When I lived by myself after college, I had few belongings, and I cleaned my apartment weekly. It was usually both tidy and clean.
After I married, I cleaned bi-weekly, and usually kept things tidy.
After I had my first child, and after the first sleep-deprived, bewildering months, I cleaned about once a month, and had trouble keeping things tidy in our small apartment. The influx of baby clothes and toys made things more difficult. Our place was mostly clean, but cluttered.
After I got pregnant with a second child, things really went south. Cleaning fell to the bottom of the priority list. We’d moved into a two-story house with a finished basement. While we didn’t have a lot of square feet, it was still double what we’d had before. We had more clothes, and more toys. We’d accumulated more things, since we had more space to put it in. Our house was neither clean nor tidy.
After I was diagnosed with post-partum depression, my sister Sydney kindly offered to help by paying for a cleaning service. I gratefully accepted, though I was stricken with guilt. Shouldn’t I clean my own house? But since I was struggling inwardly with my emotions and outwardly with parenting, I decided to accept whatever help was offered, and try NOT to feel guilty about it.
Then, as my depression lessened with treatment, my guilt crept back. Shouldn’t I be able to clean my own house? Especially since I now would have a few days to myself with the boys at daycare? I decided to have someone in once more, and see how it went.
It went beautifully. She cleaned while I organized. I got around to projects I’d put off for years. I realized why I’m so bad at cleaning my own house: I can’t just clean. I stop to put things away, or I do laundry AND clean, or I slow down when I have to figure out what to do with something. The benefit of having someone else clean was I could set the priorities (bathrooms, then kitchen floor, then dusting, then vacuuming) and she did them efficiently in that order. She had no connection to what was in her way. I could spend time on the things that usually interrupt my attempts to clean while she cleaned. It was a good combination.
I still feel unreasonably guilty that I am not able to cook, clean, read, write, and care for the boys even if just part time. But seeing that it’s a tandem working relationship, with me organizing while someone else cleans, feels like a much better, and healthier, interpretation.