Friends, I am many things, good and bad, but I am not, will most likely never be…a cleaner. I define the difference between “neat” and “scrubbed-clean” in very strict terms. Our home is neat. We pick up after ourselves (read: I pick up the kids’ stuff, or Jeff gets frustrated and does it, or I threaten the children with bodily harm until they begrudgingly take canvas shopping bags all over the house, picking up their stuff like an Easter egg hunt, complaining the whole time and dumping the bag, unceremoniously, in their rooms or the playroom). So, we are fairly neat. However, I have never been a good scrubber. Previous roommates, feel free to throw me under the street sweeper at this point…I deserve it, and this Carrie quirk goes way way back. Jeff can have some of your sympathy, but he also knew what he was signing up for. Just sayin’.
I will enter into evidence the “how we hired Becky” story. Jeff left to go on errands one Saturday and took little Sarah, our only kiddo at the time, with him. On his way out, he called over his shoulder, “Hey babe, can you clean our bathroom? I’ve done it the past few times, and it needs some attention.” In reality, he had cleaned it (the scrubbing kind, not the neat kind) way, way, way more than his share, so he was due to come home from Target to a nice, scrubbed-clean bathroom. I set to work. I even dressed the part, putting on a grubby sorority t-shirt and, for reasons I do not even fathom today but later turned out to be a good idea, a bandana as doo-rag.
The shower was easy. I’ve totally got this, I thought. Why have I been avoiding getting to know Mr. Clean all these years? As I moved to the toilet, my memory becomes a little hazy. I started externally, spraying and wiping surfaces, and I felt it. My gag reflex. This was not some horror movie toilet with disgustingness everywhere and you’d be afraid to sit all the way down. This was my home. My toilet. My business going on here. But, I just started thinking about everything that goes on in toilets in general, and I just…lost it. I gagged twice and threw up in the toilet I had just vowed to clean. (And the bandana saved my hair. Definitely the only win in this story.)
Shameful? Absolutely. And, I realized, I could never tell this story to Jeff. I would never ever live it down. So…..I soldiered on. I brushed my teeth and proceeded to the bathroom counter, a much safer-for-my-gag-reflex place. Friends, I removed every single thing from the countertop, cleaned the mirror, scrubbed the counters, and replaced our stuff. Just as I was putting the final toothbrush holder in its place, Jeff and Sarah walked in.
“Hey…I thought I asked you to clean the bathroom,” Jeff said.
Me: (totally not going for this jokester’s bait) “You’re hilarious.”
Jeff: “What? What do you mean? What did you do while we were gone?”
Me: “Excuse me? You had better be joking.” I have removed my doo-rag at this point (soooo not a good look for me), so he has obviously not seen me in costume and realized how I have just risked everything…even the contents of my stomach…for a sparkling bathroom.
Me: “I did clean the bathroom…see? Can’t you smell the cleaning products? Can’t you look in your gleaming sink and see your reflection?!? What is the matter with you, man?”
Jeff: “Um, Carrie, you missed a spot. Here…there’s a giant white streak of toothpaste.” I examined the offending spot, and yes, a residual streak of toothpaste remained after I had “cleaned” it.
Me: “Oh, that’s because I had to brush my teeth after the throw up. It must’ve dried and I didn’t notice it.”
Jeff: “The throw up? I’m not sure I even want to know what that’s about.”
Me: “Yep, probably not.”
And then, like a coincidence that can only be explained by divine intervention, we both said at the same time, “I think we need a cleaning lady.”
Enter St. Becky of Gladeville, the promised savior of our home’s cleanliness, our sanity, and potential preventer of my accidentally developing bulimia. Every other Thursday, we would pack the cars up, head to out the door, and leave a check on the table for the Becky brigade. Becky would show up, like a Fairy Godmother, and make it all better. Becky is a sweet, no-nonsense gal from Gladeville, and she knew every last cleaning trick. She and her assistants would clean our whole house, in what seemed liked an hour and mop themselves out the door…literally. People, there is nothing, absolutely nothing, in the world like coming home to a spotlessly clean house that you didn’t clean yourself. That is my definition of heaven, and sweet Becky, who bounced our babies when I was on maternity leave and drank coffee with me if she arrived while we were trying to get out the door, made that dream come true.
Eventually, Becky’s health prevented her from continuing to clean for us, and she sent St. Nikki, a lovely and sweet blonde, blue-eyed Cinderella herself, in her stead. And the joy of coming home every other Thursday continued, blissfully, for me until Jeff’s job swept us away to Arkansas.
And here’s the scary part. Jeff’s first comments when we discussed my becoming a stay-at-home mom when we moved to Arkansas were not “I’m so glad our kids will have you,” “I know it will take a lot off my plate not to have to…,” or “I hope that you won’t miss your awesome career where you were doing so well…” Instead, Jeff’s first comments were of the “You know, you’re going to have to clean our house” variety. “Do you think you can handle it, Carrie? We can’t live in disgustingness all the time…you’re going to have to step up. Can you do it?”
We have no cleaning lady. I’m the cleaning lady. And yes, that reality is terrifying to me. I would much rather hang out with my kids, go volunteer for the PTO, write snarky blog posts, or rip out my own fingernails with tweezers. But I do it. Is it perfect (read: up to Jeff’s *ever-loosening* standards)? Nah, but I’m getting by. I have come to terms with my fate and am resigned that, if I get to enjoy the benefits of having a front row seat to my kids’ lives, then I can, I guess, live without someone to clean our house. Friends who visit, please tell me if you’re about to stage a cleaning intervention.