Child labour

30 May

It’s a hard knock life.

When asked by a friend who we haven’t seen for years what our house was like, my husband answered, with a sense of pride “Like a squat.” I didn’t take this very well. Not because I hate the idea of other people guessing, quite rightly, that I often find half eaten sandwiches down the side of my sofa, but because I work hard to keep our house looking like a squat.

It seems that my husband could do with me going away more often. Then he’d know what kind of domestic drudgery I endure to keep the house looking so bad. Perhaps he’d understand then that without me, bad would turn into horrific, and within a few weeks of my absence, horrific would turn into ‘We might as well burn the place down. There’s too much stuff and not enough cupboards and shelves.”

That’s my rant over. I’d be even more fed up with myself if I allowed any more words to be wasted with moaning about housework; more fed up, even, than I am with my family when they imply that the lack of organisation in their lives (more specifically, the scarcity of a pair of pants or socks in their drawers) is all down to my bad house management skills. I feel that if I hired a cleaning squad for a day, they would only be able to sort through a third of the laundry.

Last month I waved goodbye to our cleaner. I’d only had her for a couple of months and loved her almost as much as my children. However, after a lot of procrastination (or fear) I drew up a monthly budget to see where all of my money was going.

Afterwards, it was clear to see that there was in fact no money munching monster (a fantasy that would explain everything) or account syphoning cashier at Tulse Hill Tesco petrol station, who broke into my account on a monthly basis, causing me to exceed my overdraft and incur fees. The sad truth was, it was all me.

With the budget spreadsheet laid bare, I couldn’t pretend any longer: soon I realised my outgoings were about £500 more a month than my incomings, and I had to make cuts.

With cuts, come changes. I don’t want to do a David Cameron and move us all to Stoke-on-trent, or turn my kids out onto the street, but I am asking that my family all muck in. Not so much to make money, because I’d have to create a Jacobson 3 for that and only one of them is good at singing and dancing, but to give me more time to work and contribute more financially.

There are many things that could do with a bit of a tidy up, including my bedroom, my bikini line and the wasteland at the back of our house, which might one day resemble a garden.

My requests have been met with a considerable amount of impressive moaning, from both my husband and the kids. You would have thought I’d asked them to build a shed at the bottom of the garden, with bits of wood pilfered from other people’s skips.

I want to break them in gently, so the most I’m currently asking of them is to be mindful: when they use something, I ask that they put it back. I started off by making everything into a game, but I’ve heard myself imitating a patient mother (my husband has a tendency to film me doing boring things like me putting out the bins). I don’t suit kind and patient for long periods of time. I’m like a really patronising version of that incredibly annoying woman Katie, on the Cbeebies program “I can cook.” Thus, I have just reverted back to being mean mother.

This morning, I asked my son to take his cereal bowl to the dishwasher. He outright refused. His excuse? “The baby had a spoonful so why aren’t you asking him to take the bowl?” I took a deep breath and left the room. When I returned, he’d cleared the whole table.

When I pointed out the pile of crispy old contact lenses at the side of the bed to my husband, (he often claims that they just disintegrate after a couple of days) he said he’d move them later. I know later. Later is never. But when I got into bed yesterday evening, I checked and they’d disappeared.

My daughter is away on a school trip for the week, so I don’t know if she’ll oblige or not. According to some article in the Guardian last year (I vaguely remember the gist of it) children of her age should be changing their sheets, and doing their laundry. She likes organising her rows of nail polishes into colour-coded lines, but I’m trying to imagine quite how that’s going to help me. Still, she could contribute by giving me a weekly manicure, an occasional root touch up and a quick de-fuzz with Poundland strip wax.

And whilst I feel pretty pleased that everyone’s helping out a bit more, I must mention the bribes. Bribes are good. They work for me, and I don’t care if certain parenting experts see them as cheap. I am cheap. My children have rarely gone in for the “Let’s plant a sunflower seed if you clear away all of that train track and lay the table before dinner.” For them, it’s more likely to be trash and cash. A Twirl or 50p every now and again usually does the trick. I just don’t tell my husband. He likes to think I’ve got the magic touch.

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2 Responses to “Child labour”

  1. Kelly May 30, 2012 at 7:35 am #

    You should break down in tears more often. I did that last week and when I came home the next day I found that the dishwasher had magically been unloaded and the rubbish taken out. Baby steps…

  2. mothersruined May 30, 2012 at 11:45 am #

    I may try that one, but fear I won’t get the dishwasher unloaded. Just a look of concern and “Do you think you should go to the doctor?”

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