tell when I try to add even a capful), I had to find another cleaning solution that is non-toxic, non-pestilential, not chemical and not of the devil’s handiwork, but still cleans. Using some basic alchemy (after I turned a few things to gold), I found my dream cleaner. Using white distilled vinegar, lemon juice (if we don’t have lemons, oranges are fine too) and hot water, you can pretty much clean anything. That’s right. You read that here. Amounts are not so important (unless you don’t love your home smelling like a day old salad…. then you’re going to want to add more citrus juice). But I’m telling you, this stuff cleans anything and everything better than anything I’ve ever used. It is safe, non-toxic and has nothing to do with the devil (I’m pretty sure).