It was probably a good thing that I spent so much time on my kitchen floor this morning because, while I was down there, I noticed a puddle of dried up apple sauce that looked to be a bit older than just last night’s dinner. After I wiped that up with the baby’s cloth diaper rag dipped into my son’s water cup (out of paper towels…again), I caught a glimpse of a half-eaten broccoli stalk and a few errant drops of cranberry juice hanging out together under my daughter’s chair. Let me tell you, the surprises didn’t end there. I had opened up a virtual Pandora’s Box of scraps from the past. So, I did what any responsible mother would do. I got up off the floor and went into the living room. Out of sight, out of mind.
I had this grand vision that I would spend my yearlong maternity leave of absence in a well kept home with sparkling floors and nutritious home cooked meals every night. The laundry would be folded and put away as soon as the buzzer rang on the dryer. The bathrooms would smell of rosebuds and disinfectant. My pantry would be organized (Thanks Pinterest!) and my closets would be color coordinated. Company coming? No need to call ahead – my house would always be spotless and ready for entertaining. Why wouldn’t it be? After all, I was going to be home ALL DAY with nothing else to do. I’d managed to keep my house semi-clean with two kids and a full time job; surely I could do better with just one extra kid and staying at home. My plan just had one tiny little flaw. I was going to be home ALL DAY. This meant that my kids were going to be making messes ALL DAY and I was going to be following them around cleaning up after them ALL DAY. Oh, and one extra kid meant adding a billion times more laundry. Cute little pink onesies and adorable little lacy socks, but still….
Sometimes I think that if it weren’t for the polygamy and the whole sharing my husband thing and the extra kids running around, I would totally consider having a sister wife. Just hear me out. My husband doesn’t need another wife -- I need a wife. Like a co-wife. Just someone to do all of the wife things that I no longer have the time or the patience or the tolerance to do anymore. If I had someone to cook dinner while I was helping with homework or folding clothes, I would have so much more energy for bath time and bedtime. Yeah, I know what I’m describing sounds more like a maid, and that would be cool too. But hiring a maid would be expensive and pretentious and a little weird. So I guess I’ll just stay in Michigan (Utah is so far away) and do my own dishes. Besides, if I didn’t have to do all of the housework, what would I have to complain about? I’m getting pretty good at playing the vacuum martyr.
So what is a modern mother to do? How can I devote time to my kids and spouse and career without allowing my house to look like an episode of Hoarders? Like everything else, I guess it’s all about moderation. Do I dust regularly? Nope. (Unless, of course, you consider twice a year to be regular. If so, then you and I can be best friends.) Do I always use the attachments on my vacuum cleaner to sweep the corners or the baseboards? Not a chance. Do I change the filter on the water dispenser in my refrigerator every time the red light comes on? Just did…so I’m probably good for another three years. But, my kids have clean shirts to wear, they eat vegetables with dinner most nights of the week (a corndog is technically a vegetable since it has one in its name, right?) and they have fresh sheets to sleep on. They are happy and healthy and capable of making huge messes all on their very own. So what if the inside of my microwave looks like the one from the set of the Gremlins, just don’t warm anything up when you come over to visit next time.
As I stare at the mountain of clothes piling up on my chaise lounge, waiting to be reunited with hangers and drawers, I remind myself that there won’t always be that many towels and t-shirts to put away. I might sigh at the list of chores to be finished tonight before I retire to my pillow, lunches to be packed and coffee to be made, but at least I have people who depend on those chores. And if the clothes are still there tomorrow because I chose to take an impromptu trip to the beach or play hockey using the laundry basket for a goal, well, then that will be okay too. There will always be more socks to sort and more sinks to rinse.
Whenever I feel overwhelmed by the enormity of the task of keeping a clean house, I walk into my bedroom and read the sign hanging on the wall by my rocking chair. On it is written an old saying, probably from a woman who had cobwebs in her corners but kids on her lap. I’ll share it with you – it's easy enough to remember.
For babies grow up, we’ve learned to our sorrow,
So quiet down cobwebs, dust go to sleep
I’m rocking my baby, and babies don’t keep.