Days like these

If you had asked me when I was younger what my life would look like in my 30s, as a mother, as a wife, I would never have been able to guess it would be this.

That my house would be a complete disaster every single day, unless company was coming over, and then it was a minor disaster to be put on hold for a small number of hours.

All the dishes. All the time.

All the dishes. All the time. (That dishwasher is there purely for aesthetic.)

That I would go to bed thinking about all the laundry I need to fold, wash, put away…yet never ever get to.

How many loads of clean laundry can I hide behind my couch?

How many loads of clean laundry can I hide behind my couch? (That chair is tipped over because Isaac likes to climb).

That I would be a stay-at-home mom, walking babies to school, cooking all the meals, in charge of all the cleaning, and watching my hard-earned degree gather dust on our wall.

Have you tried cooking dinner with acrobatics happening at your feet?

Have you tried cooking dinner with acrobatics happening at your feet?

That I would be forced to negotiate with the most unreasonable creatures on the planet just to put on their shoes so we could go to the park FOR THEM, or eat their food because they were the ones sobbing at my feet hungry, or to go to bed and sleep because all of the hysterics that they are currently stuck in are because they are tired.

Waiting for snack time...weirdly patiently.

Waiting for snack time…weirdly patiently.

That I would not get a hair cut in over a year simply because I would need to orchestrate a child-care/salon hours/extra time formula that only works once every 15 months or so.

Can you see my kitchen table? I haven't either.

Have you see my kitchen table? I haven’t either.

That I would donate all of my dress pants, skirts, blouses because I don’t need them anymore – my uniform consists of durable material, wash-and-wear ensembles with denim being the star.

Dress pants are no match for a breakfast thrown by Isaac.

Dress pants are no match for a breakfast thrown by Isaac. And the random dirty sock.

That we would not go to church in months simply because we are too sick/too exhausted/too worn-out to get to one more place on time.

That sitting on the couch and zoning out for an hour, followed by an early bedtime is my idea of the perfect night.

That eating hot food is an anomaly so rare that I regularly burn my mouth whenever the opportunity does present itself.

That I would drink and seek out and need coffee to fuel my day, every day.

Sweet nectar that makes all of my efforts in futility possible.

Sweet nectar that makes all of my efforts in futility possible.

That the feeling of not having a body on me or near me or touching me would be more alien than having three children piled on and around me.

That sleep would be the most precious and most scarce commodity in my life, so much so that on days where the babies are overnight somewhere, sleep is all I can think about.

That when planning our 10-year anniversary trip, that it’s a legitimate toss-up between Europe and an all-inclusive tropical resort because all I want to do is SLEEP.

That I would be fulfilled by the feeling of a smooth, not sticky counter, kitchen table, coffee table, floor.

That I would find pleasure in finding miracle cleaning products that worked instead of just made me work.

That I would write more, clean more, cook more, and walk more with babies hanging off of me, screaming at me, crying on me or asking a million things of me, than not.

He's not really a fan of this blog post.

He’s not really a fan of this blog post.

That I would love my babies more fiercely than anything ever. That I would do all of the above and more for them because it’s ingrained in my DNA that they are mine and I must fight for them.

That I would get up and repeat over and over and over again, regardless of the fact I make no money, have no sick days, and no vacation time.

If you had asked me then, I wouldn’t believe you. And yet, it’s the most natural thing today.

~ Julia

Hate is a strong word

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.

BUT.

I HATE CLEANING.

The only thing I hate more than having a dirty house is 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.

Remember when I asked you to clean your room and you told me, "No!" and slammed your door? Well, I donated all your toys so now you won't have to clean your room anymore.

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.

Funny how to do your laundry infographic

Some days I would clean up our bedroom and Ben would be in utter shock and awe that it could be cleaned. Imagine that.

Wow! The house is so clean! Was the Internet down today, or is someone coming over?

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.

And yet…

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.

My house was clean. Then the kids woke up. The end.

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.

Cleaning with kids in the house is like brushing your teeth while eating Oreos.

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?

Cleaning with a toddler around is like raking leaves during a hurricane.

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.

~ Julia