I struggle a lot with my OCD-like tendencies of needing a spotlessly clean house. I need my house to be clean and organized, so that I can easily find things and move about in peace. I need my house to be clean because the chaos of crap everywhere and a mess makes me feel chaotic and angry inside.
However, I have two kids (5 and 3), and I have two dogs. There is a never ending mess, and I am perpetually surrounded by chaos; the ever impossible to contain mess. Toys, sticky fingers, snot marks and handprints on windows…bits of dry cereal that find their way into couch cushions (despite my parrot-like phrase of “please eat at the table”).
The endless battle with chaos is a daily struggle for me. In addition to needing clean, I have a chronic pain disorder and very few “spoons” that I can “waste” on battling the chaos (aka…CLEANING). If I cleaned to the extent that I would need to clean to truly feel at peace and comfortable, I would run myself deep into the ground and have nothing left over for anything else. No energy to cook, no energy to run errands or play with kids. Nothing. Zip.
My problem lies with the fact that I am the only one who is bothered by this mess. Matt has long since accepted the fact that mess is a part of our life. He doesn’t bother wasting time worrying about dirty baseboards or hand prints on the walls. His motto is “live life and don’t worry about the mess — there will be plenty of time to clean when the kids are older”.
He’s right, you know. Mothers of small children waste so much time attempting to have the perfecr house, children, career and marriage. Every sitcom ever has portrayed this. Only now, we are starting to be more honest about our failings and struggles (which is awesome, by the way! I feel so much better hearing from other moms who forget laundry in the washing machine for 3 days in a row).
This illusion of perfection, this need to have everything about our lives neat and tidy so that people on the outside looking in are just blown away by how perfect our lives are…it’s nauseating and exhausting. We will run ourselves into the ground. By trying so desperately to appear perfect, we will unravel and fall apart.
Even though I need clean to function semi-happily, I have had to learn to let a lot of things go for my own sanity. My baseboards are only cleaned for big functions, and only if I can con a child into doing it. My floors are mopped only if they desperately need it — and even then, it’s pretty much a wasted effort. I spend 20 mins mopping only to have someone spill something or dogs track mud through the clean floors seconds after I finish. My windows are cleaned maybe once every 2 weeks when we can no longer see outside through the dog and kid smudges. My oven…well, let’s not talk about the oven.
I’m learning to let it go (sort of), and embrace the now. Because my sanity depends on it. I’m happy if the daily chores get done.
Daily chores include cleaning the kitchen, the bathroom, sweeping and vacuuming and picking up toys and that exhausts me. Folding laundry and putting it away are real struggles — I try to stay on top of it but let’s be real, that doesn’t often happen. At least not until I can spend the afternoon cleaning the upstairs and putting away the several baskets of clean, folded laundry.
Every time a friend is about to have a baby for the first time ever, I tell her to seriously listen to the “sleep when the baby sleeps” advice that people constantly hand out. It means so much more than just “sleep when the baby sleeps”. It means the dishes and laundry and vacuuming can wait. It means everyone understands that being a mother of a new baby (and young children) is hard and that you don’t need to try and achieve that impossible level of Stepford Wife perfection. It means you are your own worst critic, nobody (who has kids and half a brain) will come over and judge you for the mess, and if they do…they aren’t someone you want to associate with because they are perpetually stuck in that wanna-be Stepford Wife mode.
So, pour a class of wine and use the overturned, empty toy bin as a foot rest and know that one day, there will be plenty of time to clean…or at least teenage kids to put to work.