Category Archives: On being a mom

An Open Letter to My Cleaning Lady

I don’t want to bother you while you’re quarantining with your family. But just real quick: why is everything so sticky?

I remember the last time we said goodbye. It was like any other Tuesday. Your skin had that nice sheen of perspiration about it, and in my memory, you are the most beautiful person I’ve ever seen. You said you’d see me next week. That was 51 days ago.

I guess I just wanted to write and tell you that I get it now. Where there used to be clean surfaces in which I would see my own image reflected, there’s now a coat of dust, dog hair and sesame seeds in which I see the truth about who I am. I really had no idea. About any of it. Take the spray bottles, a whole bucket of them, all slightly different and ending in “–ex.” Around week two, I noticed that the prefix to each bottle’s name is a clue to what it’s supposed to be cleaning. You probably knew this already.  

As I wipe the film of grime from one surface to another (Fantastic, I find, is well named) and haul the vacuum cleaner up and down stairs, I start to understand a few things about you. Like I understand why you occasionally miss a spot. Sometimes on those glorious Tuesdays, just after you’d left, I’d wander around the house enjoying the 45 minutes that it would stay clean, and I’d notice a smudge on a cupboard or some jelly near the sink. I’d wipe them in my long-suffering way. Do I have to do everything around here? Now I understand. There are just too many spots not to miss a spot. This place is covered in jelly. Oh! I answered my own question.

I now understand why you weren’t as excited as I was when I got my little long-haired constantly-shedding dog. I thought I’d surprise you. You matched my smile and made all the right sounds, but something passed behind your eyes, a fleeting look that I now recognize as terror. His hair is everywhere. My carpets are laden with it. It’s somehow in the stove. It sticks to the spots of jelly.

I understand now that all of your comments and inquiries about my beautiful children were sarcastic. Sarcasm can be so subtle, and I’m usually pretty good at picking up on it, but I see that the joke was on me. I did notice an involuntary swallowing every time you mentioned one of their names. I wondered if it was hick-ups and if you’d been drinking on the job (God knows I do). But I now know that it was your gag reflex kicking in. My children are disgusting people. Just the mention of them now makes me a little queasy. Not one of them knows how to properly use a toilet, and they collectively shed skin cells with the vigor and enthusiasm of my long-haired dog. Sorry, again, about the dog.

You might be happy to know that I’ve made some changes around here now that I’m in charge. Namely, there will be no more cleaning the oven. I YouTube’d it and thought is this even legal? If I’d known that I was asking you to heat it up, spray it with chemicals and then stick your head inside, I promise I never would have asked you to do it. I’m not a maniac.

And I’ve decided I don’t need my sheets washed every week. Whose idea was that anyway? I went three weeks without washing them and didn’t notice any problem at all. I only washed them this week because I spilled some ketchup, and after a few nights of waking up and thinking I was bleeding to death, I decided to suck it up.

Also, after the second week, I went to vacuum the living room, but I stopped right away when I realized the carpet in there is the exact same color as the dog! You can barely see the hair, so I’m just letting it pile up. It’s saved a lot of time. I’m thinking of replacing the rest of the carpet in my house with a similar color so I can just throw the vacuum out. Thoughts?

Anyway, I hope you are well. Enclosed please find your check for this week, which I used to think was a lot. We should probably talk about that too.

In the Age of Quarantine, Marie Kondo is Out of Luck

I’ve been imagining what quarantine is like for Marie Kondo in her tidy home, surrounded by the six items that spark joy in her heart. She is fully prepared for a military inspection or a surprise visit from her in-laws, but she wasn’t ready for a global pandemic. I, it seems, have been preparing for… Continue Reading

Grieving Our Plans

During the first few days of the COVID-19 crisis, I shook my head a lot: This isn’t so bad, people are overreacting. They can’t just start canceling things. I have plans. Obviously I was in denial, the first stage of grief, and it was my plans that I was mourning. My plans for the next… Continue Reading

The Dorm Room Fantasy

This spring I received a catalog in the mail called Pottery Barn Dorm. I’ve never received this catalog before, but I assume that Mark Zuckerberg told them that I have a child starting college this fall, so I wasn’t so surprised. What surprised me as I flipped through the glossy pages is that you don’t… Continue Reading

Motel 55

I’m running a one star hotel. I’m not worried about improving my rating, as it’s peak season and all of the rooms are full. There aren’t a lot of other options for my guests at this time of year, so the myriad complaints to management about the quality of service go largely ignored. Breakfast is… Continue Reading

Dog Park Rookie

When I got a dog I was excited to start going to the dog park. I thought it might be just like going to the playground with little kids, standing around shooting the breeze with other parents. In fact it’s been so long since I’ve lingered at a playground that I thought the dog park… Continue Reading

If You’ve Got Five Kids, You’ve Got A Lot of Teeth

“That’s just so many teeth,” I said to the confused mother of five seated across from me at lunch. It was a weird follow up to the pretty standard suburban question: “how many kids do you have?” Depending on your point of view, there are plenty of more appropriate reactions, including “how wonderful” and “so… Continue Reading

The Upside of Scarcity

Many years ago, my son received a Thomas the Tank Engine train and a circle of tracks as a gift. He was two years old and could zoom Thomas around that track for hours, frontwards, backwards, crashing into imaginary obstacles. He loved it so much that I bought Thomas a buddy, his faithful passenger coach… Continue Reading

Sports Niceties in Real Life

Spring sports are winding down and the whole thing seems like a blur of driving, costume changes and sandwiches eaten in the car. There was the requisite amount of elbow jabbing, name calling and blood letting. But there were also the niceties of sports, the repeated rituals, words and actions that sort of smooth out… Continue Reading

The Homecoming

I wander around my unusually clean kitchen, killing time before I get to pick up my son from the airport. He has just finished his freshman year in college, and something that feels like relief floods my nervous system. I haven’t seen him in two months, so I try to imagine what he’s going to… Continue Reading

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