When John died, the best gift I received was from my mom's sisters, who pitched in to give me the gift of cleaning. They both—although it was really one in particular—paid for my house to be cleaned twice a month. It was heavenly. It gave me the gift of time, and, even better, it took a load off my mind. I never had to think about housekeeping. If I noticed that something needed cleaning, I could either choose to clean it or know that I only had to live with it for x amount of time before it would be taken care of. It was unbelievably freeing.
But all good things must come to an end. My aunt is feeling the strain of the current financial markets just like we all are, and she can no longer keep funding my cleaning lady. Boo-hoo, woe is me, right? I know.
So last night I sucked it up and cleaned my own house. Some of my own house. The bathroom and the kitchen parts. Woo, boy, cleaning is no more fun than I remember it being! Plus the dust I stirred up gave me a wicked allergy attack. Post-cleaning, I was forced to curl up on my couch with ice cream and watch trashy TV.
Here's the thing about cleaning: it's not so much the cleaning itself that's irksome, although Swiffering my floors is not the first way I'd choose to spend my time. What I really find annoying about cleaning is the brainspace it takes up. While I don't spend much time during my day thinking about cleaning, per se, I do expend a good deal of brainpower on life scheduling, of which cleaning is one component. Breaking down the tasks that make up keeping a house tidy and fitting those tasks into available time in the cycles of days, weeks, and months is not easy, especially when I also have to fit in work and doctor's appointments and grocery shopping and time with friends and cooking and laundry and etc. etc. etc. Putting together the puzzle of life's events is exhausting, especially when I'm soley responsible for both the scheduling and the execution. It was lovely to be able to take one element of that scheduling process off of my plate for a good long while. My plan is to give myself a just reward when my condo in Boston sells by using some of the money I will no longer be spending on that mortgage to finance a housekeeper here in Portland.
So while we're on the subject of scheduling of life events, I'm curious about the experience of married folk. In my personal experience and from what I've discussed with friends, this task of Life Scheduling falls almost exclusively to the woman (in heterosexual couples; haven't really discussed this with my gay/lesbian friends). I was always the one keeping track of when we needed to be where, when we last washed the sheets on the bed, whether or not we had flour in the pantry, and when one was due for a dental cleaning. I considered my marriage one where John and I were on equal footing, and I'm not a proponent of divvying up labor in some kind of tit-for-tat, strictly 50/50 kind of way. But I do think that this Life Scheduling task is underappreciated, time consuming, and thankless. Even if you have a master calendar or some other kind of big-picture system for keeping track of things, I find that there's one person in a couple who ends up as the de facto Family Brain Trust. In my marriage, that person was me, and I confess that there were times that I resented the role. I shared that resentment with John, but we never found a good workaround.
Have others found this to be true? Have you found solutions to the problem? I'll file away creative solutions in the event that I should ever get remarried.