It’s not the screaming. It’s not the tantruming. It’s not even the incessant stream of fights that break out only when I’m in the bathroom. Or the sticky mashup of oats & bananas that turns to concrete under their chairs.
It’s the household. Instead of having a job with measured successes and failures, my experience as an at-home mom is that now my measurable success or failure is my house. How clean is it? How tidy? How organized? How decorated? How cluttered? How beautiful?
Now I’m not even talking about what other people think. I’m sure people come into our home and think beautiful 100 year old architecture with 100 year old cobwebs, too? It’s never super clean unless we’re having an actual party (sorry friends who come by! I will not dust most likely. I may run a vacuum.). It’s usually semi-tidy with great efforts on everyone’s behalf. But the reason why it feels like a mirror to my internal success as an at-home parent is because it is where I am and what I do all day long.
To me, it feels cluttered even if I just purged and cleaned. To me, it feels like the kitchen floor is goopy again even if I just mopped yesterday. To me, the inability to stay on top of every load of laundry feels like epic failure, akin to not turning in a legal brief before the court’s deadline. To me, the stack of dishes in the sink that may not get washed before my husband gets home feels like I’m slacking on the job. To me, my home feels a reflection of my competence in my “job.”
Social media doesn’t help, but for me, doesn’t hinder that much. Sure, that one lady whose photos all have the same hue & filter, and whose open cabinets in her kitchen look pristine despite three kids makes my messy kitchen look askance. But truly, if anything, I’m inspired by the women who are dedicated to the repeat and mundane inexhaustible work of keeping a house looking and functioning nicely.
When I step back and remember that I am not my dirty house, and my mothering is not my dirty house, and my children are not my dirty house, I can once again believe that the real work I’m doing here is forming and shaping and loving and enduring little lives.
Yes, their environment is important. No, it’s not more important to have a perfect home than books that are well-read, couches that have deep dips from long snuggles, and toys that are so loved they’re strewn about for arm’s reach at any given time. (You might rock both–not knocking you–I just can’t do environment + child rearing simultaneously well.)
I refuse today, and moving forward, to let my anxiety and stress levels adhere themselves to the barometer of how clean my house is in this moment. Yeah, I have to work at tidying every day and cleaning more than once a month. My house is here to serve our needs as a family, not as a museum for our family to worship in. I’m a steward of it, not a slave to it.
That’s a jumble of metaphors for you.
If your efforts at minimalism and insta-perfect living are driving you crazy, I hope you can let it go, too. Not to be a complete sloth, but to be a person whose priorities are properly aligned: relationships first, possessions way down on the list.
Also, if you have the inclination and joyful ability to have a stellar home and small kids, I give you massive praise. This isn’t me. I’d rather be sewing. A few of my fall leggings left!