I shouted at my children this morning and threatened to leave home. It’s not behavior of which I am particularly proud but such were my levels of exasperation that it just slipped out. As my six year old’s chin began to tremble and tears welled up in his wide eyes, I knew that I had overstepped the mark but Saints preserve me! Can no one tidy up in this house except me?
I know that I am tidy to the point of OCD and that my other character flaws, which are many and varied, are enough to drive a Methodist to drink, but that’s just the way I am. I like things to be straight. It keeps me calm and when I’m calm the whole house runs smoothly. You would think that my family would be able to see the connection by now but it seems not.
So I storm about the place bellowing about being chained to the house like a slave and having to do everything myself. I get quite carried away with my stomping and complaining. And then, just when I am reaching a terrifying climax, some child pipes up with “Can I help?” And it is at this point that my whole martyr status collapses. Of course they could help. I just won’t let them.
The trouble is, when the children help it just means that I have to follow along behind redoing whatever it is they are helping with. I contrast the amount of time that it takes me to do whatever it is with the time it takes me to ask them to do it, nag a few times, instruct them on how the job should be done, wait whilst they complete it, show them why what they have done is not up to the required standard and either repeat stages four and five ad nauseum or just do the job myself.
I already spend a disproportional amount of my time on housework. Involving others just drags it out still further. If I’m not careful my clever delegation of work could result in my never leaving the house at all.
But I can’t moan if, when they actually offer to help I spurn them. So far I have tried to delegate basic tidying, hoovering, ironing, cooking and dusting with very patchy results. But I just don’t have the time to redo their efforts or the heart to ignore it.
A friend of mine went on strike, refusing to do anything but cook. When I asked about her progress five days later she reported that none of her family had appeared to notice. Dust piled up, washing accumulated in heaps around the house and no one could find anything but they did not question why or make the connection between the changes in the household and my friend sitting on the sofa with a magazine. Which rather begs the question why we do all this housework in the first place?
I can’t take the stike path because I simply couldn’t bear to watch the deterioration. I will have to continue to single handedly maintain the desired levels of cleanliness and every so often blow a fuse at which point the children will make a half hearted attempt to tidy something and wait until the storm has passed.