The Politics of Family Cleaning Chores

Written by BLUNTGuest

I have to start with a confession. I do not have a cleaning routine. Here is how the cleaning gets done in my house:

No cleaning at all is done until one room reaches crisis point, it is declared a no go area and visitors/guests/friends are not permitted to enter it under any circumstances. It then receives a thorough clean and is admired and kept tidy for the following 7 days whilst we hope we get as many visitors as possible so that they can be shown into the ‘clean’ room. On day 7 it loses the respect of household members and reverts to a complete tip – closely matching the rest of the house. However, it is unlikely to be at crisis point because this position will be held by another room – and so the cycle continues. A room basically only gets cleaned once a crisis has been declared – usually by me.

This was working very well until last month when a combination of family circumstances resulted in hardly any cleaning/tidying up being done AT ALL for about three weeks. We endured a particularly long exam season and I decided that I was going to explore an existence beyond motherhood which resulted in a serious deficit in the housekeeping department. As a result, ALL rooms in the house were at crisis point at the same time. It had got to the stage where I left my own house to speak to visitors in the street so that they could not peer into the hallway as I was talking to them. This is not a cleaning job that can be tackled by one person if they want to stay sane and so I decided that we would take this on as a family. And that is where the problems started.

Option #1 – Democracy

In the past I have adopted a democratic approach to almost all family activities. Everyone has the right to express an opinion and, believe me, they exercise that right with enthusiasm. We argue like hell debate and discuss the options and decide on a way forward. However, on this occasion I had so much cleaning to achieve with such a tight deadline, that I did not have the time for a democratic approach. We are going on holiday soon and that will involve people that I have to see in the playground everyday visiting my house to feed our pet rabbit. There is only so much shame that I can endure and this was too much. Furthermore, in my experience, a democratic approach to cleaning results in a culture of blame, denial and scapegoating that would make the current Westminster shenanigans look like the summer of love. Apparently no one, apart from me, makes any mess whatsoever and therefore should not be asked to participate. I decided to launch a regime change – goodbye democracy.

Option #2 – Communism
This was my husband’s preferred option. He liked the idea of us forming the ruling party and getting the workers children to do all the work. The allocation of cleaning jobs would be the responsibility of the political leaders and the workers would just have to get on with it. All remuneration would be equal i.e. nothing. I, however, felt that this would be too controversial and could result in a prolonged and particularly nasty civil war with both sides taking an entrenched position from which they would not budge. Also, my middle daughter is a fierce negotiator and, I’m convinced, a future trade union leader. I didn’t fancy taking her on and my husband, quite frankly, stood no chance against her. Communism was rejected.

Option #3 – Monarchy

At first I liked the sound of this. Queen Sharon has a quirky ring to it don’t you think? The idea of wielding absolute power and my subjects children bowing to my command is pretty damn attractive. However, in most modern states, the monarchy holds very little clout. They have no real legislative power and act as a symbolic figurehead. This was going to get me nowhere. I declined a coronation.

Option #4 – Dictatorship

At last – this is what I needed and this is the system that I chose. I triggered an immediate regime change and overthrew (singlehandedly) the old democratic structure. I appointed myself both Dictator and Enforcer – I was giddy with power. Before anybody had a chance to work out what was going on, I allocated tasks to individuals and ensured that the sisters that were most likely to argue were on separate floors of the house. My divide and rule strategy was a triumph. The only contact allowed was a hand over of the Dyson in the hallway.

I was mindful that I risked a revolution if my regime became too harsh and, as two of my children and my husband are bigger than me, I doubted that I had the military power to withstand a coup. I therefore introduced an element of corruption.

I knew that if I could get the older two girls on side the little one would follow. With a stroke of political genius, I bribed them promised that if they tidied the house in a satisfactory manner I would not only get them an Indian takeaway for tea but would allow them to advertise the house as a film location which is something that they have wanted for years. This has a lot to do with the fact that Sherlock is filmed partly in Cardiff and they quite like the thought of coming home to find Benedict Cumberbatch in our kitchen.

Thanks to a successful Saturday of dictatorship I now have a clean house and we are registered as a potential film set. By the way, if I ever find someone famous in my hallway I will let you know!


(This post originally appeared on After the Playground)

About the author: Dr Sharon Parry is a PhD scientist and freelance writer and columnist. She also happens to be a Mom of three fabulous teen daughters. Her fourth child is her blog, After the Playground, which is packed with practical tips and advice, musings and some funny stories about raising teens and mid-life in general. You can find more of her writing on Huffington Post and follow what she has to say on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest.

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