It turns out that there is such a thing as ‘no housework day’ (thanks Non-Domestic Mama). I am all over it. I’ve cleaned for a living and it is hard, hard work. Drudgery.
Our expat life means that we’ve been able to pay people to clean for us while we were in Asia and now also here in Belgium, thanks to the ‘titres services‘ system (basically it ensures a minimum wage and healthcare for many low paid workers who were working ‘in the black’, outside the official tax system).
I know that makes me very fortunate. I work hard to ensure my whole life is ‘no housework day’, particularly ‘no ironing day’ which I loathe above all else. Now that we’re both working demanding jobs and travelling frequently, having someone whom we trust to come in and straighten things up, scrub the shower and iron is a necessity.
For the record, I don’t think expats should feel guilty about having some help around the house, even if they’re not working. If you’re setting up life in a new location, there is plenty to do and if you’re navigating unfamiliar territory in an unfamiliar language, it takes much, much longer than it should. Or you’re building a social life, a support network. Or you’re just enjoying yourself which must also be part of the expat experience.
I’m often asked where ‘Remedial Wife’ came from, what makes me a ‘Remedial Wife’. It is this: I like pretty things and I like my house to be clean and neat. I can often go the other way and get slightly obsessive about things that need to be done around the house (right now, how to clean a set of windows that are filthy but too high to reach even with a ladder).
I get zero pleasure from cooking (unless it is dessert and only then when I am in the mood) which I leave to Mr B. It is well known that I am pretty inept at laundry. Mr B had 3 shirts ruined one day in India when ‘stain remover’ turned out to be neat bleach. And to make matters worse I combined this with a wash that was too hot and shrunk said ruined shirts beyond all repair.
I am not one of those expat wives whose house looks like a magazine shoot, who is always incredibly dressed and groomed, who mixes cocktails and arranges flowers, never forgets a birthday and is never short on small talk.
Instead I’ve learned to become Mr B’s sous-chef and to clean up around him as he works his culinary magic. It’s a work in progress.
Life is too short. Happy no housework day!