September 26, 2013

Housekeeping & Motherhood Don’t Mix


This is my living room/office/dining room/main living area.  I know…hush.

I will not lie and say that it usually never looks like this.  Actually, I won’t insult either of our highly intelligent minds by saying anything other than:  it looks like this most days.  Truth.  In fact, I’ll go so far as to add that when my home is clean and tidy, we almost don’t know what to do or where to sit.  For real.  As in “don’t you dare sit there, I just fluffed all those couch pillows” or “don’t even think about taking crackers out of this kitchen!”  Look, keeping it super real over here - I don’t have a very good gauge for how to have a happy-medium in all this.  I just know that my house runs two temps and two temps only: Company Ready or Hazmat Zone.  Ok?  Ok.

I keep reading a lot of blogs and articles about this very topic.  Lately I’ve seen a lot of people gently massaging various ideas into our heads about homemaker/motherhood stuff.  The clean house vs. spending time with your kids vs. free play vs. organized structured life living.  It’s all very sweet.  Nice thoughts about how the motherhood struggles are “holy ground” or that it's a holy experience raising kids and keeping house and all that.  How “chores can wait because blink and your children will be gone”.  I’ve read posts meant to placate your guilty mothers hearts out of the kitchen and onto the floor for a game of Twister.  Want to bond with your kids?  Garden together.  Bake together.  Pinterest 5,000 ideas to make you feel inferior and then do none of them and feel even worse.  I’ve read articles claiming that if I would just organize a chart into four even sections and assign duties accordingly, reward judiciously, and praise abundantly – then I would find my home tidy, my children obedient, and my heart happier.

I mean NO disrespect to any of those authors.  None whatsoever.  If those things work for you – if rising in the morning and declaring your home Holy Ground and finding the will to then glide gracefully through the sweat and tears of the day – if that does it for you – then I say “YOU GO GIRL!”  Because I think we can all agree on at least this: whatever works to get you through life in the trenches of motherhood – go for it!

However, I would like to offer a counter opinion to this idea that Motherhood and Housekeeping somehow meet in the middle.  I realize this might not be popular opinion, but just hear me out for a sec.  People, I cannot…(takes a sigh)…do both.  Take your pick.  Motherhood or Housekeeping…hood.  Just pick.  Because for my life…I cannot successfully navigate both.  Jesus take the wheel and all that.  My laundry piles up so high, the children take the Nestea plunge off the top.  My kitchen has a steady – and I mean ever-lovin’ steady – rotation of dirty dishes in constant pile up mode.  Worse than the freeways in California.  Believe that. 

Our bathrooms are meh at best and gag/vom at worst.  Listen, do you have a 5 year old boy?  Any boy?  Amen?  Cannot. Get. The. Pee. Smell. Out.  Just give that space over to Jesus, honey…because it's like my waistline before and after marriage – it will never be the same.  You heard me.  Give it up to the Lysol gods and walk away.  Better yet, just close the door and do. not. enter. ever. again. 

Aside from every room in my home looking like it’s been professionally CLUTTERED and PLUNDERED – I often feel overcome with the burden of all the other various motherhood/housekeeping tasks.  People, please.  The photo albums that sit empty?  Do people even print pictures anymore?  The PILES of home movies – all digital – all needing to be transferred to DVD?  The baby books I never finished writing in?  The frames that have pictures from 1984?  My kids don’t even recognize who the people are in those pics.  I say “that’s Mommy” and my daughter says “no, really…who is that?”  True story.  The clothes and books and kitchen gadgets that need to be purged.  The seasonal clothes that need to be rotated out.  The holiday décor that needs to come down out of the attic.  The bills and grocery lists and shopping and cleaning and meal prep and school lunches and homework and birthdays and anniversaries and post-adoption reports and books that don’t ever get read and the calendar that’s been on February since…well, February.  It is NEVER-ENDING.  Where do we fit in, say…I don’t know…showering, for instance.  Or sleep.  Honest to Peter - I think a lot of us just don’t. 

So here’s what I propose.  Let it go. 

I mean it.  Stop the insanity.  What if parenting isn’t feeling like such a “holy” experience for you?  We all know, the days are long and the years are short.  I get it.  I cry buckets over pics of my kids from even two years ago.  I do!  But right now?  In the "days are long" phase of this parenting gig?  What if the lack of balance and time and I’ll say it, personal ability just aren’t there and aren’t likely to be any time soon?  Can I just…release you

If you’re not the mom who gets on the floor and plays CandyLand, (omg…soooooo….boring…..Zzzzzzzzz) but you’re a heck of a homework buddy  – stop feeling guilty.  If you love playing and going to the park and having Play-Doh contests, but you haven’t washed a dish in ten years that wasn’t crusted in food from three days ago?  Stop feeling guilty.  If you’re great at laundry and cleaning bathrooms while your kiddos watch The Little Mermaid for the 600th time?  Stop feeling guilty.  Someone has to get that toothpaste out of the sink, right?  Eventually, or whatever.  Cough.  Good on ya!  Go girl!  Clean that bathroom!

Here’s my point: your strengths are not and should not be compared to your neighborhood moms.  Or any moms.  I’ve got an unpopular newsflash...

  • You clean too much
  • You don’t clean enough
  • You like to play and skip chores
  • You like to do chores and skip play
  • You leave at 6:30am for work everyday and fight traffic to get back by 6:30pm
  • Your kids ask why you're  "dressed up" when they see you out of your PJ's (points finger at self)
  • You rarely remember to do laundry
  • You do laundry organized by color every day.  You might even have a laundry chart...
  • You're a BOSS at Pinterest.  I mean, you Pinterest the holy heck out of Pinterest.
  • You've never heard of Pinterest or you can't score an invite
  • You make crafts
  • You don’t even own a glue-stick
  • You love to home-school
  • You'd rather stick a fork in your eye than home-school
  • You wash all dishes every day
  • You wash dishes when you realize there are no clean dishes left
  • Your kids have toys organized by bin and label
  • Your kids have toys organized by…that pile over there.
  • You feed them whole grain, gluten free, fat free, sugar free, taste free food
  • You feed them Happy Meals in the car on the way to the grocery store or soccer
  • You sew your own Halloween costumes
  • You look for costumes at 5:30 pm on October 31st at CVS and your kid ends up being a hobo with a pillow case for candy.  (incidentally, is that so wrong?  remember when we did that as kids?  Our parents were like “whatever…go dress up” and we just did?  $39 for a Wolverine Costume…criminy!)  But I digress…

They WILL survive.  Your kids WILL make it.  And probably, quite happily.  Listen, children have survived under much less effort.  This whole “keeping up with the perfect mommies club" is for the birds. 

We need to allow ourselves the freedom to just “be”.  Pop the bubble of pressure and despair and shake off the feelings of unworthiness and self-deprecation.  Declare the day or your house or your motherhood whatever you want, if that helps you.  Or if you’re like me, just admit freely that you’re not very good at any of it…motherhood, parenting, housekeeping, organizing….and remember that you DID NOT get a manual.

Are your children alive?  Fed?  Have clothes on most of the time?  Well done, mama.  Well done.

The hardest part of motherhood aside from raising up and training other HUMAN BEINGS (cough) are the comparisons we put ourselves through.  What if we just stopped?  What if we just said “the house is a mess, my kids are playing with a combination of mud, flour, and water in the backyard, and I think I’m wearing the same stretchy pants I’ve had on since Monday”.  What if we said that and we just gave ourselves the grace to be OK with it.  What if?  What if sometimes we cleaned up and sometimes we just didn't.  What if we played Chutes & Ladders (that game NEVER ends, btw) and the dishes sat?  Why not?  Or what if we did the dishes and our kids just went and figured out the games on their own?  Is that so wrong?  Have we forgotten the days when our parents sent us out to play and we didn't come back until mealtime?  Holy cow...we sure do coddle our kiddos these days.  When my siblings and I were young (read = back in my day) we left in the morning on big wheels, spent the day doing who can remember what, and had to knock on the door just to come in to use the bathroom.  To our own house!  Bless the Lord though, my Mom was freaking AWESOME.  We adored her!

I, for one, have given up the ghost.  I had to, friends!  I was DYING over the pressure.  I was making chore charts and meal plans and labeled drawers until I was stir crazy.  And guess what?  After about a week – all those things went by the wayside anyway.  The chore chart had funny faces drawn in dry erase marker all over it.  The meal plans were forgotten in lieu of drive-through because life just kept happening, and the labeled toy drawers were woefully filled with things like socks, a pizza crust, and I think some items I used for a baby shower a couple years ago.

Be you.  Be who you are.  Play to your own strengths.  Not to all the other women in your life.  Don’t try to be “all”.  Impossible.  Don’t try to make 1,400 crafts if you can’t even cut in a straight line.  And maybe?  Stop beating yourself up.  I’ve met some amazing mothers in my day – and they are an inspiration.  But guess what?  Even inspirational mothers aren’t doing it all.  They just aren’t.  They’re playing to their strengths. 

This is really tough work.  The only way you’re going to be able to thrive in your role as Mom/Wife/Friend/Sister is to be YOU.  100%.  Good and bad, weakness and strengths, success and failures.  And don’t be afraid of that.  Embrace it.  Goodness, don't we have enough pressure in our lives already without becoming the main source of it?

And if you need to feel better about all of it, just come on over to my place.  We have extra hazmat suits on hand just for you.



Rynne said...

Thank you, this is so honest to my life it made me tear up.

Coralee said...

Thank you.

Jen said...

Beautiful post Christie!

Briana's Mom said...


Debbie said...

If you take out all the boys toys and add in Barbies, that could be Naomi's room :-)

Like you, my house is either guest ready or kids friendly. There is no middle ground in my world and that's okay.

Christie said...

Thanks, Ladies! A friend told me today that she was cleaning her house and her kids said "who's coming over?" Ha! Live and let live, eh?! We can do this!

crazy said...

THANK YOU!!! I have been in utter misery because Amelia keeps asking when I am going to do her scrapbook from China...the one with the pictures from Jan 2010 that are now officially 4 years old....I am still working on a Disney scrapbook for Emmaleigh from 2008...that I had started before we went to get
Amelia in 2010.....I work, Johnny travels, his Dad passed away in July so now he is helping his Mom keep up her place as well as dad has been gone since 2005 and my Mom has vascular dimensia....and we are trying to live...learning that the floors don't have to be spotless...and Lysol/clorox wipes are the best...along with swiffers and and a stick vac...which the girls take turns using every night after dinner...starting last night...LOL...thank you for freeing me from the insanity!!

SweetPMomof3 said...

Love this article!! This helped me and I am not even trying to compare myself to other moms around me as much as I am so caught up in my own guilt of trying to, as Dr. Phil says "Rise above my raisin".
Lord knows I've already done that, so why do I put so much pressure on myself to try to make sure they have EVERYTHING I didn't....I am so hard on myself as a mom, so thanks for the permission to Release it!!!