As moms, we’re pretty hard on ourselves about cleaning and keeping things clean. Too many times I have heard (or admittedly, said myself), “Oh please don’t mind the mess, the kids were *insert something here.*” It’s always followed up with, “Oh, it’s fine, it’s not a mess,” when to us, it’s a complete disaster. Whenever a friend apologizes for the “mess” she thinks she has, I always tell her that she has kids – if there wasn’t something misplaced I might be worried and that it’s NOT a mess. But when the role was reversed, I would always apologize for the “mess” at my house.
What is with us?
I used to be an incredibly messy person. I wasn’t dirty – I did my laundry and I took showers daily. I just never put anything away. I don’t know why I was this way, I just think I didn’t care. I ended up having to move back in with my father who was (and still very much is) an extremely clean, organized person. Before I moved in, he told me “you will NOT be messy.” Ok, Dad, sure thing. Except I hated when my Dad yelled, scolded, or lectured me (spoiler alert, I’m thirty-four and still hate it). After being back home for about a month, something clicked and I was suddenly more than happy to clean.
I became my Dad – an extremely clean, organized person. Even after I moved out, all my Tupperware was stacked and had matching lids on top of them in the cabinets. All of my pans were stacked by size and had their lids nicely together next to them. My coffee mugs and drinking glasses were lined up in even rows. That saying “a place for everything and everything in its place” definitely held true in my apartment. I could go on, but I think you get it. It all looked very nice and I actually enjoyed doing it.
That was before kids.
I now have two children, a three-and-a-half-year-old boy and my daughter is just over a year. When my son was five months old, my aunt told me about her battles with cleaning up after a child. She said her daughter would take everything out of her toy boxes and move on to the next toy just as quickly as she had taken it out. My aunt would then try to clean up while she was napping. It was pointless – the second she was awake, she was back to making a mess of everything. Her advice to me was to let the mess go and just clean when he goes to bed for the night. But how could I do that? I had just transformed from the apartment dwelling slob caterpillar to a neat freak butterfly!
Spoiler alert: It ended up being great advice.
I had the bright idea of trying to teach my son to clean up each toy after he plays with it. We can’t play trucks if you don’t pick up your blocks. Makes sense, right? Yeah, maybe to an adult. My son viewed it as “let’s drive the trucks into and all over the blocks.” Mom says clean? Let’s whip out new toys! His new thing now is saying he “has no more energy.” My friend, you were just running around like a miniature tornado, I KNOW you have the energy to actually clean this entire apartment. Please just clean up this mess.
After he went to bed I would try to make sure I put away whatever toys were still out, plus I would take care of the rest of the entire house. I would make sure ALL dishes were done, ALL laundry was clean, folded and put away, beds were made, lunches for the next day were ready, and any loose house ends were tied. Then, I would also try to make sure to spend time with my boyfriend (who at this point was passed out on the couch). I got up early for the gym (think 4 a.m. early), so I was exhausted and only getting 4-5 hours of sleep.
So I’ve come to this: I gave up, and you should too. Of course, I don’t mean completely. But ladies, WE. HAVE. CHILDREN! Many of us have smaller children! We have these little creatures whose main goal in their current lives is to whirlwind spin through their day. Of course, we want to teach them to clean up after themselves, as they most certainly should learn to. But if they don’t? Is it really going to make or break our lives if every single thing isn’t put away? Will it matter in five years? Nope.
The best we can do right now is to be consistent with them. And as for us and our homes? Do what you can. Is there a cup or 4 in the sink? Leave them. Maybe you didn’t get a chance to fold the towels. Do it tomorrow. Did nobody make their beds this morning, including you? Insert shoulder shrug here! Don’t stress over the little things (yes, laundry is a little thing).
The “place for everything” saying still goes at my house, but now it’s not as important. A messy house means happy kids, kids that play. Not going crazy cleaning at night means I get to relax and hang out with my boyfriend before he passes out on the couch. Do you like having some tea to wind down? Bad TV shows? Yoga? Drink the tea. Watch bad TV. Do yoga! Take some time every day for your own self. The “mess” you think is there can wait. Our babies are only small for so long. When they have families of their own, we can once again become beautiful neat freak butterflies.