Dear Dave

Wednesday 19 November 2008

Women love a man who can clean

Dear Dave,

Liz may have a point. Let's face it, somebody is going to have to clean the fridge sometime.

It should probably be you.

If you leave it until Sam's old enough for you to get him to do it, that lingering smell of curdled milk you mention is only going to get a heck of a lot stronger. It will pervade everything. Your lettuce will start to taste of cheese. (Dubious, unpasteurised French cheese at that.) Not good. You're just going to have to bite the bullet and get on with it. The 'house' part of 'housedad' has to be done as well as the 'dad' part.

Oddly, mums I talk to are often more impressed that I know how to work a bottle of bleach than that I can look after three children all day. It seems that although men are generally taking more of an active role in childcare, equality is lagging further behind when it comes to household sanitation. In many relationships, even where both partners are working, the female still ends up doing all the chores.

This is, of course, bad and wrong but it's also somewhat short-sighted on the part of the men involved. If they helped out, their womenfolk would be hugely appreciative and have more energy.

It really is in your best interests to deal with that fridge.

But yeah, I know, cleaning is dull.

I don't mind it too much myself, though. I've mentioned previously that I have a high tolerance for boredom. That's one of the blessings of having grown up in rural Norfolk. I had an entire summer holiday where seven of the top ten most exciting things which happened involved ducks walking past the lounge window. At least one of the other three involved painting a ceiling.

I'm used to a fairly high level of tedium. Housework, however, is dull and involves effort, not to mention dust, noxious chemicals and toilets. If motivation runs low, it's important to remember that there are far worse jobs out there. I've had a couple of them.

My first proper experience of paid work was pickling grass.

My dad got me to help on the farm with making silage. This involved wrapping an enormous cylindrical bale in a bin liner, sucking as much air out as possible with a hoover and then sealing the end with a rubber ring. It wouldn't have been so bad but the rubber rings were only a centimetre across and had to be stretched to around 10cm in diameter by sliding them down a wooden cone. I removed the pads of both my thumbs within minutes. The whole thing was painful, dull and left me smelling like a lawn had sneaked its way into my pockets and promptly died... several weeks previously. I'll take having to occasionally clean the bath over that any day, thank you very much.

My second proper experience of paid work involved getting ridiculously sunburnt while being slowly encrusted with blackcurrants.

A little dusting now and then certainly beats a nine hour shift on the back of a currant harvester, sifting fruit from twigs and hefting heavy containers around. It was painful, dull, extremely loud and left me stained purple. As an added bonus, I got paid considerably less than the girl standing next to me because I was three years younger than her.

Yep, there are worse ways to earn my keep than with a bit of light hoovering. Washing up is even therapeutic. I can stand still, put my brain in neutral and relax while doing it.

A triple-decker dish drainer.
It helps that we have the world's best draining rack.

One important consideration is how often to clean? You don't want to leave it too long. If the children get stuck to the kitchen floor, for instance, you need to pick up the pace a smidgeon. Then again, you don't want to waste time and effort doing the cleaning too often. If the place looks unfailingly pristine, your family will begin to believe that this is its natural state. They will believe stuff never gets dirty or that the mess disappears by magic. They will imagine you open the window, burst into song and a small army of woodland creatures leap in to give the place a quick once-over while you play the PlayStation.

To avoid this confusion, I tend to go for a fortnightly blitz. Fraser gives the kitchen floor a daily hoover and I wipe the worktops regularly but most other things I leave to do in one big clean. After a couple of weeks, the house doesn't look too dirty but it's shabby enough so that once it's been polished up everyone notices that I've put some effort in. I could spread the work out a little but I like waking up the day after cleaning day to find the whole house sparkling.

Over the years, I've developed ways to reduce the amount of housework which needs done. I only buy clothes which don't need ironing or that look good creased, for example. I used to make the mistake of checking every so often how deep the dust had got on our few remaining shelves of knick-knacks. I would touch my finger to the thick layer of grey and create a crater that was as lasting as footprints on the moon. There was no choice but to take everything off the shelves and dust the lot. Now I leave well alone. Similarly, it's simply not worth moving the freezer to have a look underneath or poking around too hard behind the sofa. It will only end in breadsticks. (If I'm lucky, there will be raisins and a sock as well.)

Let me know your own tips for minimising the work involved in cleaning while still ensuring the place looks spick and span.

But first, go and clean that fridge.

Yours in a woman's world,



Anonymous said...

It's my belief that men are actually supposed to be the ones that keep the house clean and tramp around after the kids. When properly motivated they are much better at it. Something got screwed up eons ago and somehow women were put in charge of the wrong things.

Women are good at being the idea makers, men are the doers. So if I think the laundry should get done, the husband should be the one to do it. Is my logic flawed here?

DadsDinner said...

If you can find the 'proper motivation', you shouldn't have a problem. (Hint: This isn't tricky.)

If you can convince him it's really his idea, it'll go even better...