But, I’m going to use it.
I HATE CLEANING.
So glad to get that off my chest.
Don’t get me wrong. I love a job well done, I love meeting other people’s expectations (I’m a people-pleaser), I love just being able to cook without having to Jenga my kitchen first, I love walking on my floors and through my hallways and not tripping or dodging or obstacle-coursing around. I do. I really, really love it.
I HATE CLEANING.
It was always this way. There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it. My mother, my poor cleaning mother, will tell you that my room was ALWAYS the messiest. ALWAYS. That if you could see floor it was a good day. If laundry made it near my closet, I was a success. That she hounded me about my disaster of a room more than anything else. It was my worst trait, my most horrible habit, my cardinal sin. I was a good kid. I was a MESSY kid.
When Ben and I moved into our first apartment, it was the same. At the beginning, there was a novelty to cleaning up things, doing dishes in our sink, working together on tidying our space…until that second week. And then the shiny, the glimmer, the newness of cleaning up our space went away. And we kept it to the point where we could salvage it if someone came over, but generally it was an untidy mess that didn’t get cleaned. In fact, I had a friend comment after I had vacuumed for the first time since we moved in, that our carpet was kind of nice-looking when I vacuumed. That is how infrequently I clean.
Our house is the same. Before we had kids, we were slobby. Stuff everywhere. Dishes not done until they HAD to be done. Laundry not dealt with until it HAD to be dealt with.
Some days I would clean up our bedroom and Ben would be in utter shock and awe that it could be cleaned. Imagine that.
Add some children, some mental illness, some more children, some sleep-deprivation, and voila! The cleaning has not only gone on a back burner, it’s not even opened. It’s at the back of the pantry, getting dusty.
At this point, though, I’m starting to understand cleaning. I’m starting to get what my mother was going on and on and on and on and on about when we were growing up. Things like, if you put it away you’d know where it is (Hi, it’s under my bed. Case closed.). And why put the dishes on the counter above the dishwasher, instead of in the dishwasher? And if it’s empty/full/broken/needs refilling, why don’t you do what you need to do instead of waiting for someone else to do it?
I get it. I still don’t LOVE cleaning, but I get that an organized home is so much easier (and nicer!) to navigate when you’re in a hurry and you’re running late and you need to find the elusive toy that will make the day instead of break the day. I get that walking across a floor and not having to brush the crumbs off is a nice perk. I understand now that stepping on and over and around stuff takes up precious energy. Energy I don’t have to waste on making my home a Spartan Race. I get it.
My house is still a disaster.
I work at it. I spend hours washing dishes, sorting-washing-drying-folding-putting-away laundry, sweeping, steam mopping, dusting, vacuuming. I do. BUT.
And this folks, is the BIG BUT.
BUT I have these…children. And they’re not helpful. Cute, but not helpful.
They don’t have a wonder of cleanliness to show them the way, so they don’t have innate cleaning genes.
They do have innate let’s-destroy-the-house-and-watch-mom-lose-it genes. IN SPADES.
There are a couple of scenarios caused by these adorably infuriating children.
The first one is obvious: I clean, they destroy. Sometimes not right away, sometimes they don’t wait, sometimes it’s concurrently – they’re messing it up AS I’M CLEANING IT – but they like to undo every thing that I do.
Organize and put away toys. Feel a sense of accomplishment. Watch as it’s taken apart in 5.6 seconds.
Fold laundry. Painstakingly put it in drawers by type of clothing and size. Watch as it’s tossed around like nobody’s business and BOOM can’t find socks.
Do dishes. Put all Tupperware away. Watch as children take out Tupperware, use it for rocks and dirt and goodness knows what. Watch as they put their sticky hands, mouth, feet all over it. Watch as it falls all over my not-so-swept floor. Cry.
Sweep floor. Feel like a superwoman. Watch as children drop cups of milk and water, pieces of toast with peanut butter, saucy chicken, spaghetti AND sauce all over the floor. Sob.
See? Brushing your teeth and Oreos, I tell you.
The next one is not so obvious. It’s the one that mothers DON’T TALK ABOUT. They don’t share their secrets, so I’m asking you, dear audience, dear readers who probably excel at cleaning and everything around it, whose houses I could drop by and feel very bad about myself because you’re doing it SO MUCH BETTER THAN ME, tell me: how do you clean without letting your parenting fall all to crap?
I’m talking about trying to do the dishes, but then the baby starts screaming. Do you let him scream until the dishes are done, or stop and take care of him and then go back never? And what do you do with the toddler who would make MORE DISHES while “helping” you with dishes? Do you ignore them? Let the TV parent them? What do you do with them?
And when the babies are napping and all you want, all you NEED to do, is sit for a few minutes because you’ve been chasing babies ALL DAY LONG, do you pick cleaning and chores over rest, knowing the chores will make you cranky and unbearable later? Or do you pick the rest, knowing it will make you a mother you’re proud of, one that doesn’t lose her temper or get frustrated or freak out because I JUST CLEANED THAT FLOOR, COME ON!?
Could you tell me? Because I think if I had some ideas, maybe I wouldn’t HATE cleaning so much. Just generally abhor it, but still do it because the benefits would eventually outweigh the moaning and complaining that I’d put up.