As I sit here typing, my children are playing house. Rather, they are playing “grocery shopping as a family” which I find amusing since I think we’ve only grocery shopped a handful of time as a family in the last 4 years… so their imaginary play is really digging deep today! My house is clean, laundry is caught up – essentially this day is perfect.
Now, before you unfollow this blog because I dared to say these things, please understand this: today is rare. And I am soaking it up. Why? Because I have small children. And a pug (that addition should definitely give me bonus points in my housekeeping). My life is not like this more than a few days out of the month. The other days? Well, either the laundry is caught up or the house is. I can’t keep it all under control. I’m only one person and truthfully, I still spend a large percentage of my day helping someone in the potty (even the pug). So every day there are new challenges, new messes and new ways to feel that I am a giant failure. Especially since I have always been a very fussy housekeeper. 9.5 weeks after we said “I do”, I completely flipped out on my husband for wearing his grassy shoes in the house, walking up the white-carpeted stairs, into our bedroom and leaving them lay on the closet floor shedding grass clippings like a hippie. Did I overreact? Absolutely. But just so you know, we now have a doormat and a boot tray.
But I guess the point to this post is that in the past few years, I’ve learned to embrace and even welcome the chaos that comes with small children. Gosh. The chaos that comes with life! There are nights that I got to bed with the dishes undone because I am just too tired. I will do them in the morning. Some nights, I just want to hang out with my husband and not fold laundry. So I kick the toys that always gravitate to the living room aside and we watch a movie. I force myself to sit still and just BE. The laundry will not actually grow legs and leave the house in protest of wrinkles. But his need for companionship is far greater than my need for tidiness.
Recently, I read this lovely post by a sweet mama in Oklahoma:
“I chose to pursue motherhood. I chose to forego a career and become a stay-at-home wife and mom. I chose to homeschool…. So why in the world was I acting surprised everytime my kids ate and the kitchen table was covered with food and sticky fingerprints? Why did I sigh every time we decided to go somewhere and I had to pack diaper bags and load carseats? When was I going to stop talking about how many (or how few) hours of sleep I had received the night before? How long was I planning on exclaiming over how many times a day I had to sweep the kitchen floor?”
I read her post and laughed and laughed. I really didn’t know that children don’t sleep. I was under the impression that the “2 am feeding” was an urban myth created for the sake of movies and story books. For the record, I don’t know that we’ve ever had a 2 am feeding. But we have had the 1130pm-1am-115am-245am-oh-for-the-love-of-all-that-is-holy-WHY-is-she-awake-again-5am feedings. I knew kids were messy. I knew kids needed to be taught everything and come with far more accessories than one ever could imagine. I was aware that I’d have to remind myself to close the bathroom door when I’m outside the home because not everyone is going to come in as me for the “42 Ironman” and can’t reach the door handle. And I knew how much I’d loathe carseats. But I am the daughter of a policeman and I follow the very letter of the law.
I just stood in the kitchen while my 2 and half year old princess debated over which piece of peanut butter sandwich left over from the lunch she ran off in the middle of she was going to eat. It is remarkable how enormous this decision is to a child. I stood there and waited until she chose. And then the words “don’t make a mess” came out of my mouth as she skipped away. Why do I still say that? After almost 5 years of parenting these children, I know they make messes. It inherent to this season of life and yet I find myself admonishing them to be “neater”.
It’s my job right now to teach her and her brother how to be “neater”, but it is also my job to watch the standards I set. In 20 years, give or take, they will each (hopefully) have their own homes and families. By that time, I’ll have a clean home every day. My laundry will not mock me from the pile in the basement. And I’ll be sleeping through the night without someone throwing their lovie and batman pillow on my head as they crawl in to snuggle. My children will not remember the days of constant messes. They won’t remember me sitting the piles of laundry and crying because I’m just too tired from the night before to even think about where to begin. They will remember the example I set for them as I go about caring for the home and my family. And I don’t want my daughter to sit in her home, with her babies wondering how she will survive these years. I don’t want my son to come home and think his wife is a failure because she couldn’t balance the babies and house and her mental health.
These days of messy counters, Lego piles, princess dresses and potty helpers are so short. I will always remember them and I honestly pray that I don’t forget how I felt as a new mother, as a mother grieving the loss of a baby, as a mother wondering where her toddler got so much energy when the baby kept the house awake every night. When my memory fades, there are photos. Photos of the messes, the laundry that is out of control, the toy explosion, the orange crayon all. over. the. couch. I am so imperfect and I am totally ok with it. Alright, maybe not totally, but I am embracing it… one disaster at a time.