Sunday, February 5, 2017

The Importance of a Clean Home

Ah, a clean home . . . it feels so nice. The visual pleasure of looking at an environment that is orderly and as dirt free as possible does something to my brain. I feel more relaxed. More in control.

The fragrant smells that waft through my home whether from the Glade plug-in on the wall or from some cleaning product filling the air is quite pleasing to me. Take a trip down the laundry aisle of the grocery store and maybe you will see what I mean. Those scents on that aisle grab my attention sending me gracefully dancing down that aisle—mentally of course.

There is a long history of the cleanliness of a home being called “women’s work”. It is deeply embedded in many societies. This role--though, I am not a scholar on the subject--is tied to the fact that women are most often the caregivers of children. I am not opposed to women taking on this role in today’s society if they want to—obviously, since I chose to stay at home with my children; it is by far the best job I ever had, and I am immensely grateful that my husband brought home the necessary cash allowing me to do this work. But, when a woman works outside the home, viewpoints of who is responsible for the cleaning of the home need to change.

Through the years, I did my best to manage the daily operations of my home, but did not do it exceptionally well the more I was pulled away due to the activities of my children. There were also times I was paid for work outside my home but unfortunately there were consequences.

I cleaned a ballet school--my girls helped--and did basic maintenance for the building in trade so my children could attend classes. That same school paid me to make and alter costumes. I also received additional compensation to manage those costumes during several productions. Prior to my stage IV diagnosis, I juggled working several part-time jobs: one was in a daycare working in the classrooms when needed and helping with its afternoon operations; some days I worked in the office for the previously mentioned ballet school and after hours, three times a week, I cleaned each room of the daycare—these businesses were next to each other, thankfully; the most time-consuming job was my work as a merchandiser in several grocery stores because the paper work came home with me. All of this was done while still homeschooling my youngest and taking two of my older children to their daily academic classes away from home and then bringing them home later.

As determined to do-it-all as I was while working those jobs, after nine months of it I accepted the fact I had to drop one of them. Still, I continued to be away from home, a lot. Sure my home was dirty. Sure I was involved in dog rescue caring for several dogs including my own. And, sure, I had more to do than I ever could get done. But instead of someone offering to help or asking my husband to give me a helping hand, I was blind-sided with an attack on my mental state.

I discovered the sinister plot by a few of my family members during an interrogational conversation on the telephone one evening about how I was living and raising my youngest child. I knew nothing of anyone’s thoughts of me until that conversation. It was all quite bizarre. The next day my husband received a phone call. The person on the other end said it was imperative he come over. My husband left with no idea what was going on. When Greg returned home I discovered I apparently had . . . a hoarding disorder. My husband was told he needed to “fix me”. We completed the puzzle and realized my family members, who do not live in my home, had begun a covert operation against me. Instead of helping me, an intervention was in order.

It is true my house was dirty, cluttered with misplaced items, dishes in the sink with books and papers scattered on tables. It was also true my youngest –10 at the time--liked to sleep on the couch, and her bedroom was not painted in a favorable little-girl color because her bedroom had been a former home-office--this was apparently bad too. And, since our daughter kept getting strep throat, it must be from all those animals I had living with us. (Yeah, wow . . .) I was getting the sense that someone needed a hobby and had spent too much time watching episodes of cat-hording women with their 100 cats producing waste all over their living spaces. If this show has ever crossed your path then you know this show documents a family’s intervention in hopes the person, living quite differently than most of us, will return to the life that most people consider normal. To some people--not the people who lived with me--I had become one of those women.

On the surface it was laughable what I was hearing. But, the deeper issue was not. How could this be happening? I was a woman who got up in the morning, cared for my animals, secured care of my youngest child or took her with me, drove the other children to their classes, and spent the rest of the day spreading my time between all my jobs, getting home at night, finishing paperwork, cooking dinner, educating my child, and finally collapsing leaving dirty dishes in the sink, laundry unfolded in their baskets, waking up the next day to do it all over again or giving my best effort to try and catch up from being gone the day before.

Then a conversation occurred between me and another family member in a public place. Apparently, this small group of family members believed I needed to talk to someone. Maybe that someone could help me. (By someone this person meant a psychologist, or perhaps a psychiatrist.) This from someone who gave me a cartoon snipped from a daily paper years before saying “the cleaning can wait”.

It was official. I was under attack. All because of a dirty home.

That year we stayed home for Thanksgiving. By Christmas I received an apology from one individual, only because he didn’t want us to skip the family gathering at Christmastime. I accepted it because of my children, and darn it, I couldn’t not talk to them forever, they were family.

When my metastatic condition was made known, my clean house--or my not clean house--depending on your definition of clean—and my mental disorder were put away. I quit my jobs, not because of the family’s thoughts of me, but because of my disease. I had full support from my husband. He agreed I needed time to focus on getting my personal things in order.

Time went on, but I have never forgotten how hurt I was—still am. Last year, I received the most honest apology from one of those family members involved in my attack. She unfortunately had experienced with her own family the nightmare of someone blaming her for something untrue--unrelated to house cleaning, but something that made her see how unfair her family had been to me. Judgments made by spectators can in fact be wrong. I hate that it took something horrible to happen to her for her to see the horrible that had happened to me, but the apology and her acknowledgement that she was wrong was needed, by me.

So, today I still find my abdomen muscles tense when I think about that time in my life. My muscles are tensing now as I write. Each time I have a good scan, I have wondered if I should get a job just to help out with my medical bills even though that effort would hardly put a dent in them. I wonder too, if I went back to work now, would my living environment become chaotic again. And what will happen if my disease takes control? Will people consider my dirty house a risk to my child’s health because I am too sick to clean it? My environment in my home is the only thing I have any control of, at least for now. Do I continue my efforts to finish my list-of things-to-do-before-I-die while keeping my home in control? Or do I get a job?

People like me with metastatic cancer face many obstacles and employment is one of those. We are not always available 5 days a week from 9 to 5. Our life can change significantly quickly. Neuropathy can make standing for long hours difficult. Digestive issues can be embarrassing and can make us late to work. Other illnesses related to our cancer treatments, like my recurring urinary tract infections can cause missed work days. Any employer would have to be understanding. I realize these are excuses and could possibly sound whinny, but these are some of the reasons why getting a job is not an easy decision nor working in that job easily accomplished. I fear losing time spent with my youngest child. I fear, too, losing the one thing I can control in this life; a clean, organized home where I can hide from the world because cancer takes everything.

Get a job . . . I think that thought with every clean scan. I am struggling.

What would you do?


  1. Get a job? ... i'm quite sure if you could be gainfully employed you would be Lisa. Unfortunately it's out of the question when you're dealing with a health issue of the magnitude. I just think the stress of having to be somewhere every day and the level of commitment needed would be more than you could handle. As I said, it's ridiculous to expect this from you Lisa. You need to concentrate on your health - and not just your physical state. That includes your emotional well-being. If you can handle it, that would be one thing. Meantime live your life to the best of your abilities. Focus on that. That's your job! Get busy. Best wishes Lisa.

  2. Thanks, Denise, for this advice. A good dose of encouragement is always good medicine!

  3. That is awful. People can be so judgmental and unfair, and even when you know they're wrong it starts a little voice in your head questioning your own actions.
    Should you get a job? Do you really want to, or do you just think you should? If you think you want to, then give it a try and if it doesn't work for you, then resign. If you think that you're considering it because you should, then don't. And if it would interfere with your time with your child, then definitely don't. That's so much more important - In the awful case of a turn for the worse, you might regret not taking as much time with him/her as you could.
    Cathy S.

    1. Cathy, Everything you said above is precisely what is in my thoughts. That voice in my head causes so many problems. Do I want to get a job, no. Do I think I should, yes. I feel such guilt that my husband has to bear the burden of keeping me alive at such a significant cost financially--and emotionally for that matter. It is the guilt that keeps me struggling. As you pointed out, if I worked, my time with my child would be impacted. I would regret I chose to work in the end because of her. It is mentally a vicious circle. Your outside view looking in is definitely helpful--thank you.

  4. I feel the same way! I'm learning to let my house not be immaculate everyday. Life is more important and so is our time! Sending love!

  5. You are not wrong about that, Tammy. Thanks for leaving a comment; I appreciate it.