This year I gave myself a little gift.
I’m not an extravagant person. My taste is generally simple, and I don’t like spending money if I don’t have to. I shop from the clearance section, buy online coupon deals and eat out at happy hour.
I’m especially not inclined to spend a bunch of money on something I can do myself. I dye my own hair, make my own cupcakes, and mow my own lawn. Sometimes my husband helps with all of those things — but not always. The same is true for cleaning the house.
Pre-kids, when my husband and I both had office jobs and nobody was ever home, our house was immaculate. I ran for the vacuum and mop at the sight of an unattached dog hair or dust speck, and my husband wielded the Windex bottle and a toilet brush, and together we scrubbed our already clean house. On top of that, we used a portion of our income for a house-cleaner who came every other week to detail our already spotless house that we’d just cleaned ourselves.
Then things changed. We had two kids, moved and I left my job to become a stay-at-home mom.
I’d presented my husband a plan, a budget showing how we could survive without my income. The less-expensive house was the big change, but we could cut a bunch of extras. For instance, the house-cleaner.
After all, what does a stay-at-home mom have to do all day other than clean, right?
(I apologize if I just made you spit coffee.)
Now, I know plenty of moms (and dads) who do a great job of maintaining their homes. For many, it’s possible to juggle those babies, the homework, the cooking and the cleaning.
Those other moms, the ones with the clean houses, have one thing I don’t have: A talent and drive for cleaning.
Don’t get me wrong, I like a clean house. But I’m a right-brained creative person. A jumbled mess makes sense to me. When my house looks disorganized, I have no trouble finding things. It’s when I put things away “in a safe place” that they’re gone for good.
My husband, on the other hand, likes his environment a certain way. He calls himself “neat.” To that term, I add, “freak.”
I found out something when I started staying home. Messes don’t happen by themselves. When I left my house for 10 hours a day, everything stayed in the exact same place. But when people are home, things move. Clothes move. Toys relocate. Papers pile. Dishes stack up on counters.
And you know who has to put them back? Me. That’s who.
In the summer, I get tired of following my kids around picking up after them. It’s a repetitive, thankless job that starts feeling pointless. And when they’re away at school, I get tired of following myself around picking up after me. That, too, is boring and thankless. It annoys me, and quite frankly, I’m terrible at it. On top of that, it’s demoralizing to admit that I’m failing at something as simple as keeping my house nice.
Luckily, doing a horrible job of cleaning isn’t the only thing I’ve accomplished. I freelance and own a small business with a friend. So when I scored a small but steady income for one of my projects, I sprung for a luxury item. I went all out and hired a house-cleaner to come every week.
What a difference it’s made. I’m less stressed, my husband’s happier, and I’m more productive with my writing and design jobs. Even a chronic bargain hunter knows there’s such a thing as money well-spent.
Overland Park mom and 913 freelancer Emily Parnell blogs at mom2momkc.com.