Armchair Psychologist: Now Taking Clients

I've got a number of hobbies from scrap-booking to running. One hobby you may not know about draws on my professional skills (MBTI certified)and my keen understanding of human behavior. I like to think of myself as an arm chair psychologist. From the comfort of my living room, or car passenger seat, I witness the behavior of my family, sometimes do research via webmd and support group chat forums, and then announce my observations and provide my analysis.

Andy is my primary research subject and perhaps you and I have engaged in a conversation deconstructing his behavior and labeling his actions. My favorite quote from one such conversation is, "But what if Andy doesn't have x, y,z disorder? What if he's just being a d*(&k?"

Lately, from the comfort of my couch, I've been observing Andy as he frantically vacuums, dusts, vacuums more, scrubs toilets, and washes the dishes before the dish hits the basin of the sink. We don't have the dirtiest house, but thanks to kids and cats, we don't have the cleanest house either. Andy is tenacious, and obsessed, with various aspects of house cleaning. It is quite odd to me, because in many ways he is incredibly messy. He's an absolute pack rat, (I've been considering calling the producers of Hoarders), he never completes the laundry, (he puts in it the washer and then, I guess, thinks it'll dry and fold itself) and organizes our office using piles, (did you hear that he recently used a box in lieu of a briefcase?) After months of observation, I have determined that Andy has organizational and cleaning split personality disorder. I call the first personality "Dirty Pig" and the obsessive/compulsive personality "Debreen" after our mothers, who, from armchair observations, each suffer from some form of OCD. It's a case of nature and nurture! Andy exhibits a genetically inherited compulsion to clean and has modeled his crazed behavior of vacuuming and window washing after my very own mom.

Like everything else in my life, I fall in the middle of the cleaning continuum. Not too clean. Not too messy. Lately, my life outlook boils down to ROI- Return On Investment. I like to do things that have a payoff, visually, or preferably, monetarily. Yet, when you have kids, keeping a clean house is impossible. My mom (remember, OCD) recently admitted to me that she may have missed out on some mother/child bonding because she was busy cleaning the base boards with a tooth brush and perfecting her bed making hospital corners.

A typical day at home for me is similar to a broken assembly line. I clean something and the girls come along and undo whatever it is I've just done. For example:

I organize and fold all of Char's clothes. She opens the bureau and tosses all of the clothes onto the floor, rolls on them, and then leaves.

I scrub the kitchen sink and cabinets. Char tosses her 1/2 empty sippy cup of hot chocolate at the sink. It misses and splashes all over aforementioned clean sink and cabinets.

I pull all of the food out of the fridge to clean the shelves and and Caroline opens up every jar to sample.

I scrub the tub 'til it sparkles. I fill with warm water and bubble bath. Char hops in and takes a big turd.

I organize the winter hat and mitten bins. Caroline pulls everything out, tries it all on and suddenly we can only find 1 of each mitten.

The other day, a friend of mine quoted Phillis Diller, "Cleaning house while the kids are still young is like shoveling while it's still snowing." Andy disagrees with Phillis, my friend, and me. When he gets home from work, in his, "I wish I were a 50's husband" way he makes comments and asks questions about the state of the house.

Do you know why there's a sock in the hallway?

Melissa! There's a pickle on the toilet seat. Why?

There's mud on the mudroom carpet.

There's a dirty glass in the dishwasher.

I usually respond in my,"I'm nowhere near a 50's wife" tone:

Yes, maybe a ghost left the sock there.

Maybe the toilet had a sandwich for lunch?

Yes,Captain Obvious, that's mud.

Yes, that glass is dirty and is in the dishwasher.

But Andy knows how to play to my guilty conscience and I've started to defend my wifely house duties with responses like:

I organized everyone's sock drawer today. Twice!

I scrubbed the toilets today- with my bare hands!

I vacuumed everywhere today, that must be from you!

I just emptied the dishwasher and it made me so thirsty I had a drink. Oh and I dusted all of the fan blades today. And those tea cups over there. See them?

Once again, damn you women of an earlier generation (aka "Debreen")who prove time and again that women can do it all. You can have your cake and eat it, too- or at least have kids and a clean house, too. Listen, I love to organize and tidy up. It helps me breathe better. But, I just don't have time, in this short and busy life, to 1) clean it all and 2) keep it all clean. So, I'm just going to to keep doing what I'm doing to keep Captain Obvious off my back. I mop the floor 15 minutes before he gets home so that, when he walks in the door, the house smells clean and the sparkly floor distracts him from the old banana peel shoved under the couch and crayon wall drawings in the hallway.


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