A Slattern’s Diary #6

Our resident slattern Margaret Cabourn-Smith has enlisted outside help. But she may be putting too much faith in the life-changing powers of a stranger’s feather duster.

Illustration by Jo Neary.

Illustration by Joanna Neary

So I got a cleaner. In a sudden fit of slatternly misery I booked one and Juno-like, with a halo of J-cloths, she appeared.

It’s been generally good. Fighting the social awkwardness was the worst bit (I have a theory that the main reason most people don’t buy The Big Issue is not because of meanness but the fear of social interaction with a stranger).

It was OK though – when she said she’d run out of time and gestured around a fairly sparkling kitchen, we were both relieved that the standard was acceptable to me.

I once read a piece on how getting a cleaner was anti-feminist: women hiring women to do ‘their’ cleaning. Hang on – where are the men in this? Why is the cleaning never theirs?

Surely there shouldn’t be shame in hiring a cleaner (or a nanny, for that matter)? No one shames us for using an accountant or an estate agent. Why isn’t it anti-feminist to use the post office when we could deliver those letters ourselves?

If it’s not an exploitative relationship, what’s the problem? The anti-feminist stance is surely the one that places a low value on such work and/or equates it as a woman’s arena.

The sad thing is that I know a terrible truth now: it won’t dramatically alter my life.

It turns out you can’t hire someone to force you to ruthlessly categorise every possession you own every day; or to nudge your husband’s elbow so he drops his socks into the laundry basket rather than next to it; or to persuade your six-year-old that her bedroom is not a stretch of bitterly disputed territory in a tear-fuelled war featuring ammunition of fancy dress and Lego.

Much as there are days you want someone else to do everything for you – I have a friend who is still convinced her life would be complete if only Supernanny and Derren Brown would adopt her – you can’t.

You can’t hire someone to declutter your mind or reprogramme a lifetime of priorities. Live with it. It’s called being a grown-up.

Still, for now, every Monday I can underachieve and self-loathe in an adequately clean kitchen. It’s nice.


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Written by Margaret Cabourn-Smith

Margaret is a comedy writer performer popping up on your TV and radio who over thinks and over talks.