I have always done my own cleaning. Not very often, mind. Once every month or so keeps the funghi at bay. But, each time I've worked out where I keep the dusters, boy do I let rip! Skirting boards. Pelmets. U bends. With my portable radio in one armpit and a sheaf of Miele nozzles in the other, I stalk the vicarage assaulting cobwebs and secretly binning any infant possessions that can't be kicked to oblivion under the beds.
But uncooperative lungs have prevented me terrorising the family filth since mid December and even the Vicar is noticing the dustballs that skim in his wake. Sensibly, he seeks out a cleaner for a day to tide us over. I am excited because someone else can fidget the grime out of my daughter's shell collection. And I am nervous because I'm not sure I can cope with someone toiling over my bacteria while I lie on my day bed. What if she forgets to tame the muesli-like stuff under the sofa cushions? (We don't buy muesli. How does it get there?) What if she lifts the lid on my mortifying laundry basket? What will she think of the strange thing growing out of my kitchen floor cloth?
I spend the dawn hours readying the house for her. I swab the top of the kitchen cupboards in case she judges me. I perform violence on the black mould in the bathroom and I haul the laundry basket out to the garage. Then I agonise over etiquette. Should I offer her coffee when she arrives or would she spend expensive minutes consuming it?
The bell rings. She's very young. She has a sick baby at home and apologetically places a bag of prescription medicine on the hall stand. She only wants £8 an hour. I beg her to accept coffee. I beg her to accept tea. I trail after the Miele flex proffering biscuits. I am about to suggest that she sits down with a Jammy Dodger while I make a start on the dusting.
For three hours I sit hunched on my pillows feigning work on my laptop while she labours. She apologises if I pass her on the stairs. I apologise if I'm in the room when she enters. She dusts the doors. She dusts the shower rail. She dusts contours of the house that I never knew existed. She eliminates the sofa muesli, but leaves a pound coin that she finds embedded there on the coffee table.
I am stressed with gratitude. I try to overpay her, but she declines. She shoulders her heavy bag and sets off back to her sick baby. I go and lie down. I am exhausted. Watching someone else perform chores that should be mine is far more wearing than performing them myself.
Next month Mr Sheen and I will be a partnership again. On the other hand...it is satisfying to have a bathroom mirror unspotted by the flying fall-out from flossing and to tread uncrunchy carpets. And we all have to do our bit to resuscitate our local economy. So perhaps it's my fiscal duty, not extravagant sloth, to invite her back, even after my lungs are restored. Perhaps it's my fiscal duty, not extravagant sloth, to make it quite a regular fixture. She can earn some extra cash while I can concentrate on intellectual pursuits such as Twit...er, my career.
Next time, though, I'll give the house a thorough dust and vacuum before her arrival so that I needn't feel quite so exhausted with guilt.
Lend me your views. Can a home-based, only-part-time career mother with school-aged children and a flimsy bank balance justify a cleaner, or should I invest in a clean floor cloth and shoulder my rightful domestic duties?