I’m discovering something about myself as I get deeper into my Mr. Mom role here at home. I’m tidy, but I’m not very clean. Not me personally, mind you, I mean the house. I myself shower every day and I smell terrific. Ask anyone near me.
The house, on the other hand, does not get cleaned nearly as often as I do. Neither do the kids come to think of it. The boys are lucky to get a bath twice a week, but that is really a conscious parenting decision, and not at all an obvious sign of laziness or neglect. We do not want our boys staying too clean. If we constantly remove all the bacteria from their little bodies they may be so clean they never get sick. That might be a convenient short-term parenting plan, but it will no doubt lead to adulthoods fraught with illness, possibly one day culminating in losing that coveted Taco Bell front counter cashier position to Timmy, who hasn’t had a sick day in five years because his genius parents hardly ever bathed him. No, we respect our children’s career ambitions too much to risk their future for our convenience. We’re good like that. Plus, cleaning up after a sick kid every so often, while disgusting at the time, is actually less work that bathing three squirmy boys every night, so it’s really a win-win.
Anyway, back to the house. Ever since I took over the housework duties, my wife has been nearly constantly reminding me of parts of the house that require cleaning, like countertops, and floors, and carpet, and bathroom mirrors. At first, I kept asking her, “Why? Did one of the boys throw up or pee on something?”, but as time went on and her answer to that question remained, “Of course not, you idiot,” I began to realize that she expected me to clean those things with startling regularity, just because.
I was quite taken aback by this. After further questioning, it came out that she expected me to be mopping our hardwood floors once a week. Once a week, people! What is this, Michael Jackson’s crazy hypoallergenic cleanroom?
As it turns out, when she was in charge of the cooking and cleaning, she would wipe things down and sweep things up every day. EVERY DAY. That’s crazy talk. This unnerving revelation has caused me to examine some things about myself.
I thought back to my days as a bachelor, and tried to remember what my cleaning habits - if any - were. I remember my little apartments always being tidy. I don’t like piles or clutter, except on my desk. My desk piles may look disorganized and random to the casual observer, but they are actually purposeful and well thought out. My desk piles are a sophisticated filing system consisting of nine specific categories:
Things I am meaning to read, but haven’t
Things I did read, but didn’t want to file or throw away for some reason
Things that will jog my memory about stuff I need to do
Things I need to do, but haven’t
Things I am blatantly ignoring until an unspecified time in the future
Things that need to be filed, but haven’t been
Things that don’t have a file yet, but need one
Things I need in the next month, so no sense putting them away in a file
Miscellaneous things I don’t know where to file
Besides my desk, I have always kept the rest of my square footage clutter-free. For instance, as a bachelor, I always kept the empty beer bottles nice and neat, back in their original carrying cases for easy disposal. I kept my kitchen mess-less by only eating food out of cardboard boxes or Styrofoam containers, and because I always made it a point to eat on the couch in front of the TV, the dining room table never had a spec of food on it. Dust, yes. Food, no.
I just don’t think it’s in my DNA to want a dust-free house, but apparently it’s important to my wife. This leads us to the thing I realized about myself the other day. There I was, standing in the kitchen looking for something to clean, and it hit me. I don’t look at the stovetop and think, “That really needs a wipe down.” I look at it and think, “Would my wife think that needs a wipe down?” If my answer is yes, only then do I consider cleaning it.
I’m cleaning for the glory, not the actual cleaning itself. I am only wiping and sweeping and mopping to prove that I'm doing my job. More to the point, to prove that I'm not slacking off completely. I’m in it for the recognition. I have no real tangible personal need to keep things clean. I vacuum, but only when my wife is home to hear it. I sweep and wipe, but only when it can be readily seen that I, in fact, did it. Wiping down the counter every day without my wife noticing seems like a total waste of time to me.
Am I deeply flawed or just male? No telling.
One thing working to my advantage(?) in this situation is my apparent dust-blindness. I either don’t see dust, or it doesn’t register to me that it’s a problem, until after my wife has called me over, put her hands on her hips, and pointed out how dusty the top of the (insert any household surface here) is. Here’s where I’m in kind of a strange situation. When I do finally clean that surface, and she uses her magical dust vision to see that it is finally dust-free, I feel good about it because she can see that I actually cleaned something, and she feels like I am moderately competent for the time being. However, there is the problem of her feeling like I am totally useless on all those days leading up to the day I cleaned, when the invisible-to-everyone-else-but-her dust layer is building up.
It’s that time between cleanings that’s the problem.
I guess that could be solved by cleaning every day, but where’s the glory in that?
See you soon,
Copyright © 2014 Marc Schmatjen
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