01 June 2007

Domestic chaos

Like many working women, I juggle work and domestic life. My beloved P is a high-flyer who works long hours and comes home shattered every night. I, on the other hand, have the perceived luxury of working from home. Luxury only because I don't have to commute, mind. I still need to maintain working discipline during the day. Not always easy when there's no boss peering over your shoulder and checking up on you. Granted, I'm at least as productive at home as I would be in an office, even with the distractions available to me - surfing the net when I feel like it, catching up with last night's episode of The Archers...

A key advantage of being home-based is I can potter during breaks with domestic chores. In an ideal world, I load the washing machine at lunchtime and start cooking when P walks in the door.

The reality is hideously different. Regular readers will know we employ a cleaner. We couldn't manage without domestic help as we both have back problems and I can barely drag the hoover across the floor without screaming in pain. Even with help, though, I still try to maintain order. The cleaner comes two mornings a week (Wordsmith Towers being somewhat large) to hoover, scrub, iron and dust. I still need to tidy up before the cleaner arrives as I don't expect our Mrs Mopp to do that.

So it goes like this.

Bedtime the night before cleaner is due: get into bed, realise I forgot to load the washing machine, run naked downstairs at 11pm with large basket of dirty laundry. Remind myself to switch on dishwasher as well. Race back to bed before I catch a chill. Lie there frantically struggling to remember anything else I forgot to do before Mrs Mopp turns up.

Morning: after a pot of tea and an hour's surfing/email catch-up, leap into shower, dress, put face on. Race around the bedroom picking P's dirty clothes off the floor and putting in hamper. Collect brandy snifters off bedside tables to take downstairs to kitchen. Run round the kitchen emptying dishwasher/making coffee/reloading dishwasher with morning tea mugs, last night's brandy snifters and anything else I forgot to put in the night before. Empty kitchen compost caddy in the back garden before Mrs Mopp complains of smell. Empty washing machine into wicker basket, ready for ironing. Pick up half a week's worth of junk mail/scrap paper/freebie newspapers off the dining table and put in recycling bag. Realise the new bin bags left by the binmen last week are still hanging in the letterbox of the front door cos no one brought them inside. Hang up 3 of P's jackets left slung on various door handles/banisters/handy chairs. Replenish the downstairs loo with a supply of new loo rolls. Find a pair of my boots lying on the living room floor that belong in the bedroom and chuck out a 2-week-old copy of the Radio Times.

All this gets done in about 15 minutes. I sit down for a quick nicotine fix before Mrs Mopp arrives and congratulate myself on restoring order to the chaos.

At the end of the day, P arrives home and I realise that my plans to take meat out of the freezer at lunchtime for our dinner have been completely forgotten and I'm forced to defrost it in the microwave instead. Then fling a meal together before EastEnders. On non-Mrs Mopp days, this is usually when I discover I have also forgotten to empty the dishwasher and all the pans and utensils I need to cook tonight are still lurking in the machine.

I do my best. Honest. It's just that work occupies my brain 99% of the time. This week I have forgotten to book an appointment with my hairdresser, go to the bank over the road to pay in a cheque a client sent me two weeks ago and collect an urgent prescription. My tear-off, page-a day-desk calendar still has Tuesday's date on it. It would be 10 times worse without Mrs Mopp and 100 times worse if I had children. And my mother still labours under the illusion that because I work from home I'm not really working and therefore have time to iron the sheets and P's socks, have weekly facials and go window shopping... if only it were true.

Excuse me while I clear up the kitchen...

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