I ironed bedding last week. It may not sound like much, but it was, it really was. It meant I need to be on high alert for obsessive domestic behaviour. Things that previously meant nothing, worth no more than the occasional pained wince when moving at whirlwind speed through the house, like noticing that dust pile under the sofa or smudges of dirt on the bath mats, or dying fresh flowers leaving pollen and dried bits all over the floor.
To be fair, I thought it might come to this. I knew that I was getting comfortable six months into my new non-working mother life, so the risk was there I stepped over the line. I’ve decided I’m ok though. I’m still just on the right side of domestic goddess. But I’m watching myself like a hawk, and my husband’s on high alert as back up.
It seems to me unsurprising that it happens. Life has a funny way of filling any nooks and crannies with worries that seem as big as the space to be filled. When I was working, domestic matters had a pocket sized space to fill. Ironing sheets was never going to happen when I had a nanny for the kids, gardeners, cleaner, my own company to administer (albeit in a small scale contracting way), let alone a full-on job and all the other usual demands on one’s time. But now that I’m full time at home, that dust pile under the sofa looms larger in my consciousness. My excuses are limited when it comes to dirty fridge shelves, unfinished DIY jobs, unchanged beds or towels, unkempt lawn and messy borders. At school pick up there is occasional talk about the satisfaction of a bit of deep cleaning. On arriving at a friend’s house, there is inevitably a disclaimer about the state it’s in, of which I would be utterly unaware on going in and seeing nothing but clean floors, surfaces and the usual family paraphernalia. Standards seem to shift when one of the family is ‘home all day’, even if the reality of ‘staying at home’ often means anything but.
Don’t get me wrong, I like nothing better than a good clean. It’s never the same if you don’t do it yourself – I secretly look forward to the two weeks my cleaner goes on holiday so I can have a good go at it myself. And in some ways I would love to have beautifully crisp linen on all the beds. But I really don’t want to find myself with nothing to say or think that isn’t domestic or about the children. I don’t want to be zoning out of the Today programme in the morning because it seems irrelevant, or worse still, changing to Radio 2.
I also don’t want to get lazy and find myself not working for a year and all the DIY jobs are still unstarted let alone finished, I still have piles of filing everywhere, haven’t sorted out the photos, the allotment and garden are a mess and I’ve done no more exercise than I did when I was working. I also don’t want to get the family equivalent of temple-fatigue. Groaning at yet another school-imposed dress-up day or cheery text to ‘bring in a small glass jar tomorrow’ (don’t schools realise recycling means we don’t all have stores of random jars hidden in the house waiting for school projects?), or a post-school request from my daughter along the lines of ‘let’s make a bee mummy’.
So you see ironing sheets means a lot more to me than you might think. I’m determined not to succumb again. If nothing else then because my husband says if I have time to iron sheets I can bloody well do his shirts. Dream on hubbie dearest, we didn’t go through women’s lib for nothing (but that’s a whole other blog post).