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I make a lousy wife

September 13, 2006 | Category: In My Life

It has been CD's complaint since I left my job that I don't clean enough.

When I worked, we had Elia here every day. And Elia? Is a clean freak. God love her. Each night, I would exit my little office to see the tidy floors and hear the hum of the dishwasher.

It took a LOT of stress off a stressful few years to have Elia around. Because I am NOT exactly Lady Tidy and CD? Good Lord. CD is a living PigPen.

My messiness comes with 3 scoops of guilt. My old-fashioned Yankee parents drilled into me from the youngest age that a messy house is a sin.

His cleaning dysfunction comes with a strange sort of blindness. He can't even see the chaotic mess that erupts in his wake. He just knows that when he comes home from work that the Mess is here, waving to him cheerfully as it snacks on Lorna Doones.

So his first, terror-stricken, thought when I left my job and Elia left us was... WHO IS GOING TO CLEAN?!

(With a beady glance that said 'And it better be YOU'.)

There were negotiations, there were discussions. Jimmy Carter visited and facilitated a treaty. The UN sent in troops to enforce the terms.

And yet. Our house is a bloody wreck.

In the past 6 months, I have attempted to maintain a 50%-and-no-more policy with a don't-mess-don't-clean codicil.

But mostly? I haven't written.

(What? You didn't notice?)

I lost a gig that 6 months ago I could have whipped out without a sweat. I have sat, impotent, at my keyboard.


In a messy house.

Conflicted, unable to concentrate. Trying to put up blinders so I won't be distracted by laundry that needs folding, toys that need tidying, trash that needs binning.

Feeling waves of guilt like a fever, because how dare I take time for this? How DARE I - without Elia to clean and mind Bear - lock myself in my mind and my words?

Last night, CD said - 'You are Depressed! You need therapy!'

I gave him a blank, dead-fish kind of a look. A little bubble over my head with the word "huh?" in it.

'If you weren't,' he told me, 'the house would be clean!'

See, when all you got is a hammer - then every problem is a nail. Believe you me.

I've been to psychiatrists, therapists, neurologists, and my GP. You know what they say? That I am going through a major shift in life, that I need to sleep more, that I would benefit from having a counselor to help me wade through my choices and my direction, and that I should work out 3 times a week and take fish pills.

I sigh.

He said, 'I'm tired of coming home and the house isn't any cleaner than when I left and you expect me to clean AND watch Bear while you..."

It took a whole night and this morning for my fuse to finally reach the TNT that is the deepest part of my brain. If his cell phone was made of a flammable material, it would have exploded in hs hand - leaving him with smoking eyebrows and a shocked expression.

I'm rolling up the damn doormat, and I'm declaring independance.

I can't live like this anymore.

I left my job for many reasons, good ones.

And none of them included becoming a better maid.

I can't let my indecision wreck me anymore. Sure it sounds specious - unwashed dishes doesn't equal writer's block.... right?

But in my case, it has.

Like a blogger I once loved, I'm not Donna Reed.

I have to put those expectations away. And I have to refuse to let anyone else put them on me.

It is time to lay down the guilt. Gently. And then kick it smosh it burn it with that crappy incense leftover from my college days.

If you love me, you want me to be happy. You want me to write, because I am a writer. Maybe not a very good one - but it is in my DNA, this compulsion. You want to hear the tapetty of the keyboard more than the hum of the dishwasher. You understand that my sanity and my bliss comes from this.

And maybe it isn't fair to say all this aloud, on a blog visible from space.

But I needed to say it.


And screw the house.

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Tagged: Corporate, Mommy, Life


You ARE definitely a talented writer! I hope you got/found/have resolve and resolution now :)

Posted by: Fredette on September 21, 2006 03:06 PM

I'm glad you're not jumping right into medication because your house is messy.

Posted by: Mia on September 19, 2006 08:18 AM

I am so proud of you. Let the Icelander know that he can clean and be responsible for part of the household care. Please listen and indulge your Muse!

Posted by: Azalea on September 18, 2006 08:04 PM

Great work!
My homepage | Please visit

Posted by: Ann on September 18, 2006 04:34 PM

Corporate life is a breeze compared to housekeeping - believe me, honey!
I live in a third world country- have a full time job, a six year old son , 21 yr old step daughter and a jet setting husband.and this is my staff : 1 live-in housekeeper,2 full day maids, 1 driver and 1 gardner and I am saying this too!

Posted by: shuchita on September 18, 2006 12:23 AM

I am right there with you. I work 40 hours a week at a domestic violence shelter, have 4 kids ages 13,10,9 and almost 7... He says he shouldnt have to clean because he pays all the bills. I am tired! There is a site you might like it helps me stay kind of focused www.flylady.com. I am so glad bear liked the zoo when you were in Omaha. I miss that place so much! Hang in there....

Posted by: angela on September 17, 2006 05:40 PM

I totally relate. You are not alone. Ever since I got out of the rat race and had my son, I've had anxiety issues. And guilt issues...about housecleaning, for example. I wasn't trained to be a house cleaner.

Your writing is a pleasure to read...take good care of yourself so you can take care of your family!

Posted by: emma on September 17, 2006 03:34 PM

Try flylady.net, or at least her philosophy. She'll give you a plan (15 minutes a day.)

of course, since I have never cleaned my own house (as an adult) I shoud talk...but on the surface, it looks good.

Posted by: xf on September 17, 2006 04:42 AM

Clean is over-rated. Who ever looks back at their childhood and says fondly "My mom sure was a great housekeeper. What fun times."

Posted by: tammy on September 17, 2006 12:05 AM

I just read an obituary about Ann Richards, the former governor of Texas who was renowned for her rapier wit. One of her notable lines was "I don't want my tombstone to read, 'She kept a clean house.'" And neither do you. Go where your dreams are.

Posted by: Melanie on September 16, 2006 10:59 PM

hit "post" too fast...
Anyway, I know how you feel. Some days I feel like I waste my whole day cleaning or I feel guilty if I don't. I'm getting sick of it too....

Posted by: serena on September 14, 2006 08:15 AM

I work from home- used to work in an office, but moved, now "virtual". And even that is isolating and weird. Part of me loves it, part of me feels guilty when everything is not clean. I also always cook now (and am not the best cook by far).

Posted by: serena on September 14, 2006 08:14 AM

Well, it does sound like you are depressed. Maybe you should consider real medication, beyond fish pills. I am a working writer, and when I stayed home to write, before I had children, I got very depressed. It's isolating and stressful. I think your husband was harsh but I don't disagree with him. Even if you don't like to clean (and really, who does like to clean?), letting things really go can be a symptom of depression. Are you producing? If you're not writing, then you have a problem. There's no shame in medication. When I burned out (spent a solid month on the couch, smoking and reading Proust and NOT writing, thus going more broke), I ended up taking zoloft to get out of it. I know the other commenters have all said supportive things, and that's great. But you sound depressed, you aren't producing, and you are upsetting your husband with your lack of actions. It sounds like you need to look at other options. good luck. you'll come out of it.

Posted by: none on September 14, 2006 08:10 AM

De-lurking here to thank you for your honesty. I share many of your conerns, and your anxiety over choices (I'm WOHM, but I am always angst-ridden).

It is a ridiculous turn of events that somehow wife and mother have been attached to housecleaner. They are not the same thing. At all.

And you have to take the time you need. Your family is wonderful, but I really believe that women have to create their own boundaries. Husbands and children will never (rarely? --I know I'm making sweeping generalizations here) say--hey, know what mom? Take some tiime for you. I don't need anything else.

But they do want you happy. And you know best how to make that hpapen

Posted by: coquette on September 13, 2006 08:41 PM

Well from one clutter hound to another - it didn't get dirty all by itself or at the hand of one person. So he wants a clean house, you just tell him that Uncle Mike 1) did the dishes every night, 2) cleaned the bathroom, including scrubbing the toilet, every week because he felt that men made a bigger mess around the john, 3) cleaned out the litter box every day and changed the box once a week, 4) did the laundry every week 5) vacuumed once a week and took out the trash and mowed the lawn or shoveled snow as the season demanded. I washed windows (the only flat surface ready to clean at all times in my house), washed floors, did all the interior painting and all the cooknig and shopping. As you may recall I worked at home and never once was I called to account for a messy house.

Now I get to do it all and I've found that when things get out of control that biting it off in one hour increments every day eventually gets the job done. So you both have to agree to bite off that one hour a day together, that's two hours total. You are working, doing a lot of the Elia stuff that she used to do with Bear, trying to write and most of all trying to get healthy.

love and kisses

Auntie Marfa

Posted by: auntiemarfa on September 13, 2006 04:40 PM

I'll bet your house still looks better than mine, hon.

cursingmama is totally right. take care of you, and the house will get taken care of in time. A messy house just means you've got your priorities straight.

Posted by: caltechgirl on September 13, 2006 12:33 PM

And a finer dec. of independence I have not read in a long time!

Posted by: rp on September 13, 2006 12:26 PM

The house will be okay - it's the people that need to be cared for first.
Take care of yourself.

Posted by: cursingmama on September 13, 2006 12:08 PM

I'm thinking about sharing pictures of my dirty house this week. Care to play along? We can not clean ours together.

Hey, I've got a job to look for! Who has time to clean?

Posted by: undercovermutha on September 13, 2006 10:32 AM