It’s not the screaming. It’s not the tantrums. It’s not even the incessant stream of fights that break out when I’m in the bathroom—or the sticky mash of oat and banana that turns to concrete under the kitchen chairs.
It’s the household. Instead of having a job with measured successes and failures, my experience as an at-home mom is that now my measurable success or failure is my house. How clean is it? How tidy? How organized? How decorated? How cluttered? How beautiful?
Now, I’m not even talking about what other people think. I’m sure people have made a few judgements before because it’s never super clean unless we’re having a party. It’s usually semi-tidy with great effort on everyone’s behalf.
But the reason why it feels like a mirror to my success as an at-home parent is because it’s where I am and what I do all day long.
To me, my home feels cluttered even if I just purged and cleaned it. To me, it feels like the kitchen floor is goopy yet again, even if I just mopped yesterday. To me, the inability to stay on top of every load of laundry feels like epic failure, akin to not turning in a legal brief before the court’s deadline. To me, the stack of dishes in the sink (that may not get washed before my husband gets home) feels like I’m slacking on the job. To me, my home feels like a reflection of competence in my “job.”
Looking at other moms’ social media accounts doesn’t help either. Sure, the one lady whose photos all have the same hue and filter and whose open cabinets in her kitchen look pristine despite three kids makes my messy kitchen look askance. But truly, if anything, I’m inspired by the women who are dedicated to the repeated, mundane, inexhaustible work of keeping a house looking and functioning nicely.
When I step back and remember that I am not my dirty house, and my mothering is not my dirty house, and my children are not my dirty house, I can once again believe that the real work I’m doing here is forming, shaping and loving little lives.
To me, my home feels like a reflection of competence in my “job.”
Yes, their environment matters, but it’s not more important to have a perfect home than well-read books, couches that have deep dips from long snuggles and toys that are so loved they’re strewn about for arm’s reach at any given time.
Today I refuse to find my success in my home.
Moving forward, I do not want to let my anxiety and stress levels adhere to the barometer of how clean my house is in the moment. If your efforts at minimalism and Insta-perfection are driving you crazy, then I hope you can let it go, too. I do not want to encourage you to be a complete sloth, but to be a person whose priorities are properly aligned: relationships first and then possessions way down on the list.
P.S. If you have the inclination and joyful ability to have a stellar home along with small kids, then I give you massive praise. This just isn’t me.