The Virus Chronicles – Working Bee

Week One of Quarantine – March 29th, 2020

Will the COVID-19 lockdown bring welcome changes on the domestic front?

Today is Saturday and I have declared it a Working Bee. The floors need to be vacuumed and mopped, the garden needs to be weeded and the avalanche of laundry needs to be sorted. With four adults in the house all day, there is no excuse for the place not to look like a showpiece.

I have spent all week writing, which has been bliss. I have been putting in a full eight hour day at the times I would usually been going to work. Old habits die hard.

Being in quarantine, we are not allowed outside the house, so I have not been going for my usual evening walks. I can’t say I’ve missed it. I’m tired after all the walking we did on our holiday in Japan. My husband showed me the graph on his phone. Last week while we were away, we averaged around 8000 steps per day, this week you could barely see the little red bars on the screen. That curve sure flattened out quickly.

So it’s time for some exercise and it’s time to get the place looking ship shape. “Do we have to do it now?” my husband asks, “we’ve got all day, why rush?”

Why indeed. Why not spend the morning relaxing, eating a slow breakfast in front of the TV, catching up on social media and doing a bit of writing? After all, mornings are the best time to write. Your mind is clear and rested and the dopamines are flowing. That’s why they have Morning Pages.

And so I leave the dishwasher half unpacked and sit down at my computer. I have been a bit worried about my chair and the workstation I sit at. A cheap desk shoved into the spare room and an old office chair I bought when my former workplace was upgrading. It’s hardly ideal in ergonomic terms. If I’m going to be spending so much time here, this could be a problem. I heard about a writer who developed severe back pain from sitting at her desk all day. But she was older than me and had pre-existing health problems. Besides, I don’t have a job and can’t afford it. And even if I did have the cash, the furniture shops are all closed anyway.

I will have to make do. I will have to make sure I get away from my desk sometimes. I will have to keep up some standards at home. I can’t let everything slide into chaos, which it will do if I’m not careful. I’m the only female in the house and so it falls to me. I know people won’t like me saying that but it’s true. Studies have proven it.

A comedian once said that men are just bears with furniture. They don’t care if the dishes are piling up in the sink and the ironing basket is overflowing. They don’t care if the floors haven’t seen a mop in two weeks and the outdoor table is covered with dust –it’s outdoors! Men are pragmatic. They iron as they go. They’ll wait till there isn’t a clean dish in the house before they turn on the dishwasher.

But women are different. We like order and control. We like to plan ahead to circumvent discomfort and disorder down the track. We keep the pantry stocked, the bills paid and the toilets clean. Domestic disorder sets our teeth on edge. The world isn’t right when the house is a mess. It’s like all that’s bad in the outside world is creeping in and we can’t let that happen. We need to protect our own private space, our sanctuary and our fortress. At least we can control that much.

I refuse to be one of those women who harps on about trivial chores, the weeds in the garden I asked to be removed three weeks ago, the clothes dropped on the floor, the food left uncovered. I say it once and then I walk away.

But my dignified silence comes at a price. If it bothers you so much, then do it yourself, says the little voice in my head. Why should anyone else do it if it doesn’t bother them? What right do I have to impose my standards on them, as long as we are all well and healthy and the house is not falling down?

The men in my house would be most indignant at my suggestion that we are not all pulling our weight. After all, I have been spending all my days writing and haven’t even cooked a meal all week. My elder son and my husband have taken over the cooking and even the washing up. My younger son will run to the shops anytime we need anything. One of them cut the lawn last week, a task I have never done and don’t intend to.

I can feel a creeping sense of ennui regarding just about anything except writing. Maybe because I know this time is limited, that this impromptu writing retreat isn’t going to last forever.

Sooner or later, it will come to an end and I will return to the necessary business of being a responsible adult.

In the meantime, why waste this opportunity on my ironing basket?

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