May 31 2009

Another One Bites The Dust – A Househusband Hits Rock Bottom

This week I got down to what is possibly the lowest place a househusband can get to.

Exacto’s class is currently learning about basic principles of geography by going around the neighborhood and talking about things such as directions, compass points and other landmarks.

Part of Exacto’s teacher’s lesson plan was to put all of the kids on a school bus and drive around the area, visiting everyone’s homes.

While I think this is an excellent idea and I completely support this hands-on approach to learning, the idea of 30 or so 7-year olds visiting our house at the moment is so not okay. The main reason for this being due to the fact that I am the one who is supposed to maintain the home tidy and I have so not being doing that over the past few (okay … several) months.

So, when I got called by Exacto’s teacher early one morning, a couple of days before the scheduled visit to confirm the visitation, I did the unthinkable. I lied to my son’s teacher and told her that I would not be home that day, but to feel free to drive past the house. Not only that, but I also advised her that it would be unhealthy for the kids to get out of the bus in front of our house, as there is raw sewage currently spilling out on the front lawn.

I did not lie about the sewage spilling out (just in case you’re wondering!). There really is crap flowing out onto our front lawn, possibly because of an old tree root that’s blocking the pipes, and I have yet to notify our real estate agents about this problem.

Exacto’s teacher sounded a little disappointed on the phone. She then suggested that they repeat the trip in a couple of weeks time so the kids can actually come into the house on the second time around, and, without batting a sleepy eyelid, I put on my best telephone smile, gave her a resoundingly positive and enthusiastic “sure … that will be great!” and hung up the phone.

I had bought myself a couple of weeks time to get the house cleaned up. However, I still had to deal with the children’s drive-by excursion in two days time. Although I knew they would not be coming into the house (and for that matter not even getting out of the bus for fear of catching some unpleasant disease from our foul-smelling front lawn), I would have to be vigilant on the day, since my office faces directly out into the street and I normally work with the light on in the room.

Having lied myself into this disgraceful charade, I now had to play this out fully and keep up the pretence. I told my son that I wouldn’t be home on Wednesday morning when he and his classmates came around. On Wednesday morning, I even got dressed up in work clothes before driving my kids to school.

After dropping the kids off at school and wishing Exacto a great school excursion, I then drove home, got out of my “job interview” clothes and back into my usual tracksuit pants and flannel shirt and got stuck into my work. It was a little difficult working on the computer with the light in the room off, but I managed to get stuff done.

For most of the morning, I kept popping my head up from the screen and anxiously looking out the window, but there was no sign of anybody approaching.

Then, suddenly, I glimpsed the front of the school bus pulling up in front of our house. I don’t know why I thought that when this moment arrived I would have had enough time to step out of my office so as to not be seen. There was no time to stand up and walk out of the room. In a moment of pure panic my “inner coward” reflexes took over. I instinctively dived backwards out of my office chair and rolled face down onto the floor in my office.

The bus parked on the street square in front of my window. I saw a bunch of little faces looking out the bus window, all of them peering directly at me as I lay there pathetically on the floor.

Had I planned things better, I would have liked to have dived onto the couch in my office, where I would at least have been hiding comfortably. Instead, here I was, a 44-year old grown man, hiding in the squalor of my own messy home, lying face down on the filthy, unvacuumed carpet of my room, completely scared of being spotted by any one of the 30 or so pairs of sharp little eyes that were currently scrutinizing my house while my son pointed at each and every feature of the house (“and in that room is where my daddy spends all of his time, every single day and night, working furiously at his computer and he never, ever leaves the house, except today, for some very strange reason!”).

The bus stayed parked in the front of my house.

I was so fearful of being detected that I completely froze there on the floor, holding my breath and not moving a muscle. Only my eyeballs moved, and what they gazed upon was not good. Empty wrappers, dirty socks, discarded undies and kids pyjamas, a wide range of assorted crumbs in all stages of decomposition, hair balls, dust balls, gum balls, little curled-up dead bugs and lots of other dusty, filthy things.

This was it. I have experienced many low points, but this was surely the lowest point of my life. As I lay there with my face down on the worn and filthy carpet of our rented, sewage-impaired home, my mind drifted back to 10 years ago, when, after finishing reading Napoleon Hill’s “Think And Grow Rich”, I wrote my 10-year plan for wealth, health, happiness and financial success on a 3×5 card and set off on my path to achieving my goals.

Here I was, 10 years later and I had spectacularly bombed on every area of my plan. How could I have sunk so low so fast? I couldn’t even keep a home tidy enough to have a bunch of 7-year old kids come over to visit (as if they would care, when in fact, my house actually looks like it is being managed by a 7-year old!).

After what seemed like an eternity, the bus finally took off. I waited a few moments longer just to make sure they had gone, then picked myself up off the floor, dusted myself off and went into the kitchen to make myself a cup of coffee and to recover from this harrowing experience.

I still had to maintain the charade after school, so after picking up the kids, I asked Exacto how his day had been. He told me they had visited about five homes that day, and had gone into everyone’s house except for ours, where they were then given a tour of the house and treated to delicacies like homemade sweet tea with honey, fresh baked cakes and a whole bunch of other goodies by their eagerly welcoming hostesses.

I told Exacto how sorry I was that he and his friends could not have come into the house that day (I did not lie to him this time – I really was sorry I had denied him the experience!), and I also told him that I had arranged with his teacher to have everyone revisit us in a couple of weeks. He seemed a little more cheerful after this.

I told Corporate Babe what had happened that day while she was still at work. Thankfully, she found my behavior extremely hilarious and thanked me for cheering up her day at work. Later, when she came home, I had to reconstruct the scene of my desperate dive to the floor for her amusement. She told me to stay lying down on the floor so she could go out the front of the house and see whether my movements in the room would have been detected by any of the kids or not.

It tuns out I completely humiliated and denigrated myself for nothing. Apparently, you can’t see inside my room even if you’re standing just outside the window peering in, so even if I had been dancing on top of my desk or doing jumping jacks around the room, none of the kids in the bus would have been able to spot me moving around, let alone lying there face down and prostrated on the floor like a hunter’s prized rug.

It is now time to make amends. I have decided, therefore, that for the next two weeks, I will try to manage my unmanageability and work on my work-life balance issues. I will do this by spending no more than 4 hours a day working on my businesses, notify the real estate agent about the sewage problem and go through a major house clean up and decluttering, so that when Exacto and his classmates visit us again in a couple of weeks as has already been arranged, the house will not only look good and orderly and tidy, but the kids will even enjoy a special home-baked treat when they visit.

The Lazy House Husband

One response so far

Feb 07 2009

Househusband Tips For Solving Problems At Home – Don’t Keep It In The Closet

Last week my kids went back to school. All three of my boys are now at school 5 days a week.

This is amazing, as it means I now have 5 days a week of uninterrupted time between 9:30 am and 2:30 pm to attend to my home and work responsibilities. As we entered the final days of the school holidays, I sat down and created a list of all the systems I am going to put into place around the home this year, to ensure that I can manage the home efficiently while still devoting the time I need to continue growing my businesses.

Here are some of the “systems” I wrote down for managing the home:

Financial Management System

  • Bills
  • Reporting (for tax and to help us review our spending)
  • Filing & Archiving

Kitchen Management System

  • Keeping General Kitchen Area Tidy
  • Fridge Shelf Management
  • Pantry Shelf Management
  • Weekly Shopping (groceries and supplies)
  • Weekly Meal Planning
  • Rubbish and Recycling

Clothes Management System

  • Sorting
  • Washing
  • Drying
  • Folding
  • Storing

General Home Management System

  • Lawn & Backyard Maintenance
  • Clean Toilets & Bathrooms
  • Keep Living Room, Offices, Landing & Corridors Tidy
  • Keep Car Clean And Tidy
  • Monthly, Weekly & Daily To Dos

Leisure & Recreation System

  • Hiring & Returning DVDs, library books, etc …
  • Weekend tasks and activities
  • Planning and co-ordinating family activities and events
  • Planning and co-ordinating events, activities and engagements for the kids

After creating the above list, I then spent some time over several days breaking down all of the systems into smaller processes and working out the best and most efficient ways to get all of the things listed above done. I also worked out which areas I could delegate to others (for example, my oldest son helps me with the rubbish and recycling, my youngest boys help out with keeping the home tidy and I just pay a lawn mowing guy to keep the lawn around the house trimmed.)

After a few days of intense planning and “mental organization”, I started on the monumental task of becoming a worthy househusband and creating a “manageable” environment for everyone here at home by choosing to address the toughest area first … our finances.

Ever since Corporate Babe brought home a huge flatscreen TV she won in a sales contest, the management of our finances began to suffer greatly. Not because we were now spending more time watching movies and neglecting to pay bills (although I can’t deny there is a certain truth in this!), but because I was forced to move all of the intrays I was using to manage our finances off the second desk I had set up in my home office to make way for the huge screen.

Having no place else to put these intrays, I stacked them up inside one of the closets in the room, next to my socks and underwear baskets (since I spend so much time here in my home office, I decided to set up all of my clothes in here as well. Last year, when we got a home exercise machine, I wanted it to go in my office too, but my wife refused, saying that I would then have almost no reason to ever leave my “cave”!).

Having the intrays in the closet worked well for a while. At least I didn’t have to look at the ugly stack of bills and late notices that our postman was delivering to our mailbox every day. The problem is that soon after we acquired the giant screen, my family realized that we could no longer sit in the really uncomfortable green plastic chairs we were using before to watch movies on my laptop screen. This issue was soon fixed when my in-laws arrived from overseas for a month’s visit and my father-in-law discovered a great lounge going for a bargain at a local church yard sale.

My home office had now also become a “home theatre” and the lounge was pushed back against the closet door. This made it difficult for me not only to access my socks and underwear each day, but also to get to the finance intrays, since there was hardly any room for me to open the closet door and the kids were now living in my office, either to watch movies, or to take turns playing games on the big screen.

What began to happen, is that after collecting the mail, I would come into the office, squeeze my way past the kids on the lounge, open the closet door just a fraction and throw the unopened envelopes into it. This soon became a habit and I thought nothing more of paying bills, fines, late notices, etc …

But, of course, one can only ignore bills, demands and outstanding payment notices for a while. And so, the week before the school holidays came to an end, I set up a third desk in my now very crowded little home office and dragged out all of the intrays and unopened bills from the closet. After spending a whole day organizing my finance management system, I then spent the next two days walking around the house feeling extremely depressed, for I had now seen the writing on the wall (I put up a notice above the intrays with an arrow pointing down to the bills) and knew that things were definitely not looking “rosy”, but more like a kind of dark, stinky brown.

Anyway, the first step when planning how to get to any destination is to know exactly where you are starting your journey from. As a househusband fully committed to meeting my responsibilities to my home and family this year, I now know exactly where I am financialy. It’s not good and it’s a problem, but at least it’s out of the closet now and I can start dealing with it, one day at a time.

The Lazy Househusband

2 responses so far