Domestic mania

I was quick to realise that Republic Day was going to fall on a Thursday. I was quick to take Friday off, way in advance. I was quick to plan a weekend getaway. Closer to the date, I also was quick to chalk out a whole list of things to do. Pending jobs and some good old, much-needed self-indulgence. Ever since work has consumed me this month, I’ve had no time to focus on the home and all the things that I like to do outside work. To disconnect and keep me going. I’ve ignored my home, my kitchen. My jam-making post still lies unfinished. I had already struggled to blog all my thoughts of the week. I wanted to finish my book before the month ends. My kitchen was a disaster after being shut up for a whole week. So I had it all chalked out. And four days, I thought, was enough time to get everything back on track. Plan in hand, I was chuffed.

Except someone else had other plans. My 4-day weekend was trampled upon by a work crisis. I found myself thwarting my carefully laid out plans, just as quickly as I had chalked them out. Making plans is a brilliant way to feel in control. It’s only when things spiraled in ways I least imagined, that I realised how little is really in my control. By the time that reality dawned on me, it was too late.

I had already worked for close to 13 hours on 3 out of 4 days of the so called long-weekend. I hadn’t cooked in a week. I had eaten pizza for lunch two days in a row. I also managed to catch a horrid cold, could feel beginnings of a sore throat, and my eyes constantly burned from sleep deprivation. My house was still a mess, I had had none of the self-indulgence I so badly wanted. I hadn’t finished a post I started four days ago. I hadn’t opened my book all week. And I felt a strange combination of hysteria and rage. So by the time I reached that horrible conclusion early on Sunday morning, amidst a royal mess all around me, I was a complete, blithering mess.

Through rippled eyes, I looked around me. A half-unpacked suitcase form my trip last weekend gaped at me, clothes falling out of it. My bed seemed to have turned into a dumping ground for all things that have no place. My kitchen, unused for over a week had quickly turned into spider and dust central. My dining table had a myriad things strewn on it. Stale oranges, the unread stock of newspapers teetering too close to the edge. Keys, bills, spare change, tablets.

There’s nothing I hate more than a messy, disorganised home. In those few moments, looking around, I felt like I was in someone else’s home. This mess couldn’t be mine. And then the worst thing that could happen, happened. I blamed myself. For having failed. Failed to do the one thing that is supposedly my responsibility. How hard can it be to do it all, I asked myself. Why does being busy at work have to always come at the expense of a messy home? Why should I have to choose? Why can’t I just get someone to pay attention to the house while I’m at work?

Priding myself in a simple home that’s pretty much always neat was easy for as long as I was always home. But introducing the working woman element into my perfectly balanced equation sent everything amiss. I was overwhelmed and struggled to find my rhythm. I tried to be Superman and I went mildly crazy. Sticking up to my inordinately ridiculous levels of tidiness when I was out of the house for twelve odd hours, returning past sun-down with fast diminishing energy levels, was quite another thing really.

For the first time in two years, yesterday I suddenly felt the need for a support system. I craved that someone/something to keep my kitchen stocked, cook me healthy meals and make sure there’s food on the table when I get home, keep my home dust-free, look into all the pending things that always need attention.

Why does it have to be so hard on us women? Why do we have to choose one thing over another? For the first time since I started work in Goa, I’m finally working on something that’s giving me tremendous satiafaction. Which is why I haven’t thought twice about putting in long hours. Even the missed weekend didn’t feel so terrible to begin with. I have long ranted about wanting work that I can put my heart into. To go beyond writing glib copy. Finally here’s a project that allows that. This is one of those times when working hard has given me such a high I didn’t want to let go, yet it has killed my time and energy to do anything else.

Am I doing something wrong? Is it this hard for all you working women out there? Or am I just being unreasonable? Is it wrong to want to juggle work and a well-managed home, without dropping the ball? There’s nothing worse than the weight of disappointing yourself. Of failing at something you always thought you could do.

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21 Replies to “Domestic mania”

  1. Dear hAAthi (why the name? :D), I have just subscribed to your blog recently. Commenting for the first time. Love your blog and I must also say, your food blog has been quite the discovery :) I chose this post to say hello, because it looks like you’re in need of a big hug. *Hug*. This post also almost makes me want to tell you that I was never half as organized as you seem to be even when I was unemployed for a whole year, and I call myself a neat freak too (don’t burst my bubble) :D Answer to your question: Yes, it is hard for all of us women. And yes, you’re being unreasonable. If not by wanting to do it all, definitely in thinking that you’ve failed. Guess what? We’re allowed to drop the balls (I occasionally drop all of them at the same time). Every time I see the husband and all the other men around me plopped on a bean bag in the middle of a room littered with clothes and pizza boxes, I curse myself for being the gender or the type that bothers to notice that the house is a mess. Once you notice it, you can’t un-notice it na? But one can decide that they will fix it when they have the time and the inclination for it. Show yourself some kindness. One of my aunts (someone who’s been a working woman for over 35 years) told me this when I was getting married, and I only now appreciate the import of this statement fully: “Ten days of guilt and blaming and feeling exasperated, and one day of cleaning it up and feeling silly about the ten days lost.” I try and remember it.

    I know, lame unsolicited advice and all. But take care, and go one thing at a time. Over and out.

    1. Not unsolicited at all :) I blog, because I like to share, and be heard, and get responses. So its all cool. And this comment has put a smile on my face :)
      I dont know if its a gender thing. The husband helps out when asked to. Yes, it doesnt come as naturally to him, but I blame myself for my ridiculous standards. I cannot expect him to be the same.

      Its just that the onus of the house, no matter how much he pitches in does automatically fall on me. The woman is always the one who tends to intrinsically think about both work and home. Where as for him work is priority. He is always willing to pitch in, so I cant hold that against him either. Bit of a catch 22 this one :P

      I guess its alight to drop the ball every now and then. And I should be more forgiving of myself. This weekend was just one of those days when everything burst under the cumulative effect of what has been going on the past few weeks. Thanks for letting me know Im not a freak. And how does one see your blog?

      1. Haha.. No, you’re not a freak. Husbands do help out but our standards either piss them off or we lose our cool with them. (Mine often storms out saying – “For god’s sake, we are not building Taj Mahal”, so I either laugh or rant or just stop asking.) But after over two years of knowing and accepting that I’ll have to be the one to do it the way I’ll be happy, I have begun to give myself more time. [Just 2-3 tips, that help me stay sane!—>] I never schedule these things for weekends.. somehow, the extra couple of hours on a weekday towards housekeeping etc. hurt less than on the weekend. I used to be so resentful sometimes when I felt that I had done nothing better than buy groceries and drop dry-cleaning on a day I deserved to take a break. (As a rule, never ever two Sundays in a row). Also assigned some things to the husband that I don’t even track anymore, so I am not even going to know that I should be stressing out :D All bill payments and mechanics/ repairmen/ electricians/ plumbers.. his responsibility. The envelopes and emails are directed to him, and I never even open them to have my eyes popping out at the just passed-by due date. To his credit, we’ve never had our power lines cut yet.

        Oh the blog moved to this address: http://www.darkandcomic.wordpress.com

        1. I dont have energy to start cleaning up and tending to chores on a weekday at the end of a long day or work :( I have just about enough energy to cook and chill a bit and crash.. So I prefer to leave it for weekends. And yes, the assigned tasks work for us too :P except sometimes I need to prod the husband into doing his bit. He conveniently forgets hehehe..

  2. Hey! Don’t beat yourself up on this – none of us are superwomen! Keeping a house organized and clean is shared responsibility – always! Also, do you have a help who comes and cleans up every morning. Maybe for a 100 extra bucks extra so, she could help with straightening the kitchen everyday. Let dusting etc be her responsibility and you oversee things. I know a lot of domestic goddesses don’t like the idea of having a house help straighten things up, but if you can’t manage everything on your own, you’ve got to ask for help. From the husband/ housemate/ help. When you live alone and love it as much as you (and I) do, you’ve got to build a support system with what you have. Also, don’t let things pile up. On some weekend, designate places for everything in the house. It is not humanly possible to stick with it all the time, but it is a good start. So magazines in one place, loose change in a mug or something on top of the fridge – that sort of things. So when things do pile on, clearing up is not as elaborate as it seems most of the time.

    1. Hey! Hoes KL treating you?

      Must set the record straight. Yes, I do have house help. And yes, the neat freak that I am, I do have a designated place for pretty much everything. And 90% of the time the house stays sane and in shape. My way. But this month, especially the last week had just been tiring. Work has been hard, it has kept me out of home pretty much all the time, and that’s pretty much the crux of the issue here. The maid comes in and does her thing rather efficiently. Its just that I between the husband and I getting ready for work, and getting out of the house in time, she gets just about enough time to do the bare minimum. On weekends, she makes up by staying a while longer. But I missed that cleaning spree two weekends in a row because I was travelling. Like I said, its just been a tiring month. This is not how it always is.

      But you’re totally right. One needs to get help and build that support system :S Here’s to doing that more often.

      Hows things with you? Are you settling in? How come no updates?

    2. I realise you have updated. I think your rss feed has been knocked out ever since you went private, so I havent been getting any updates.. Must make a note to check in every now and then..

      1. I know what you are saying. And I am sure it is not always like this :) I know what happens when one misses the cleaning spree for a few weekends in a row. I am unemployed right now and yet I have these days when I think I am not doing a good job of the only thing i am supposed to take care of right now. But having said that, it doesn’t mean we blame ourselves for this. You could do an awesome job of keeping a house and not love your work enough and vice versa, but when you love both equally, that is when such questions come up. Tell you what.. Grab a beer and a book, go to the cleanest room in the house, and spend your evening there today? I think that is what you really need. It has been crazy, no? :)

        1. Have some blasted presentation to make at work tomorrow. So Im going to be busy after work putting that together, and psyching myself into actually making it. I HATE MAKING PRESENTATIONS @#@#$@#$!!
          But the good news is, I have already struck off a lot of my pending to-do’s over yday and today. And will have an evening of cooking to look forward to, if nothing else :)

  3. this might be interesting to you: http://nickcrocker.com/2011/11/the-art-of-the-trade-off/

    david sedaris wrote a really nice essay some time back where he talks about his “four burner theory.” he says, if life is a stove top, then: “One burner represents your family, one is your friends, the third is your health, and the fourth is your work. In order to be successful you have to cut off one of your burners. And in order to be really successful you have to cut off two.” i totally think this is true… and we beat ourselves up trying to have a 4-burner super perfect lifestyle :)

    1. Omg iv always loved david sedaris and now i have even more reason to :P he couldt be more right. Either one prioritises or does everything in a mediocre way :S

  4. You’re not doing anything wrong chica!
    If you and your husband are unable to manage the household together cos of your work commitments, get a maid!
    No need to worry so much about it being your duty or that you have failed.
    You have not failed. Messes happen sometimes… and it can be cleaned right up.

    If it was me, I’d have called the maid in and supervised while she did her thing. And then gone for a long soak in the tub with a glass of wine and a good book!

    1. I have a maid but she was on leave so i dis exactly what you would have. I did my share, went out to dinner. And this morning when the maid came back after her 3 day break i got her to do her things ad then some :) also managed to do a lot of the other things iv been putting off all in all iv had a productive day :)

  5. Now these are questions that fill me with self doubt. In my eyes, it is forgivable if a woman (or a man), drops the ball if they are juggling between work and home. What about me? I only have the home to tend to. There is no juggle. And yet I can’t really hold the ball in my hands for more than a few seconds. After which it slips out. It’s inevitable. I don’t know how to correct that :(

    1. Yes yes, ditto ditto. I just went through the same thought-cycle. And in the moment its no fun. The best thing I did was get down and dirty, knee deep in the cleaning. Got help. Got it done. And then you feel more efficient and accomplished than any job can ever make you feel :)

  6. I empathize totally! All I have to look after is a piddly little dorm room and still find myself struggling to keep it sparkly clean. But when I do roll up my sleeves and really get down to obsessively cleaning, it leaves me with a “cleaner’s high”.

    Oh, and since this is my first comment here, let me add that I love reading your blog. :)

    1. OOH I so know that high!
      Its so nice to know Im not the only maniac who *enjoys* cleaning up :)
      Thanks for stopping by. Its always good to have lurkers delurk and let you know why theyre stopping by. I wish more people did it more often.

      1. Haha… Yes, guilty as charged! I’m new to blogging and I guess I keep over-thinking about what to say and when to say it. Hence the delay- in letting you know that I think you write really well. And a lot of things you write about really strike a chord. ☺

  7. i think you’re being too hard on yourself. Even when we juggle, we hold a couple of the objects in our hands for a few seconds right.

    The onus of responsibility part, I totally get. Husbands are more than willing to help out when asked, but it doesn’t strike them to take the mantle of ownership with the house and kids.

    And cleaning out clutter or arranging my home gives me a high too :-)

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