I’ve never been a very tidy person. Truth be told, when both my husband and I worked full-time, before having a baby, our apartment was usually much messier then I would ever let our house get now. When we moved into our first house (still sans baby) I used to joke that when we had kids at least I’d have an excuse for the mess. But the truth is now that I’m a stay at home mom, I feel more guilty than ever for not keeping a neat house.
The odd thing is that I don’t think other moms should be expected to keep their houses clean. It doesn’t bother me in the slightest when we go over to another persons house and it’s messy. Especially when both parents work I think “how can they possibly keep the house clean, take care of kids and work full-time?” And even though I feel like since I stay home, I should be able to keep things sparkling, I certainly don’t expect the same from other stay at home moms (or dads for that matter).
Of course there is a limit to how messy a house can be, you can’t raise kids knee-deep in filth, so some housework must be done. Since I don’t work outside the home I do most of the cleaning and even cook on occasion (if i have too). Although, I’m lucky to have a husband who not only doesn’t expect me to keep an immaculate home, he also helps out quite a bit when he can (he only has to work when needed so he’s often home during the day). He does other stuff too. He fixes things, does projects around the house and yard, mows the lawn, builds toy chests, cooks and sews (you know manly stuff). But the point is, yes I do clean quite often, it just never seems like enough and I get all this mom guilt that I should be a Martha Stewart (not in the white-collar criminal way but in the crafting and cooking way) and Mary Poppins hybrid.
Then I had a realization, an epiphany if you will. I am not a housekeeper. I am a stay at home mom. To clarify, my job isn’t to clean, it’s to care for, teach and raise my daughter. If it wasn’t for her I would have a job that pays monetary paychecks rather than hugs. Did this realization free me from all house work related guilt and cause me to spin joyfully, arms open, on a hilltop? Not so much but it did make me feel a little better about myself.
In college I took a Human Development course in which the professor informed us that many stay at home moms spend less time directly and constructively interacting with their children than many working parents. I knew right then and there that I never wanted to be that kind of mom. I can see how it would be easy to slip into that pattern, moms are crazy busy and when you’re with the darling angels all day every day you start to go insane and want nothing more than some time away. While working parents are away from the kids all day and cherish the time they do spend with the little dears even though they’re tired and busy too. (Of course these are generalizations and every family is different). Personally, I believe all parents regardless of gender or work status should make their family their first priority. (Not that moms and dads aren’t allowed to have jobs they care about or personal lives).
So sure, I could spend most my day cleaning but I don’t. I spend it (sentimental list alert) hiding and seeking, blowing bubbles and finding ladybugs, pointing out shapes and colors, building towers and sipping imaginary tea, drawing, chasing, ticking and cuddling. I read the same books (many of which I’ve memorized) and sing the same songs (along with making up my own) thousands of times. I set boundaries and avert tantrums (sometimes) and try to use the modern-day babysitter, aka tv, as little as possible. Not to mention taking care of her basic needs (diaper changes anyone?).
I’m not saying that if you take the time to keep your house clean you’re a bad parent. Some people don’t function well in mess and clutter. They are happier, better parents when they keep things tidy. I, myself, need to take a few minutes here and there to look at Facebook or punch out a paragraph of this blog or even play whatever silly game I’m hooked on that day on my phone (even if I’m still watching my energizer bunny out of the corner of my eye) or I turn into crabby, quick-tempered and just plain angry mommy. (And you wouldn’t like me when I’m angry). It’s doesn’t really matter what I do exactly, it’s just about taking a moment to do something for myself. Sometimes I even read or watch an hour or two of tv while she’s asleep (I watch less tv in a week then I used to watch in a day). Technically, I could spend every waking moment I’m not directly interacting with my cuddle bear cleaning but then I wouldn’t be a functional human being much less a good mom.
Sometimes the clean laundry sits in the basket or even the drier for a few days before I get to folding it. My floors often needed vacuuming yesterday and there is always some random clutter about. Our cat and two dogs don’t exactly help with the whole cleanliness thing. Although, I guess in a way they do. They take care of crumbs and spills but they leave behind enough hair and drool (and sometimes other bodily fluids) that I doubt it evens out. But despite the mess I have a very happy little girl. So if you’re like me and your house is a mess but your family is happy, don’t be too hard on yourself. Are you going to look back when your little ones are grown and cherish the memories of cleaning your house? The long and short of it is I’m a lousy housekeeper but I’m a pretty stinking good stay at home mom. And I’m starting to be okay with that.