If you’re on facebook, you’ve inevitably seen stickers posted saying things like, “If your floors are a mess, and you have a sinkful of dishes, then you have happy kids.” I don’t think I have that quite right, but the implication is that moms with messes are playing with their kids, instead.
I once read a post from a different blogger talking about how much such sayings bother her. She works hard to live an uncluttered, simple life, and took offense at the idea that other people think her child would be unhappy since she keeps floors clean and dishes washed.
Here’s my take on it:
At any given moment, if you were to just drop by my house, here’s what you would probably see:
1. Crumbs on the floor.
2. Dirty dishes by the sink.
3. Mounds of clean and dirty laundry.
4. Scattered toys.
5. Paper piles.
6. Unfinished projects.
7. Chipped baseboards.
8. Dried mud on the walls, patched over some sort of scuff or nail hole.
And the list goes on…
Catch me at the RIGHT moment, and you just might see…
1. The laundry bins empty and the drawers full of folded clothes.
2. The kitchen counters clear.
3. Swept, shiny floors.
4. Toys tucked away in bins.
Chances are, if someone were to just drop by, they’d observe more from the first list than the second.
Does that mean that I’m a lazy failure?…Occasionally, but normally–NO.
Does that mean my kids are happy because I’ve just been playing with them, ignoring my to-do’s?…Occasionally, but normally–NO.
Does that mean my kids are unhappy?…They might be unhappy at times–sure!
If you come to my house and see crumbs on the floor, it’s because we normally eat at home. And maybe supper got late and we did devotion and skipped over family clean-up to get kiddos snug in bed FIRST.
If you see dishes on my countertop, it’s because I cook meals and I bake and that uses a lot of dishes. While I do generally aim to clean up as promptly as possible, I will almost never put that before a child if they urgently need me. I do prioritize–but with a baby, I will not make him cry excessively while I do the dishes (or anything else). I will see to comforting my child, and I will get to the dishes as soon as I can. So, I simply haven’t been able to get to it yet. Is my child happy? Maybe not. I hope so! Meanwhile, I’m doing what sits right with my heart.
If you stick around, you’d see my sink empty and my counters gleaming. I can promise you it won’t stay that way for long, though.
Why ever not??? Because I have a healthy, growing family! The truth is that I’ve probably “done” the dishes a few times already…Tummies don’t get hungry at exactly the same time…and while I strive to offer food at relatively regular intervals, I am not a food nazi and will take into account someone’s hunger at other times of the day. Thus, dishes by the sink almost always…
And the laundry? Well, I like to wear clean clothes, so I offer my kids the same opportunity. Could they re-wear things and save me laundry? Maybe. They help me put laundry away about once a week. It’s just that people have been generous with their hand-me-downs, and the blessings overflow our baskets and drawers.
Isn’t that what this is all about?
Yes, sometimes my house is absolutely spotless! Here’s how:
Probably my husband took the kids somewhere and I cleaned like mad for hours. It’ll look great for a little while, but then bit by bit over time, baby Chad will empty out one cupboard or drawer while his brothers build Kreo-s all over the floor and my daughter makes a craft project with lots of bits of paper. Anyway, if they’re going somewhere fun, I want to be part of it, so I almost never get the house to myself for cleaning time, not that there’s much opportunity for it, anyway! I generally get done what I can while they’re underfoot, and sometimes they help me and sometimes they help me realize that it needs to wait. It CAN wait. Because even if the lunch crumbs are still there at supper time because I was preparing for church services, teaching piano, and singing my little guy to sleep then baking gluten-free gingerbread to build a house…we’ll survive. Sometimes other things are just more important.
We do what we can, but we can’t “do it all”.
Having a clean house at the expense of barking at your kids and not letting them LIVE in their own home is not the solution.
Asking your kids to help out and accepting their efforts is the solution! Yes, they’ll miss crumbs when sweeping, and I feel that it’s ok for them to give another try at a spot if it’s really messy still, but I don’t think it’s ok to hover over their shoulder. Just do it yourself, then.
Thank them for their efforts!
So if you ever want to just stop by, please do. I can pretty much guarantee that there will be a bunch of messes in my home, but hopefully you won’t look at them with judgement in your eyes. If my house was spic-and-span, you should probably worry. It probably means that I glared at someone for asking for a snack after I washed the floor (as we waited for you to arrive). And I said not to play toys so that their rooms would stay clean, so they argued, asked to watch hours of TV, and whined about computer time, instead. Maybe you’ll smile when you see our mess, knowing that a FAMILY spends most of their time here…and that as much as their mommy’s brain hurts from clutter, her heart hurts more when crumbs and dishes consistently come in place of “Heigh-ho Cherry-o”, stories, and home baked foods. Let’s look at life that way when we walk into one another’s homes, and I think we’ll all feel a bit more peace.
It’s “that” time of year when we’re able to welcome others into our homes more often, or visit someone else’s, and if others are like me, we feel that this means that the house has to be spotless or else our guests will think we didn’t care that they were coming.
SO, I wanted to put these thoughts down namely for myself, to put aside that UNTRUE sentiment and remind myself of what my heart believes is true and what my head says truly matters.
I hope it resonates with you, too.