I Need the Cleaning Fairy
This was an original post for LA Moms Blog on September 24, 2008. SV Moms Group was acquired by Technorati, but still isn’t paying contributors, so I post my archives here on Fridays.
I was a pretty neat kid, usually keeping my room clean and my stuff arranged just so. I had a lot of knick-knacks and keepsakes – I remember even having a special box in which I kept certain treasures even through high school. But every now and then my stuff would get out of control and my mom would nag me to clean my room. And every now and then I would come home to find that the Cleaning Fairy had visited while I was at school.
Those days were magical. I remember the wonder of finding my room spic and span, every stray object put away, clean linens on the bed, the olive green shag rug freshly vacuumed. My mother would watch me take it in with a wide smile on her face, and I figured it was because the Cleaning Fairy was so delightful and she had a nice time with her while I was away at school. It was only later that I realized the Cleaning Fairy was my mother. She’s still that way, cleaning random things in my house when she comes to visit from Connecticut. During her last stay, she disassembled the 18-month-old’s crusty high chair, scoured it, and laundered the seat cover. (I haven’t told her yet that only weeks later, a new crust has formed.)
Our family has been experimenting with different chore scenarios since we let our every-other-week housekeeper go at the beginning of this year to save money. I began to notice her absence when previously unappreciated jobs came to light: the fact that she dusted the Venetian blinds completely escaped me until 8 months of dust was allowed to accumulate on them before I noticed it. The current strategy is for me to clean the entire house on my two at-home-no-kids work days. If I kept to that schedule, I’d never get any actual work done so we wouldn’t be saving any money. Also, I would lose my freaking mind. So the house stays in a generally okay state, periodically getting so bad that I commit my entire family to the task of cleaning it up. This means having Daddy distract the children while Mommy gets on her hands and knees to scrub the parquet floor, screeching at anyone who dares to walk in my nice clean house can’t you see I just scrubbed this FLOOR?!
As for daily maintenance, with two boys under four and a sloppy husband (yeah, I said it) our house always needs picking up. Tonight as I was starting to get dinner together I realized I wasn’t starting at zero, I was starting at negative 7, where zero is a clean kitchen with no food pre-assembled. Negative 7 was a messy kitchen with a dishwasher full of clean dishes, ABC refrigerator magnets underfoot, and the random disembodied doll head or limb scattered here and there. Grocery bags on the counter, piles of paper by the stove. Nothing defrosted or washed or cut up. I had 15 minutes to make dinner, a kitchen carpeted with toys, and two children whining for my attention.
The funny punch line would be that I called for pizza or saddled up the family to go out for dinner, but I was too tired even for that. I dug deep, summoned my inner Cleaning Fairy, and put away the toys, groceries, papers, etc. while water boiled for pasta and a chunk of frozen spaghetti sauce slowly melted in a pot. Dad came home and distracted the whiny kids. Eventually dinner was served, dishes were dirtied, and children flung food on the floor. And we started all over again.