All last week, Radio 4 Woman’s Hour had a running (sore) topic on Chore Wars – who does what and why. I felt tempted to write about it then, but it’s taken me until now to sort out what I feel about it.
Here at Remarried Towers we have a curiously 1950s arrangement. TL brings home the bacon, I iron it.
That’s it, more or less. I do worry, as it’s not a great example for my girls. Every now and then, when I’m working a bit more than usual, I have a cleaner, though in fact I haven’t been able to face getting anyone in since the tragic death of our lovely Asia. She was a wonderful person and, what’s more astonishing, a wonderful cleaner. She knew without telling which bits needed scrubbing with toothbrushes and bleach, and was never happier than when creating a mirror shine on my beloved granite counter tops.
I got my first cleaner when living in a one-bedroom flat with Mr X. I realised that if I didn’t, I’d probably stab him. We were both working full time at those early-20s jobs you stay at forever, but even so, the place was tiny and the cleaner must have been cackling all the way to the bank. Nowadays it would take me ten minutes to whisk round.
I’ve learned a lot from cleaners over the years. One, Debbie, showed me how to fold clothes so they don’t need so much ironing – I bless her daily for this – and how to get tiny babies to stop screaming and sleep – another wonderful trick. Eva was a doting slave to my children, though her husband (who had to be employed as part of the package) broke all my ornaments and even managed to destroy a chandelier. Having a chandelier sounds terribly grand, but I was living in Brussels at the time and even the shacks have chandeliers there.
I’ve done things for my cleaners, too – I made a large set of gold-covered initials for a wedding service, I’ve translated things into French and out again, I’ve assessed other employers’ text messages for hidden nuances, I’ve spoken to mothers and brothers and lovers and even chatted to policemen.
Having said all that, it just is much easier to do it yourself. I don’t love it, but it gets done. Mostly I do it when everyone’s out. Sometimes, if I’m feeling under appreciated, I’ll hoover ostentatiously under TL’s feet while he’s sprawled on the sofa. I think of it, usually, as cheaper than a gym membership, and a lot more useful. TL’s contribution is to take the bins out.
Both Child One and Child Two have said they’re definitely getting a cleaner when they’re older. Good.