Thursday, December 08, 2011

Taking back my turf...

It's been more than 2 weeks since the maid was fired. KH is away in Monaco (the rat) while I am on my own personal journey of discovery... as a born-again hausfrau.

It's been tough, tiring and yet... exhilarating and liberating in many ways.

All my life I've been a bit of a princess. There was always mom (there still is - thank God!), KH (to drive me around and to clean my toilets), the maids (for housework).

So for me, thrown into the deep end, this period has been one of education and growth. In so many ways such as:

1) I have, for the first time in all my 43 years of life, finally gotten on my hands and knees and cleaned the bathroom. I got past the ick factor and once I hit the rhythm, I scrubbed like there's no tomorrow. All the gunk, the slimy algae (yes you shudder, such was the state of my bathroom since KH refused to clean it before his trip to Europe leaving me to party with the toilet brush instead) all went and one hour of furious scrubbing and rinsing later, my bathroom SHONE. The kids gathered around the door in wonder. They'd never seen mom like this. Heck, they'd never seen the bathroom this clean. I felt so liberated after that - cleaning the bathroom was a cinch! I could do it and I no longer have to depend on anyone else to do this.

2) My hands were red and chapped on day 1, but by today, they'd toughened up and are just peeling and dry on the fingertips. Gloves do not help. I have finally discovered the importance of hand cream.

3) The kids clean up their plates. I cook, they eat. They are full of praise and I love watching them eat the food I cook. When the psycho maid was here, the cooking was so bad that the kids were not eating that much, skipping if they could. Owain for instance, was losing weight. So these few weeks have been a nice change to see the kids polishing off their food and knowing that I am (a) utilising my resources efficiently and creatively - leftover chicken or pork stock for example, can be used for cooking a fresh batch of soup with new ingredients and (b) knowing that I CAN cook pretty decently. Plus their plates have to pass what Cait calls the 'Momspection' which goes like this:

Owain: "Done!" and hops off dining room chair.
Me: "Hold it!" checks the plate and then "Clean! Thank you very much! NOW, you can go to the kitchen and put the plate in the sink." Or I go: "Oi! You call that  clean?? I want every grain of rice eaten. So there's less gunk to clear. Now clean that up!"

4) My days are more productive - I plan ahead and every waking hour is well used. No canteen breaks, no chit chat. My time and actions are carefully planned. After the first one or two days of extra work thanks to lack of planning, unfamiliarity etc, I have now gotten my routine down to a T. You'd find yourself expending a great deal more unnecessary energy if you failed to plan a household routine. I hate being counter-productive, wasting energy and time on superfluous action and quickly learned to finetune my routine for an overall economy of action and energy.

5) I eat a lot less. In the office, there is always a full lunch - usually a bowl of noodles, plate of rice etc. And sometimes a tea break, a curry puff, a snack. Here at home, lunch is miniscule, dinner spare. Snacks are cut fruit from the fridge.

6) Ice-cold glass of Coke is my fuel. It really keeps me going. In the office, I feel sluggish after a full breakfast or lunch. Here at home, the Coke keeps me going. Plus on a hot day, after sweeping and mopping the ground floor of my home, the icy Coke is sheer nirvana.

7) So I eat less, work more. I think I might actually lose some weight.

8) It gets easier by the day. I am defter in the kitchen, less tired than I was when I first started, more energised. I also sleep better at night. I may end my day past midnight but my sleep is sound and deep. In the past, I would wake up intermittently, my overactive mind reaching deep and thinking about stuff I needed to finish at the office, or worried about forgetting something, But these days, I sleep so well.

9) I get weaned off Facebook. Despite being at home for longer hours, I actually have less computer time than before. Hence I've been blogging less too.

10) I get free K-pop concerts from the kids - who sing along loudly - every Korean syllable. I am getting educated in K-pop world. 2PM, 2NE1, Girls Generation, Davichi - are now names as familiar as family now. Plus those catchy ditties, blasted loud, turn household chores into a song and dance routine.

11) Food bills have gone down. Even my grocery bills have shrunk. I can't fathom why when the maids were here, we had to spend so much and cook so much when we actually don't eat that much. And yet, in the scarce two weeks since we've been on our own, our food bills have gone down by at least 30%. Same goes for indiscriminate use of electricity and water. I am more mindful of these costs and I find ways to save - this is something I think I'm going to be very picky over when Lolita returns.

12) The kids help out - sort of. Everyone has their chores but sometimes I find yelling to remind them to finish their stuff is more painful than me actually just doing it myself. Gillian though, has been great.

13) Chopping and cutting is therapeutic. I get a deep sense of well-being and satisfaction from hearing the thunk of the knife on the board and feeling the pressure and the give as the blade slices through. Onions are my favourite. I enjoy my little challenges - how fast, how even, how thin?  

As the days go by, I find myself more confident at home - yes, my own home! For too long I have left things to others. But these couple of weeks have shown me that it's not as bad or as tough as I'd imagined it to be. I thought I'd be scatterbrained, uncoordinated, sloppy and I would not be able to manage my household. But it has not been the case.

In fact I find myself now, easing into a familiar routine and with this familiarity comes confidence. With this comes the next level - higher standards. There is such a deep sense of satisfaction from seeing the house shine, seeing the kids well-fed and knowing it was all your own work. And especially for an ex-princess like me, marvelling that I could actually do all this.

To tell the truth, I've hit my groove so much so that I'm even a bit reluctant to hand the reins back to any maid.

Quite honestly though, I am also disillusioned with the whole convoluted, expensive process of getting her - or any maid - in. I've had two lemon maids in one year, spent several thousand dollars in wasted agency fees, admin costs, air tickets and not to mention emotional angst, just to get decent help in the home.

Even now, despite having paid more than $500 to the agent already, I still have no confirmation on when exactly Lolita would be able to come in. I have had to chase the agent and then given conflicting reasons for the lag from both Lolita AND the agent. I'm really getting very tired of this whole rigmarole. If this is not going to happen, I'm just going to throw in the towel and go without a maid. We would just have to find a way or make some tough decisions. I don't want to throw any more good money after bad.

It seems to make less and less sense why I should have to pay a hefty recruitment fee, monthly salaries, tolerate sulks and demands and then put up with sub-par work and risk another psycho maid. If it were not for the fact that Owain and Trin need someone at home when they come home from school, I would do away with the whole idea of having a helper in the house.

I've said before that I don't think I can be a superwoman. If I had to straddle a full day in the office and come home to do housework, I would cave. I can't do it all and I honestly don't think any woman can, or should. For me, it's got to be one or the other.

These few days have seen me staying home as a full-time stay-home-mom and I'm growing to love it. But I also love my work in the office. I just want to excel in whatever I do, devote my energies to making it work, doing good work - home or office. But I can't have it both ways. It would not be fair to either scenario. In the days when I was working half-time, my energies were so dissipated. I would be pulled in two different directions, my mind restive and making the switch from home/office always takes a bit of mental adjustment. I could not devote enough time/energy to either and in the end, it was just unsatisfying - to me and everybody else.

So bottomline - I love being productive at home. I also love being productive in the office. I sense a big decision coming up.



I loved reading this post d:) You go, woman! Btw is Lolita the one who was with you for seven years?

Momto5 said...

Hey, not seven but more like five. She's alright but a bit of a primadonna. Was thinking how insecurities show up in the oddest ways. Was always never confident about my housework abilities therefore preferring to pass them on to someone else. Even with Trin - I've always felt a bit less confident with her since someone has seen to her care more than I have. But these few days have seen me getting to know her a bit better. And I like our new rhythm. This has been a very nice time for me. Going to miss this next week when leave really comes to an end. Going to miss the kids full-time too.

Anonymous said...

Its refreshing reaing your blog.....instead of spending time arguing with my colleague over what a lazy and irresponsible and no-time mother I am and feeling bad, guilty, useless but not doing anything about it.......

I'm just so upset that most people assume that just because you got a maid, you do not need to do any houswork.

I feel defensive but there's a certain truth....without a maid, you have more things to do; bring your kids to before and after school care etc.....and probably no one you can call for help when you need to go to work urgently.....

Thanks for sharing your story. I feel inspired to clean the toilet and do a 101 things.