My mother is a neat freak. When you enter her small, tidy home, you are hit with the fragrances of spring potpourri and bleach. Lots of bleach. She bleaches the countertops, she bleaches the toilets, and she bleaches anything white that can fit in her washing machine without making it explode. Everything has a space and a place. There are no piles, crumbs, smudges or smears in sight.
When my mother wants to visit, I cringe. I have one bottle of bleach, circa 2003. I bought it under duress once when she was visiting, because she said I needed it. “Use it for your water stains, hon.”
The smell made me nauseous, it made me gag, it burned my eyes. The rebel in me sanctioned the bottle of unwanted bleach to my basement, minutes after she left, with all of the other useless stuff.
Every visit by my mother comes with the same litanies.
“A good wife keeps a tidy home.”
“The fastest way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.”
“Women should be home with their kids, not at work.”
I am a good wife. Not because I do cook and I do clean, but for many other reasons that my mother would never understand.
She and my father did not have a great marriage. There was no hugging or kissing or teasing. There were no cards or anniversary dinners or nights out together. They worked and raised five kids and were in it for the long run. It worked for them.
My life is different. My husband and I don’t want or need those roles. I will take out the trash. He will do the dishes. I can check the oil and he irons much better than I do. I don’t have the patience! I’d rather scrub toilets.
While I love to cook, I hate to clean but I do it anyway when I can no longer take the state of disarray my house is in. Cooking is enjoyable. It’s a way to express love- love through food- flavors, smells and texures. But cleaning, where’s the satisfaction? I could clean my house well enough to eat off the floor only to have my 18 year old son come in from work 10 minutes later with mud- crusted boots. Useless.
So, when my mother is not visiting, I tidy up. I do clean and keep it, uhm, lived- in looking. There aren’t shocking messes, just a pile of papers here and there, a sweatshirt on the couch, dust bunnies down below and fingerprints on everything in view.
After a call from my mom, after a scream and oh crap, and shes’s on her way, I go into hyper speed. I grab everything that looks out of place and put those items in one large (very large) convenient box (kept in my basement of course) and suddenly, instant perfection. Then for ambience, a touch of bleach in the toilets and on my countertops. Yes, you may pilfer my sly tactic if need be.
Before she has the chance to dig deeper into the abyss of my home, I am greeted with, “Your house looks nice and clean.”
But then, she needs something- a needle and thread, a magnifying class, the bleach (grrrr) and is sent to an unorganized portion of my home. A closet capable of catapulting curling irons or an overstuffed drawer. Or she sleeps on sheets that have not been soaked in, you guessed it, bleach and only smell of lavender dryer sheets. Oh the pain! How I have failed her and her hopes for my domestic capabilities.Woe is me!
Regardless of my mother’s opinion, I will never focus my energy on keeping a clean house. If I am not tidying up or cooking or grocery shopping or making appointments, or trying to raise three kids, I am:
Dancing on tables (ok, once!)
Laughing with family and friends
Volunteering as an EMT in town
Digging in my garden
Working on Hope Loves Company (http://www.hopelovescompany.com/)
Reading another best seller
Life is way too short to worry about what my mom or anyone else thinks of my role as a domestic engineer- a lousy one at that. I have a long list of things to do on my life list and damn if I’ll let some dust bunnies, or even dust rhinos get in my way.
Sorry Mom, put your hopes in your other two daughters!