My sister and I had a long conversation at the weekend about our control freak tendencies. “I could get my husband to go and the do the shopping,” she said, “But I know me. I would crack up if he packed the bags all wrong.”
Being from the ‘throw it all in a bag and get out the supermarket as fast as possible’ school of thought I congratulated myself at least on not being that much of a control freak. Sure don’t I frequently end up with bread squashed to a pancake consistency and bruised bananas and melted ice pops?
But then I thought about how I - and only I - am tasked with the shopping each week. This is not due to my husband’s inability or indeed unwillingness to carry out the task but more about my control freakery.
I like to look at the sell by dates. I like to check the price per unit, or price per kilo and know I’m getting the absolutely best deal the supermarkets have to offer on that day.
I am not likely to be swayed by the allure of special offer stickers to buy stuff we wouldn’t normally eat in a blue fit. I like to have it very clear in my mind what meals will be cooked that day, and for the following six days until the task comes around again. I need to know we absolutely have enough loo rolls, milk, bread and cheese.
And when I get home I like to put the shopping away - my way. Yes it may be bruised and battered by the middle aged rebel in me and the way in which I have hap-hazardly thrown my goods into my reusable carrier bags but once home, my shopping must be arranged in an appropriate fashion.
I’m not quite ‘Sleeping with the Enemy’ obsessive about it... no one will get a battering if the soup tins aren’t alphabetised and pointing in the right direction - but I do like things the way I like things. Everything has its place - which is where I expect to find it when I next going looking for it.
The saying ‘if you want something done right, do it yourself’ springs to mind - and while I would love to be one of those chilled out women who doesn’t find herself standing crossed arms and glowering of face at the kitchen window while her put upon husband pegs the jeans on the line by the waistband, I am simply not made that way.
I like things done the way I like things done. So it has been known for me to creep out afterwards and repeg them by the bottom of the legs - as every decent woman knows they should be hung. And it has been known for me to re-tidy after someone has done it first, and rewash the dishes on occasion.
I will put my hand up and admit I am one of those harridan like women who give out because no one else ever cleans the bathroom but would take a case of the nervous jitters should anyone else attempt it.
I may hate the task with every fibre of my being, but it is my task - and I truly believe that women can see dirt that men simply can’t.
I think we have an extra dirt sensing chromosome - one that makes us acutely aware of what lurks behind the toilet bowl and hides in the cupboard under the sink.
It’s in our biology - we can’t escape it and it nags at us until we give in. It’s an addiction - a sick, horrible little addiction which makes us slightly crazy.
My mildly OCD tendencies mean I cannot relax - not even one bit - on a Friday evening until the house is cleaned, the dishes done, the washing sorted and the toys put away neatly.
My husband - who of course is minus the dirt spotting chromosome - could very easily just step over the discarded school uniform, the well loved teddies and the plastic toys a plenty and throw himself on the sofa, remote in hand and chill out. The lack of clean school uniform prepared two days in advance would not cross his mind, nor the little dustbunnies accumulating with gusto on the stairs.
I envy that ability - but clutter and dust are my kryptonite and I think some inbuilt mammy guilt prevents me from relaxing properly until my mammy duties and housekeeping duties are done and dusted (excuse the pun) my cupboards stocked and my family all washed and looking respectable.
Perhaps it is all a bit of part of my working mammy guilt (or just plain old mammy guilt) or indeed the pressure there is on women these days to not only be able to do it all, but to be able to prove to everyone that they can.
There is a secret sense that maybe we are letting the side down should we not have a house in perfect order, beautifully presented children and a handle on the latest project in work.
Many modern women live in fear of getting caught out - of everyone discovering that maybe not all those balls are in the air at all times. We feel we have to try harder and perhaps (well definitely in my case) we become a little obsessive about it.
Perhaps we all need to give ourselves a break.
Perhaps we need to employ cleaners who will get to the back of the toilet bowl before we do. Perhaps we need to not sweat the small stuff so much.
Maybe my lack of obsession about how the groceries are thrown in the shopping bags is the first step along that road.