Several years ago, I remember one of my sisters lamenting the tedious conversation that transpired between the mothers at her children’s school during drop off and pick up times. “All they talk about is how many loads of washing they’ve done,” she said with a screwed up nose. We laughed, safe in the knowledge that both of us had far more interesting things to talk about. I didn’t really think about that conversation again (naturally I was much too busy doing interesting things!) until recently when a former teaching colleague of mine dropped in to see my new baby. There is an eight and a half year age gap between my two children and perhaps time distorts a mother’s memory, but I definitely had not anticipated the sheer quantity of washing that would come with my new little bundle – not helped at all by the fact that she is extremely refluxy and vomits with alarming frequency not only on her own outfits but on everyone else’s too, as well as on every towel, sheet or blanket in her proximity. My mother always warned me that when you became a mother, the rules of mathematics went out the window: “One plus one does not equal two when it comes to having babies”, she would say. “It’s a lot more work than anyone ever expects”.
So while my former colleague regaled me with tales from work – the classes she was teaching, the texts they were studying, the students who’d already been suspended this year – I entertained her with stories from my laundry. “Honestly”, I told her, “you won’t just be able to do all the washing at once on a Saturday morning once you’ve got kids”. She nodded sympathetically. “Just when you’ve brought in one lot, you’ve got to hang out another. The spare room is constantly piled sky high with stuff I’ve got to sort out and iron and when it rains, you might as well give up completely!"
When she left, I realised, to my absolute horror, that I had become one of those women. This thought haunted me throughout the next day as I loaded and unloaded, pegged and unpegged. By the last load of the day, I was exhausted and, during a lapse of concentration, put my partner’s new blue t-shirt in with my baby’s little white and pink outfits. When I pulled them out of the machine, I discovered her lovely dresses and jumpsuits, many of which had been gifts and had only been worn once, had turned a ghastly shade of battleship grey. At that moment, the phone rang. I thought it would be my partner and felt relieved that I could at least get some much needed moral support, but alas, it was a telemarketer. I burst into tears, apologised and hung up. What I really wanted to do was yell down the phone “HOW DARE YOU CALL ME DURING A WASHING CRISIS!”
I made a cup of tea and persuaded myself to be philosophical about the situation. It could be worse, I reasoned. I could be the mother of refluxy twins with diarrhoea whose washing machine has actually broken down … and at least I have the next instalment of The Washing Saga to tell my former colleague next time she comes to visit!