Scientists. Don’t you just love them? Especially when they come up with cracking reports which state that obsessively cleaning your house may cause you to become depressed.
Researchers in Atlanta, Georgia have discovered that keeping your house too clean can adversely affect your immune system which in turn may adversely affect your brain’s ability to make the so-called ‘happy hormone’ Seratonin. The result is, we may all have cleaner homes than ever before but are walking around in a weakened physical state feeling sorry for ourselves.
I’m going to remember that one this weekend when the mop, hoover and duster comes calling. No, I’ll say firmly, I’d rather be pigging and happy than clean and sad. Refusing to lift a mop may be good for me, I’ll argue and I’ll stay in my bed in week-old sheets and see if I can count the cobwebs.
I only wish I’d known last week. Last weekend heralded one of those moments when the sun shone so brightly in the windows of our wee house that it showed up every grotty mark, smudgy toddler sized handprint and dust bunny floating about the living room. It was time, I decided, for the spring clean - that big, fat, back breaking clean which makes you want to weep half way through but is strangely fulfilling once you are done.
I thought I was one of those women who kept a relatively clean house. Sure there were danger zones (You would need a Health and Safety risk assessment before you ventured into my understairs cupboard) but largely I keep a tidy home. (Well, I say tidy... I do have have two children who have many, many toys and books which they like to scatter in the most unlikely of places).
But last week I woke up and suddenly my house looked like a good ‘before’ scene of a Kim and Aggie style clean-up TV show. I set to work in style - strapping on the rubber gloves and emptying the under sink cupboard to haul out a host of cleaning products I had long forgotten I owned.
I threw open the windows and set to work, scrubbing skirting boards and polishing windows (and steadfastly ignoring the understairs cupboard) and before I knew it, it was 7pm and while the house was gleaming the children were looking at me with disgust that I had left them to their own devices all day. It was then the guilt set in full force and I was reminded of the poem I used to read when Joseph was just a baby. “Quiet down cobwebs, and dust got to sleep. I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep”.
Did I feel depressed? Slightly. Was it because I had used some mind altering chemicals to clean the house? I don’t think so. (Although the oven cleaner was a bit of a fecker - my eyes are still streaming). I think it was more that, instead of getting out and about and enjoying a rare day of sunshine I had spent hours at the beck and call of a hoover rather than at the beck and call of my children.
It’s not the chemicals in the cleaning products which make many a modern women depressed - it’s the giving up of precious free time to chores when there are so many much more enjoyable things you could be doing.
Housework is, without a doubt, a pretty thankless task. And much liking painting the Forth Bridge, it is also unending. No sooner have you made the last bed or ironed the last shirt than something else demands your attention.
Yes, I’m well aware we modern women have it easier than our predecessors. How my granny coped with ten kids and none of the gadgets we have at our disposal these days is beyond me - but then as she reminds me, she didn’t have to work full time hours and try and cram it all in in the evenings and weekends either.
There was no such concept as “quality time” when my granny was raising her children.
There was no pressure to do everything you possibly can with your children so as not to stunt their emotional or intellectual growth in the hour or two you get to spend with them before bed (when they are as tired and grumpy as you, yourself feel).
I may have felt satisfied that my house was in an all too temporarily tidy state on Saturday evening but I was acutely aware that I had neglected my quality time obligations and with bedtime just around the corner there was no time to make that up.
So this weekend I’ll be leaving the cobwebs and the dust bunnies (and the understairs cupboard) to their own devices. I will protect my immune system by spraying not one drop of anti-bacterial anything. I will ignore the growing laundry pile and hide the ironing pile if necessary.
If the weather permits, we’ll clear off together and do something fun - hunt for Easter Eggs or play football or paddle on the beach.
If the weather doesn’t oblige, we’ll build tents at home, or make buns or paint pictures and not worry about the mess we are making not even one bit.
And I guarantee by the end of it all, I won’t feel one bit depressed and the toddler sized handprints won’t bother me a bit.