Becoming a mom includes taking on a whole lot of guilt; striving for the kind of perfection impossible to achieve can make you question your every move. With the onslaught of social media making it easier than ever to read about how perfect everyone else is, it has become even easier to judge ourselves poorly.
Parents are bombarded by heartfelt articles and tear inducing quotes conveying the message to let the dust bunnies be, do not use the words “hurry up”, leave the dirty dishes in the sink and instead spend time with your children. Each time I read one of these well meaning pieces I feel ashamed. I look around my well organized home, so neat and clean with the dishes put away and laundry folded and in drawers, and question my ability as a mother. I cower in the shadows when overhearing other moms laughing about how messy their home is. I shamefully invite people into our house apologizing for how clean it is; “I’m so sorry my house is not a mess, I have a problem.”
Then one day, while flipping through a magazine, the affirmation I had so desired glared back at me in the form of an ad from IKEA: A picture of a mother and daughter washing dishes and the title “Because the Dishes Can’t Wait”. I had to read it again to be certain it said ‘can’t’ and not ‘can’. The ‘t’ was definitely there and it was proof I may not be alone after all.
That’s right! I am a neat freak. I do not function well in chaos. Some people do and to others a messy house does not feel chaotic. But it does to me. Don’t get me wrong my kids are allowed to play anywhere in our home. Our nice dining room table is now scarred with fork wounds, splatters of paint, and play-doh in every nook and cranny. But you have to look closely to see this. My lovely throw pillows are constantly thrown on the ground, used as weapons, and as walls for forts. But they can be placed back neatly on the couch. Lego pieces, blocks, race cars, and dolls frequently gather in our hallway. But when they are no longer being played with they are picked up and put back where they belong.
I wash my kids faces when they are sticky with ice cream and chocolate. I make them wipe their bare feet after playing outside. I do not want them walking in our drive way without shoes on and get mad when they do. I tell them not to leave hand marks on the windows and not to eat on the couch. And while I am at it, I must confess, I do tell my children to ‘hurry up’ when we need to be somewhere.
Phew! It feels good to get this stuff off my chest. If you are the opposite of me, I do not judge you. I praise you for being relaxed about things I can not relax about. I do not care if your house looks different than mine, or if your clean clothes never leave the laundry basket. Every family is different and we are all trying to be our best in a not so ‘ideal’ world. It is time to applaud ourselves instead of criticizing. I am constantly being told how nicely my children clean up after themselves. This makes me laugh but also makes me proud; I want to embrace the qualities I am passing on to my children rather than apologize for them.
The next time I read an article telling me it is okay to ignore the dirty dishes, I will smile and think ‘no, it is okay for you to ignore the dirty dishes, but in my house the dishes can’t wait”.