Saturday, June 4, 2011

A math mystery

Those who are coming here in hopes of an actual math problem, you can go. There will be no Taylor series, no integrals, no eigenvectors. I will probably throw a few math words in because I’m nerdy like that, but I may or may not be using them correctly after all these years. So, no real math. I’m talking about parent math here. And I have a mystery on my hands.

It happened the last time John went away. The house got cleaner. Let’s say that p equals one parent working his/her butt off. So when we are both here, we are 2p. 2p equals 1 house that looks like a tornado deposited all belongings completely at random. Actually 2p + 2k = tornado house, where k = cherubic three-year-old demolition expert. OK, this is getting too mathy. I’m losing 74% of my audience. I feel it. (95% confidence interval .62-.86) OK, OK! No more math, I promise. Come on, don’t go, you guys. I’ll stop.

OK, here it is in words. Last time John went away, the house got cleaner. I thought it was a fluke, but he has been gone less than 24 hours (at time of writing), and the house is cleaner again. Getting cleaner by the hour. WTF?? We took away one parent working his butt off, kept the two cherubic destructors, and somehow more is getting done. It’s not a fluke. It’s twice. It’s a pattern. Here are some theories:

Less TV. Because hubs is not here, I am watching less TV and using that time to clean. This is a totally plausible theory. But it’s also WRONG. I did watch less TV, but I spent the evening talking on the phone with friends, drinking wine, and reading. Not (scoff) cleaning. I did my usual 20-30 minute blitz before bed, but no more.

More activities. We’re home less when he’s gone because I try to fill the days to keep myself from losing the rest of my mind. Maybe. But I would think that any tidiness advantage conferred by the 90 minutes we spent strawberry picking at the farm yesterday morning would have been more than counterbalanced by having two extra three-year-olds come over for a mini play date afterwards.

I spend more time than I realize cleaning up after the man. He won’t like this theory. I don’t really believe this is true, but I am including it for the sake of completeness. Do I clean up after him? Sure, sometimes. A dish here, an empty beer bottle there. But mostly what I consider cleaning up after him is cleaning up after his caring for the kids. I put away the pancake-nuking plate he leaves in the microwave. I put away the (slightly thawed) box of frozen pancakes left on the counter. I wash the pan and spatula he left on the stove after making their eggs. But when I’m here alone, I still have to clean up those things, and I also have to make the pancakes and the eggs, so that can’t really account for this whole effect. It might contribute slightly.

No dance classes. This is potentially a biggie. On a regular basis, I am running out the door immediately following dinner to a dance or exercise class. Without the man here to make sure the kiddos don’t set the house on fire, my exercise comes to a grinding halt. So between dinner and bedtime, what have I been doing? I feel like I am just alternating between fetching Mario characters for the kids and playing Scrabble on my phone, but probably I am also putting dinner dishes away. And maybe any other crap I come across that is easy to just grab and bring with me to the next room where it belongs. Hmmm, this might be a huge component. The semi-unconscious tidying that happens while waiting for my friends to take their turn in Scrabble.

Meal slacking. Making food for just me is way easier than making food for both of us. I’ll eat random leftovers plus a bowl of strawberries and half a green pepper. Basically, I am eating what the kids are eating, which is easier and healthier than what we usually eat. But I don’t feel like I can throw some scrambled eggs, an apple, and a raw broccoli crown on my husband’s plate and proudly announce, “Dinner!” I kind of wish I could though, because it’s yummy and easy and healthy and it generates very few dishes. I would miss risotto and enchiladas and from-scratch tuna-noodle casserole (the kind where you make your own cream of mushroom soup first—OMG, it is the best thing ever), but I don’t miss the mess generated by the making of those meals.

I am a diva princess. This is the theory I don’t like, and I don’t want to be true, but I fear might be just a teeny tiny bit true. When the man is here, I wait for him to do crap. When he’s not here, I just do it myself. Trash needs emptying. I just empty it. Recycling container under the sink is 3/4 full, I empty it while it’s still easy rather than filling it to overflowing and then resentfully tossing cans and bottles back into the depths of the cabinet because recycle emptying is his job. Maybe when he’s not here, I just sit on my butt less. I don’t want to talk about this theory any more. Moving on.

Bunnies. Bunnies aren’t just cute like everybody supposes. What’s with all the carrots? What do they need such good eyesight for anyway? Bunnies. It must be bunnies. (If you have no idea what I’m talking about, I’m sad for you, but we can still be friends.)

I don’t have any more theories. I think it must be that hour between dinner and bedtime when I am normally shaking my booty in either a Latin way or a Middle Eastern way or a “drop it like it’s hot” way. Hmm, all of my exercise classes involve somehow shaking my butt. Concerning? Or awesome? Not sure. Could my exercise addiction really be the reason my house is usually a mess? That’s crazy. But we’ve taken away one parent working his butt off, and more is getting done. Do the math. Or screw the math, and just watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer (the series, not the movie) from the beginning if you didn’t get the bunnies reference.


  1. As someone who parents on my own more often than not due to Jason's crazy travel schedule it is a fact that in general our house is cleaner when he travels. I chalk it up to being a prisoner once Emery goes to sleep at night. I don't get the bunny reference - unless it is dust bunnies - which i'm certain it isn't - but it could be for those of us not in the know.

  2. Happens here, too. :) For me, it's the man-mess, the bigger dinners, the home less, the less TV combo. :)

  3. Speaking of bunnies, isn't that mine?? :)