Word to your Mummy

At the frontline of middle class parenting



My husband walks upstairs empty handed. He just walks up two flights of stairs from bottom to top and is empty handed and carefree the entire way up.

Why does he do this? Why would he test my resolve in this way? He knows we subscribe to ABC in this house.

ABC is a fun concept I developed back in 2012 when I discovered all my friends who were already parents used to spout boring rubbish about the endless chores and drudgery of housework that arrives suddenly once you have children, were, in fact, not kidding.

You think someone is just having a moan because they had to empty the dishwasher twice in one day. Or are making a bit of scene about hanging out some washing AGAIN for their family when we all know that kids are supposed to have a bit of dirt around the edges and we shouldn’t worry and just consider it rustic, goofy, childish charm.

I mean it’s hardly Victorian England. We’ve got dishwashers and wifi and cleaning ladies for crying out loud. It’s not like we have to dedicate a whole day to washing like our grandmothers starting at 6am without hot running water or detergents; just pure hard grind with a washboard, a wooden tub and a mangle. We don’t need to drive carbolic soap into our red, rough hands while agitating a metal bath tub load of tablecloths with our own feet caked in starch

But maybe they didn’t have the sheer volume of washing that we produce now in 2015. They could probably wash their bed sheets once a year and just sponge off the dirt rather than go through the rigmarole of washing clothes every time someone wears something that being middle class insists upon. They didn’t really need to worry about keeping underwear fresh as they didn’t have jobs or colleagues with whom they wanted to have a gentle flirt or lives of any actual quality.

And it’s not just the washing. It’s all the other drudgery like the dishwasher and the surfaces and the endless sweeping of the kitchen floor. Woe betide I should actually wish to walk across my kitchen floor barefoot on a Saturday afternoon without picking up sand, pasta shells and half a box of cheerios that has been seemingly just been emptied there.

And so at the end of a long weekend of bending and picking and tidying and shifting and nudging and sweeping, I invented ABC– Always Be Cleaning. Like the communist rallying cry, “Workers of the World, unite!” it’s a fairly self-explanatory sort of inspiring political ethos.

I see every exit and entry to a room as a chance to clean and tidy; carry a glass to the kitchen, stack it, on the way back empty the bin while simultaneously doing a quick bend and snap over this morning’s discarded pyjamas. Going upstairs to bed? Why not empty the dishwasher en route AND hit start on the load you’re re-washing because it sat in the machine for 48 hours? A rhythm emerges, it is almost balletic.

But like Communism, ABC also needs an entire community behind it for the ethos to work.

“Just unwind”, says my husband. “We don’t need to tidy up EVERY day.”

My husband doesn’t know me. If he did, he wouldn’t bandy around inflammatory words like “unwind”. Conversely, I know him well enough to know that as soon as he wakes he is scrolling through BBC Sport pages and does so throughout the day both swearing or fist pumping at the tiny phone screen. I guess we all have our cross to bear.

And so I watch the rest of my family step over wet towels, cock their head then ignore the beep beep of a finished washing machine cycle and sniff, swill round then avoid bin juice.

I practice ABC. There is no end. And no beginning. And, I discover, as I dig out the swimming bag from the car more than a MONTH after one of my husband’s swimming excursions complete with soggy breadsticks and moldy swimsuits, no bloody point.

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