Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Felix Unger

When I get frustrated or lost or bored, I clean. I don’t know why, but there’s a sudden urge to make things clean again, so I’ll scurry around the house like June Cleaver tidying, straightening, organizing and redistributing all of the stuff that gets scattered around this house back to its proper places. Here is a picture of my nicely cleaned garage, half of it at least. But then that’s not good enough, so I’ll start tearing stuff apart in order to clean it further. For example, the laundry room. Who cleans the laundry room? It's it always clean? Surprisingly, with four fully-clothed people living here is the least used room in the house, but this morning I took everything out besides the washer and dryer and gave the whole room a scrub down, starting with the dust-clogged fan on the ceiling down to the kick panels on the bottom of the dryer. Where did sand come from? We haven’t been to the beach in months. Why is there Play-Dough on the wall? And what is this sticky build-up underneath the soap containers? What, that’s soap? How does soap get dirty?

I don’t know what these housewives are complaining about or have been complaining about all throughout time. I’ve got this Mr. Mom thing licked, especially with the new school schedule we have. Natalie goes to pre-school now; yesterday was her third day, and she absolutely loves it, runs ahead of me to her class in the morning and is always bright and cheery when I pick her up, exclaiming how much fun she has. She goes three days a week, Monday, Wednesday and Friday, from 8:30 to noon, which isn’t a whole lot of time, but it makes it nice for me those days because essentially, I’ve only got one child to worry about. Matthew and I run some errands and play a few games when we get home from dropping Natalie off. He misses her for a while, and that's just about the time to go pick her up again. We eat lunch together, deciding that we’ll go out once a week, and then Matthew’s off for his nap, leaving Natalie and I up to our own devices until Kara comes home.

On Wednesdays, its just Natalie and I after noon, because Matthew’s at the soul-sucking, money-grubbing daycare where he can learn how to grab for things he wants, cry when he doesn’t get them, not play well with others, leap from tall objects, throw toys in indiscriminate directions and otherwise be a little on the animal side, like in a zoo, KinderZoo. So I don't know what we're going to do without selves on those days. I picture trips to Disneyland once it quiets down for Autumn and all of the people stay home. That will be fun, I'm sure.

However, at times being Mr. Mom is relaxing, especially when everything goes smoothly.

But I haven’t figured out just yet what to do with Tuesdays and Thursdays, the two days I’ve got them both all day. I was thinking of making one day to go out and do things like Disneyland or the beach or hiking, something different maybe, but the other day is reserved for cleaning. And unfortunately that other day is today.

Because we’re apparent slobs.

Because this house needs a complete overhaul, top to bottom.

Because I refuse to pay for a maid.

Because it is a never ending job of cleaning and organizing and I'm the one always stuck doing it.

I think that a lot of men are like me in this world today, those that spend some of their days at home with their kids and are sucked into some partial form of domestic servitude, whether we like it or not.

I’m not complaining, mind you, because I find it satisfying to clean something and I’m enjoying the time I have with the kids, but my big problem is that it never stays clean. Not one day after I struggled with three laundry baskets full of toys and children’s debris back upstairs where they belong, the clutter and the scattered messes start to filter down the stairs again, and soon enough, it was time to drag up another basket full of stuff. The funny thing is that I don’t ever see anyone taking anything down stairs and leaving it there. It just ends up downstairs. It’s as if there’s a hole in the floor and toys silently slip through.

The one place I have a 90 percent control over is the garage, because nobody uses it on a regular basis but me, which means that the oodles of junk that plague the house can never migrate there… which is nice. On the downside, that other 10 percent, it’s a dumping ground for all of the toys, clothes and baby paraphernalia the kids have grown out of, and it is becoming quite an impressive pile. Anyone interested?

In the meantime, I’m in charge of making the house clean, as always, which is one of the most thankless jobs I’ve ever had by all stretches of the definition (and I’ve had jobs whose titles ended in “boy”). When the house is clean, nobody notices it because they just assume that it is always kept that way and they don’t see it when it isn’t or they assume that Kara did it. Kara does some of it; for example, I don’t do toilets, and then again, I don’t cook either so it evens out in the long run, somewhat. Also, I have a difficult time knowing that someone is coming over for a visit to a dirty house. Who wants to see that? “Sorry about the laundry mountain. Here, just grab this rope and we’ll get over it in no time. Watch out for diaper canyon.”

Of course, I go as long as I can without complaining about it, like it is my personal strike just to see if anyone notices the trash spilling over the sides of the can or the fact that the living room looks like a centipede took off his shoes and piled them up in the middle of the room. The dining room table, though only used a handful of times a year, is a horizontal filing cabinet the other 360 days, and I utilize a lot of restraint not to belly up a trash can and start sweeping with my arms.

Usually everyone just steps over the mess, and in the middle of the night, fear that I will die by toe-stubbing or strangle myself in a tangle of dirty socks is strong when I walk around without the lights on. In the end, my compulsiveness for neatness and order usually prevail (and I think Kara takes advantage of my weaknesses, knowing she can outlast me), and since there’s the rule: whomever complains about the mess gets to clean the mess, I usually get the job. (For a hilarious example of this rule, Click Here).

Maybe one day they’ll find a cure for my mental neatness disorder (interesting irony in that I think I have a disorder because I enjoy order) and I can wallow in filth with the best of them.

Until then, I might need a sign: “This House Was Clean Last Week. Sorry You Missed It. Better Luck Next Time.”

1 comment:

Ryan or Kara said...

I gave up major cleaning (except on special occasions) when I went back to work after having kids. Remember, I am the one who wants a maid? I also prioritize what's important to me: playing with kids, grocery shopping (that's not always fun), cooking, kid's laundry and mine (you spend hours folding tiny clothes - it's tedious), and toilets. It sounds like a full day! Besides, I wouldn't want to touch your vaccuum cleaner! Ha ha.


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