And my Sanity!
It’s 2pm on a Monday afternoon and I’ve just got home from a meeting. I open the front door and I am met with the subtle aroma of pine needles and iron steam, the floor squeaks as I walk to the kitchen and I have to shade my eyes from the bright gleem reflected off the polished draining board. My windows appear open but they are just extremely clean. My floors are free of dust balls and the children’s toys are neatly arranged in a regimental row along their beds. In my bedroom the pillows are plumped, the duvet has hospital corners and on top of my bed are three piles of freshly ironed clothes folded into neat shop-like squares.
A thrill passes through me. My cleaner has been, she saw my house and she conquered it.
I stand still and close my eyes. Every room in the house is silent, immaculate, fragrant. My home smells aired and clear and for a full 90 minutes until I pick the kids up I will revel in this glorious bliss. My cleaner has started my week in the best possible way. My cleaner makes me happier than any bunch of flowers from my husband or any night out. The cleaner saved my marriage.
Okay, let me back up a bit.
My husband and I used to argue a lot.
You see, because I am at home all day and he is out the house at 7am and home at 8pm, he doesn’t want to hang the washing out at night. Or cook. Or sweep floors. In fact he wants to come home, eat, collapse in front of the TV and go to sleep. And so do I. Because as well as a job we also have two kids, children that I look after in the gaps between work and sleep… so I don’t want to spend my evenings ironing and polishing and dusting either. Every evening was a battle of wills, a competition of tiredness and a tit for tat bicker of the most exhausting type. Washing up was left in the sink for days like a towering placard of resentment and blame. Neither of us were giving in.
I didn’t see why I had to do everything, but I like a tidy clean house. He didn’t see why he wasn’t allowed any time to himself after a hard day’s work. So we carried on arguing.
Until we got a cleaner.
Now this mysterious woman is not Mary Poppins and she doesn’t have a magic wand, she’s a regular (albeit fastidiously thorough) cleaner. A luxury I never thought I would have. Not because she’s that expensive, the kids’ after school activities cost more per week than she does, but it’s a Working Class thing. I very nearly didn’t have a cleaner because I felt guilty about it.
Why? Because I don’t come from that kind of family.
My work ethic is strong. My parents both had good but not particularly well paid jobs and laboured tirelessly so that my sister and I could have the life we deserved. I have had a job since I was 13 and when I left school at 18 I even turned down my university place to work. I wanted to work. As soon as both my children turned one I re-entered the workplace. I know nothing else. So when my friends talked about the wonders of their cleaners I instantly thought ‘I’m not posh. I can’t have a cleaner. I work from home as a writer, I can mop my own floors for God’s sake. I’m not lazy… that’s just a waste of money’. So I didn’t hire one.
Then one day I bit the bullet, put my silly pride to one side and realised that for the sake of my marriage and the price of a take away we, or if you counted my wages as my money then I, could afford a cleaner. It wasn’t a big deal. I would choose a Monday, leaving me the entire weekend to dedicate to my family and not stress come Sunday if the floors needed a good hoover or there were crumbs on the worktops. I could just chill and prepare for Monday morning (urgh) and Monday afternoon – my favourite time of the week – because my house would be a sparkling haven.
And it is. And now my husband and I hardly argue.
Our week starts impeccably. His shirts hang crisp and starched in his wardrobe ready for his working week and my floors and bathrooms gleam enough so that I only have to do the occasional quick wipe or sweep to keep on top of it all. I continue to do all the washing and dishes and cooking, I’m at home in the day after all, but it seems less of a chore now that my amazing cleaner starts me off in the right direction.
So my husband and I have given up on date nights – we now want to stay home in our pristine sanctuary. And when we really want to ease the pressure and take some weight off our shoulders, instead of reaching for the wine or a spot of online shopping, we simply pay our cleaner for a couple more hours of peace of mind. She babysits too. For four years she has been my Fairy Godmother that I can lean on to pick up any of those spinning plates I endlessly juggle that may occasionally fall to the floor and need sweeping up.
As I said – she saved our marriage… and she saved my sanity.
I still have one problem though.
How do I stop myself tidying and cleaning before she arrives so she doesn’t think I live in a pig sty?