Sitting firmly in the realm of "first world problems", my cleaner is off work. She's had to have knee surgery, and is still on crutches, so won't be coming back to work for a while. This cataclysmic event has meant that I have had to rediscover how to clean my own house. I'd got relatively adept at the Wednesday-evening-whip-round, which allows to me to tidy generic clutter into cupboards the evening before Kath comes. What this skill has done however is create a large number of very full, very untidy cupboards and an unfortunate delusion that I'm keeping on top of things.
It's now been over a month since Kath cleaned, and I've just about got to grips with the vacuum cleaner, have bought some more furniture polish, and even wafted it around gently. I've kept the bathrooms from descending into complete squalor, and the kitchen hasn't actually caused an outbreak of any notifiable diseases (yet). But really, it was reaching the point of needing to knuckle down a bit. I'd been rather thinking that I'd merrily catch up with house cleaning in the evenings. But as it turned out, I have more or less been a zombie come evening-time for the last few weeks. Trying to do two people's full-time jobs in three days a week is taking its toll. So I tried Plan B...
This morning I informed LittleBear that he would need to play on his own for a bit, while I did a Kath-Clean in the bathroom and kitchen. I suggested that maybe he'd like to do some of his jigsaws, which received an emphatic "Definitely!" I then spent over an hour really cleaning in the bathroom and kitchen. I was interrupted occasionally by a LittleBear wanting to show me the next completed jigsaw, or to show me the physical manifestations of the dinosaurs depicted in the jigsaws (what else did you think they would be of?)
Nonetheless, I was able to Get On With Something, for one of the first times in the past four years. I even emptied out and cleaned one of Those Cupboards. Don't pretend you haven't got one. We've all got Those Cupboards. They're the ones that defy any particular description. It's not a pan cupboard, or a plate cupboard, or a food cupboard, or a cleaning cupboard. It's the Everything Else in the Kitchen That Doesn't Already Have a Home Cupboard. In my case it contains all those electrical gadgets that get used once every five years, the half packets of leftover paper napkins, the spare bottles of rinse-aid, the four sets of salad servers, in case I ever serve salad, the miscellaneous bottles, thermos flasks, lunch boxes, and ice-cube trays that will probably be useful one day, even if it's not today. And a surprisingly large number of wooden bowls in various sizes.
So now, not only is my kitchen clean, but That Cupboard is also tidy. Admittedly, that means that BigBear has even less hope of finding anything in it than he did before, so when he next needs to find an ice-cream maker, or hand-blender, or large disposable tablecloth, or lawn-spiking wine-glass-holder, he'll be completely stumped.
And LittleBear was quite content. I could listen to him chuntering away to himself as he did his jigsaws, and every now and then he'd pop round the corner to tell me something important or ask me to come and admire his work.
I have a sneaking suspicion that there are a host of parents out there who are wondering why it has taken so long for me to reach the point where I can achieve anything more than a ten-minute job while looking after LittleBear. The parents whose children play happily without constant interaction and company. The parents who have successfully conveyed to their children that every minute of every day does not revolve around playing. The parents who manage to do serious gardening, or re-decorate the house, or work from home, or all those other things I don't achieve. I begin to fear that perhaps somewhere along the lines I have screwed up, and am raising a child who perceives himself as the centre of the universe, who will become dangerously self-centred and inconsiderate...
And then Bolshy PhysicsBear remembers that LittleBear is the centre of my universe, and I'm happy for him to know that. To know that I am always interested in his life, his games, his thoughts and his ideas. The one gift that I can give him is my unwavering love and the confidence and knowledge that he is mine and I am his. The time will come all too quickly when he doesn't want to share every waking minute with me. So I shall continue to relish being the planet orbiting his sun, letting the warmth of his smile bathe my face and the strength of his love tug me tumbling towards him in an eternal circle. But in the mean time, I'm still pretty chuffed with getting to clean the kitchen. It's a step towards my independence. And his. And today I shall be happy about it, even if one day I may be heartbroken.