With the cleaner cancelled, restaurants shut and groceries a precious resource, many women have — the horror! — found themselves forced back into the role of traditional housewives, cooking, cleaning and organising their homes all by themselves. Even more shocking, they are relishing it. Joan Collins has shared pictures of herself cleaning windows at her London home; ITV’s Holly Willoughby proudly showed off a home-baked loaf; and Victoria Beckham displayed a pair of rubber gloves, customised with her initials, on Instagram, alongside the caption: ‘Loving my Marigolds …my new best friend!’ But it’s not only celebs who are enjoying this enforced domesticity. Four professional, busy women tell HELEN CARROLL how they’ve been shocked to discover their deeply buried inner domestic goddesses during lockdown…
PEGGING OUT THE LAUNDRY GIVES ME SUCH PLEASURE
Nicky Adams, 49, who runs children’s fitness and sports coaching company Full of Beans, lives in West Kirby, Wirral, with husband Neil, 51, a quantity surveyor, and their sons, Theo, 16, and Brodie, 12. She says:
Nicky Adams, 49, usually runs children’s fitness and sports coaching company
A few years ago, my burglar alarm was playing up and when the repair team arrived, they said it was being triggered by cobwebs in my cornices touching the sensors. It was a bit embarrassing, but typified my laissez-faire attitude to housework. However, since most of what my company does is now online, I’m putting in fewer hours each day and am filling the time with housework. And I’m finding it gives me a sense of satisfaction, accomplishment and pride I never thought possible outside the office. I get up at 7am, while the rest of the house is fast asleep, put a load in the washing machine and then clean and tidy my kitchen before working my way through the house. At the age of nearly 50, I’ve discovered there’s no greater pleasure than pegging out laundry and watching it dry on the line — I’m usually so short of time it ends up in the tumble dryer. It makes me feel like a proper mum and housewife. I’ve cleared out my office and boxed up all the things, such as pens and markers, which have always been scattered throughout the house. I’ve even bought special trays for the fridge so we can find things more easily. I haven’t cooked in years — I’m happy to leave it to Neil — but the other day I made pesto with wild garlic, which we picked while we were out for our daily walk, and we ate it with pasta. It was delicious. It made me feel like Felicity Kendal in the TV series The Good Life. I also rustled up a hot cross bun pudding, which was less of a triumph, but I’m not hanging up my oven gloves quite yet. With everything around us chaotic and uncertain, it’s great knowing that, in my own house, I can still take control and achieve something every day.
I’VE DUSTED EVERY INCH OF THE HOUSE
Wendy Roberts, 49, works in marketing and is furloughed, as is her husband, Simon, 48, who builds cars for Toyota. They live in Derby with their sons, Joe, 17, and Ted, 14. Wendy says:
Wendy Roberts, 49, mother of two sons who works in marketing, and lives in Derby, had never made a Sunday Roast until lockdown as the family had always gone to her mother’s for it
Until four weeks ago I had never cooked a roast dinner in my life. Without fail, we always went to my mother’s for Sunday lunch — the rest of the week we got by on takeaways, baked potatoes and hot dogs. Sunday was always the highlight of Simon’s week. He would tell his friends how much he loved my mum’s roasts, so I felt a bit sorry for him when we couldn’t go any more. I decided to make proper use of my time at home and finally make one myself. True, I had to call my mum to talk me through how to do it, but when I presented my roast chicken (complete with potatoes, cabbage and homemade gravy, not instant), it was such a big moment that Joe took a picture of it and sent it to his grandma. She said it looked fantastic, and I was beaming with pride. Ted asked if the gravy boat was new and I had to tell him no, I’d had it for 20 years, I’d just never had a reason to use if before! I’ve even turned my hand to a lemon cake, too. There is something so satisfying about feeding my family with food made by my own fair hands. Cleaning is rarely very high on my agenda either, but I’ve dusted and polished every inch of the house since lockdown started. And I’m delighted to say I’m no longer faced with an ironing mountain in our utility room, because for once I’m keeping on top of all the laundry. My garden, which I had ignored all winter, has never looked so pretty. And I’ve repainted the garden furniture, which now looks as good as new. I had been planning on replacing it, but can now see why people were better at recycling in the past, when they traditionally spent more time at home. Financially, we’ve always needed to both go out to work, and I’ve always enjoyed it, so I won’t be donning my pinny full-time once the coronavirus crisis is over. But Sunday lunches are going to stay. I can’t wait to be able to invite Mum to join us.
I GIVE HOUSEHOLD TIPS TO MY FRIENDS
Kirsty Billington, 45, is a beauty therapist who is unable to work due to the restrictions. She lives in Reading with her partner, Gary, 45, who is working in IT sales from home, and children Aimee, 11, and Ethan, ten. She says:
Kirsty Billington, 45, from Reading, had never once, until lockdown, cleaned her own toilet, having employed a cleaner all her adult life
I’m a little embarrassed to admit that, until lockdown, I had never cleaned my own toilet. It’s hard to believe that I am that same person. Not only am I now quite happy going to work with a loo brush and bleach, I have just spent two enormously pleasurable hours cleaning the grout between the tiles in my en-suite shower — with a toothbrush! Every day is a voyage of cleaning discovery for me. Who knew you could clean the filter of an outdoor hot tub (with hot water and a scoop of Vanish) rather than just replacing it? The same powder, together with some boiling water, is also brilliant at removing burnt-on bits from the barbecue. I’m passing on all my handy cleaning tips to friends who, knowing what an independent career woman I’ve always been, find the idea of me being a reborn housewife hilarious. Suddenly, I have no excuse not to do the jobs I’ve been putting off, and even dreading, for years — and the weird thing is I’m thoroughly enjoying them. Gary, however, thinks I’ve gone doolally. He knows me of old, when I would unload the tumble dryer and leave it in a heap on top of the breakfast bar, always intending to fold it and take it upstairs, but never quite getting around to it. We’d all end up dressing directly from the pile. Now everything is neatly folded in our bedrooms. I’m learning fast in the kitchen, too. I used to joke with clients that ‘Waitrose and Marks & Spencer cook for me’ (they do great readymeals), but now I’ve started making food from scratch. My list of chores for this week includes cleaning the oven and clearing out the guttering at the back of our house. I’m actually looking forward to it. I wonder if this is how it felt to be a housewife for my grandmother’s generation, or if the novelty will eventually wear off.
WE’RE LIKE AN OLD FASHIONED COUPLE
Nolana Fielding, 34, is a deputy manager at her local civic hall. She has been off work for the past four weeks, and will be working from home from next week. She lives in Alsager, Cheshire, with husband Steve, 38, an urgent care practitioner, who is working full-time in a GP practice. They have three children, Kayleigh, 16, Freya, nine, and five-year-old Lachlan. Nolana says:
Nolana Fielding from Alsager, Cheshire, who has got back into the old fashioned parenting during Covid – 19 lockdown. She usually works as a deputy manager at the local civic centre
Like everyone working for the NHS at the moment, Steve is flatout busy, so he’s delighted to come home to big family dinners — we rarely get to eat with the children during normal times — and a tidy, orderly house. This is my way of supporting the NHS! Plus, I never thought I’d say this, but I have discovered a sense of satisfaction I never knew existed from cleaning every nook and cranny of our home. I’ve cleared out all my kitchen cupboards, scrubbed the tiles and the cooker hood, decluttered our little office and taken every book off every shelf and dusted underneath it, for perhaps the first time ever. I’ve even painted the walls in the kitchen. The sense of pride I feel looking around at all my handiwork is like nothing I’ve experienced before. My main motivation is that we’re now having to spend so much time indoors, I want it to be a lovely environment for us all. And my domestic goddess routine doesn’t end there — I’ve also been rustling up the sort of homemade meals we can usually only dream of, including pizzas and soups, slow-cooked pulled pork and chicken fajitas. Steve and I usually share all the domestic chores between us but, all of a sudden, we’ve become like an old-fashioned couple — with him working his socks off and me keeping the home fires burning. My mum taught me to sew when I was a child, but, until recently, I hadn’t picked up a needle in years. Now I’m teaching Freya. We’re sewing buttons on to headbands for Steve and his colleagues to wear underneath their protective masks. They can hook the mask elastic around these buttons, so the strings don’t rub behind their ears, leaving them sore. In the past, we would sometimes bicker at weekends because we were both tired. Now that we’ve taken things right back to basics, our whole demeanour around one another is more relaxed and loving.
MY HUSBAND JOKES I’M AN IMPOSTOR
Rachel Murphy, 36, a photographer, lives in Reading with husband Ryan, 39, a mechanical engineer, and their children Billy, eight, Keira, seven, and Jack, three. She says:
Rachel Murphy, 36, a mother of three kids, aged 8, 7 and three, who usually works as a children’s photographer in her studio but is now at home full time and cleaning and baking
Before lockdown, I was the worst housewife ever — I rarely cleaned, baked or cooked anything other than frozen food, and that suited me fine. I had a team of two cleaners who came fortnightly and blitzed our house: mopping, vacuuming, cleaning the bathrooms, kitchen and the bedrooms. Between the cleaners’ visits, Ryan would keep the place in order while I focused on work and the children. I grew up in a home where Mum adored keeping a spotless house and was very much the domestic goddess — something I vowed I would never be. I considered it drudgery, but, over the past few weeks, let’s just say I’ve had an epiphany. I love housework. I really do. The steam mop is my new favourite toy, and I follow the family around the kitchen with my Zoflora, a disinfectant that cleaning guru Mrs Hinch recommends, which I’d never used before. It smells incredible. I’ve also cleared out all the wardrobes, bagging up clothes we no longer wear, and polished all the windows and doors. Ryan is a great cook, but my culinary skills used to extend only to putting fish fingers in the oven. Since lockdown began, however, I’ve been baking. Ryan still goes out to work every day — his job, servicing machinery for factories producing products such as hand gel, is classed as essential — so he’s now the breadwinner and I’m like some Fifties, stay-at-home mum. I think domesticity gives me a sense of control at a time when I can’t work. Ryan couldn’t believe it when he came home and was presented with a slice of banana bread, still warm from the oven. He jokingly questions where his wife has gone and who this houseproud impostor is! I feel a bit sorry for him though, because when this is all over, his perfect little housewife will probably disappear. But I like to think that a part of her will remain…