Years ago, 1994 in fact, when I started my public relations business as a home-based business, the whole concept of being home-based was new. It was difficult to convince certain business service providers that I was a legitimate business. I lost out on a few clients as well. There was one who insisted that I needed to have a boardroom and supply them with a bookkeeper who was not also home-based. The irony there was that the client was a local association who fought hard to maintain their rights to compete with government entities to contract out for their services.
There were associations that came to our rescue to act as a middleman for credit card companies, FedEx delivery services, and other things that became obstacles in our neighborhoods. The Home Office Association of America is a national group that helped secure those services for home-based businesses, and the local Chamber of Commerce was savvy enough to create a special discounted membership fee, and a networking forum for us to enjoy.
I went to the Home-Based Business committee meetings of the Long Beach Area Chamber of Commerce religiously. I spoke about the importance of public relations, I put together the monthly newsletter (my husband always loved the article I wrote entitled, “My Dog, My Co-Worker”). We were savvy, we were professional, we were determined, and we were dressed up.
Dressed up? you ask. Yes, I always laughed to myself when I showed up to these evening meetings with full make-up and dressed in professional business clothes, when the reality was that unless I had already had a meeting that day, I spent my day in shorts or sweats, my hair in a ponytail and zero make-up. I knew that almost every one of the 25-30 home-basers in that room was in the same boat. Sure, there was the occasional person who actually collected a paycheck and their home-based business—when successful–was their ticket to working in sweats … uh, I mean to freedom, their ticket to freedom.
We wanted to give the impression that we were 100% professional, 100% of the time That’s why we got dressed up for these meetings, even though we knew we were in the same boat.
Fast forward to present when I hang out with home-based mothers much more than any other sector of my life. We do the same thing in our own way, which is even more comical. We know each other well; we know who has a cleaning lady, a babysitter, or a husband who does a great deal. But there is no evidence of whether those things are true when we arrange a play date.
Whoever the hostess is, does her darnedest to clean like mad—or pays someone to clean like mad, whichever her schedule and pocketbook allows. There’s never any laundry out—folded or not, even though we compare where we fold our laundry, and leave it there until next week. My spot is the living room couch and love seat, one friend’s is the pool table, another puts all the folded laundry in baskets per family member, and yet another has a housekeeper who neatly and efficiently puts it all way. From the looks of it when you arrive at anyone’s house, you’d never know the differences.
For some reason, even though we are all in the same boat, and we know that we are because we all talk about our boat, we want to give a better impression. Why? Why does it matter?
I know a couple who recently underwent a remodel. As with many couples in this situation, they made some trade-offs. You know, you can have that backsplash, but I get to pick the entertainment center; you can have sunken tub, but I get a flat screen in the bar. Stuff like that. This particular trade off was that she got to pick certain details if he could have friends over no matter what the “condition” of the house was at that time. He wanted to be able to have spontaneous visits from friends without worry that they see laundry—the horrors! After all, don’t we all know what laundry looks like?
He got his wish but I have yet to hear if an impromptu visit has caught the household with piles of laundry exposed to friends or a few dishes in the sink.
I think he has the right idea. Perhaps with even more visits, we would all get over it and just enjoy each other. However, I know if I don’t HAVE to clean—I won’t. So maybe getting over it would lead to squalor for my family … Never mind!
Do I have any clean socks on the couch?
I am proud to say, I’ve lost nearly all vestige of house-pride. Yes, oxymoronic, but I felt it was a huge stepping stone when I let people come in to my messy mail room and coatroom (aka, the entryway), my messy office (aka, the dining room table), my messy laundry room (aka, the dining room floor often)and my messy kitchen (aka the recycling center, snack shack, dirty dish repository, and message center). I haven’t quite made the jump to allowing access to the kids’ bathroom unattended; that will take a little more growing up on the kids’ part. But we are who we are. Part of me would love to go back to the days of bills and other papers filed aphabetically in color-coded file boxes, of mail quickly and neatly dealt with, of food put away immediately after use, and of (small) piles of clothes neatly folded and put away all in the same half-hour. But with three kids and way too many jobs, paid & unpaid, it ain’t gonna happen! Just not a priority. And I’m truly dreading the day it will happen, because that will mean I’ll have time for housework again – a double whammy: (a) who wants to do housework, anyway? and (b) who will fill my life with joy, frustration and activities like my kids, once they’re gone? It took me years to get away from cleaning before friends dropped in, but I’m proud to say my slovenly parental ways are now on display to any who want to drop in…well, almost any. You know you have a good and trusting friend when she lets you see the laundry on the pool table, or wherever else it takes root.