Neil Hudson: Chores – the revenge

There are 168 hours in a week. Sounds a lot? And so it is, unless you're a parent.

Since I became a father just under two years ago, which by way of disclaimer is the best thing in the world and entirely my own fault, the way I spend my time has changed dramatically.

Time was I would get in from work, kick off my shoes, plonk myself down in front of the TV and barring trips to the fridge or booting up the PS3 for a few hours on Call of Duty that would be me for the night.

Maybe, come about 8pm, just before the Missus walked through the door from work, I would do the washing up and put some tea on.

Oh, how things have changed.

Nowadays I seem to spend my life performing menial chores, consisting mainly of picking up toys and throwing them into plastic boxes, which are slowly breeding behind the sofa.

When I'm not doing that, I'm washing up, doing the laundry or scraping bits of food off the living room carpet.

My son finally exhausts himself into sleep about 8pm, which signals the start of chores proper.

This is a seemingly endless task but after 20 months of practise, I have it down to an art form. If male housekeeping were an Olympic sport, I would win either silver or gold.

As soon as matey-boy is packed away and his monitors set up, I'm on mission impossible, moving from room to room like some housebound ballet dancer – I pick, I move, I drop, pirouette through to the kitchen, where I pack, put away, flick, swipe and wipe.

I chasse back into the living room, lunge for the bin, then cartwheelover to clean the oven.

I load the washing machine with laundry, stretch, turn the taps on to fill the sink, wipe the table, feed the cats, perform a body ripple and do some weird and complicated (and pointless) thing with my arms over my head, turn the taps off so the crockery can soak, vac, spray, side and wash-up. Later still I chop, boil and burn our evening meal.

Finally, after what feels a solo Swan Lake, I collapse in a heap with a heart rate to rival Linford Christie's after the 100 yard dash.

The coal fire stares at me, begging to be lit. I see dust on top of the TV, finger marks on the glass in the kitchen door, a stray toy behind the TV and under the couch I suddenly spot a bun my son dropped two days ago. So, that's where it went.

I cannot stop thinking about these things. Upstairs is even worse, there the dry laundry lurks and the sink and bath need a clean.

I glance furtively at my dust-clad PS3 and think, 'One day, my friend, you and I will be together again.'

The moment fades, a cat wanders in, purring, rubbing, wanting more food.

This is my life.

Don't get me wrong, I ain't complaining, I take pride in it, it's just a world away from where I used to be.

I now know why most parents look absolutely cream-crackered. You learn to eke out precious 'personal time', five minutes here, ten minutes there, even waiting in the car in traffic has taken on a new meaning, giving me valuable thinking time in which to organise forthcoming tasks. I'm a human filofax.

All of which got me to thinking... about time.

We spend a third of our lives sleeping – that's eight hours a day but if I'm being honest, I get by on about six. That's 42 hours out of my week already.

Another eight hours is spent at work five days a week, so that's 40 hours.

Then there's getting ready time and driving to work, so that's another seven-and-a-half hours. Already, that's 89.5 hours gone (half my week) and all I've done is sleep, get up and go to work.

When I collect my son from the Missus's work, I spend another 15 to 30 minutes chatting, before setting off home, which, because it's rush hour, takes another hour, so that's another seven-and-a-half hours.

That's 97 hours.

When we get home, we make tea, eat, play before I implement the bed time routine of 'bath, bottle, bed' and now he's nearly two, read the same bed-time story twice, all of which takes another three hours, so that's 21 hours a week.

Which takes the total to 118. The aforementioned cleaning extravaganza is crammed into an hour, so add another seven, taking the total to 125.

Making tea takes half-an-hour, eating it the same (again, add seven hours, total: 132), then there are obligatory TV programmes like the X-Factor, The Apprentice and Strictly to watch (add five hours, because even though it's on SkyPlus we still forget to fast forward through the ads). Total now up to 138.

Being a man, of course, it's obligatory I squeeze the odd bit of DIY into my life and so you can add in another few hours a week there: 141.

Then there's additional chores, over and above the usual vacuuming, washing, wiping and so forth, which you feel duty bound to consider whenever you manage to complete the usual round of jobs before time. It's things like wiping the layer of dust off the dressing table in your bedroom, changing the duvet covers, cleaning the sink and bath, mopping the kitchen floor – all jobs I mostly try to avoid the rest of the time. Add two hours: 143.

Two nights a week I visit relatives, which takes up the whole evening, meaning I arrive back home about 9pm – add another 10 hours: 151.

Then there's grocery shopping on a weekend, which takes at least a couple of hours, plus a couple more browsing shops and then, because we've been out all afternoon, a pub/cafe pit-stop is oh so necessary, add six hours: 157.

Sunday invariably brings more shopping if the Missus has anything to do with it (clothes, items for the house), which takes another couple of hours: 159.

Sunday is the one day we get to spend the whole day with the family, so getting up at eight and not including the two hours shopping, put down 10 hours.

Now, I normally read for an hour when I go to bed and I've yet to mention films we start watching and then get bored with, filling the cars up with petrol, paperwork, internet banking, lighting the coal fire, phone calls, taking out the rubbish, re-organising the loft and chasing my neighbour's goats out of my garden (which, admittedly, is a task most people do not have to endure). All of which means even though it's only Monday, I'm into next week already!

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