This morning, I spent two hours cleaning. Scrubbing the floors of all the dirt that had been tracked in by weekend guests, spills, and miscellaneous mystery messes. I picked up what felt like a thousand toys and plastic Easter eggs. I gathered up the dirty laundry. Scraped and rinsed dirty dishes in preparation for dishwasher loading. I wiped down tables and counters- scrubbing hard at the sticky spots. I shook out blankets and pillows. I broke a sweat cleaning out the corners of my home.
Do you know why I’m telling you this? Because while I did all of this, my boys stayed in one corner of the house with a couple baskets of toys. They entertained themselves. And though there were moments of chaos, for the most part, it worked. They were content and I was productive. We all made it. The kids are alright.
There is an idea that has become so common there are plentiful memes floating through screens everywhere- smugly or defensively shared. Shouting some version of a “Messy floors, happy kids.” message. “My floors are sticky, the laundry isn’t done, but my kids are happy.” “Bless this mess”. Or perhaps most absurdly, “Real moms have messy houses”.
I am so tired of it. So tired of it being seen as vain to take care of your house (or yourself!). I’m not telling you to be a slave to the state of your house (or car…or body…or anything else). Nor am I suggesting that you neglect your children in favor of polishing silver. But I want to challenge the notion of it being pure vanity that makes one take care of themselves or their environment.
For me, it greatly affects my mental health when I’m knee deep in mess. Just ask my husband. But when the floors are clear, the air smells clean, the counters can be seen, everything is in it’s home… I breathe deeper. So for me, it isn’t vain to want my house to be put together…it’s necessary. It’s healthy. It helps me enjoy my kids more, not less. And I don’t think they feel abandoned when I spend a few hours prioritizing that. In fact, I’m fairly certain they appreciate having a calm, happy mama when it’s all done.
I don’t think I’m alone in this. So I’m putting it out there for the mothers that will say, “Yes! I so agree!”, just as much as I’m putting it out there for those that have whispered and rolled their eyes at those mothers.
My house/car/yard/body are all very, very far from perfect (also, there is no perfect). Believe me, I know how it feels when you can barely catch a break. There are days when the thought of pulling out a vacuum seems as likely as climbing a mountain. There are also days when I pack the kids up in the car or head out to the yard and just say ” Maybe later” to the mess.
But I want you to know that if you must do those dishes or scrub that bathtub or fold that laundry to breathe easier today. If you must manage that yoga session or go for a run. If you must slowly cook a meal so you can clear your head. If you clean out your car, paint your nails, or read a book. You aren’t less of a mother. There is no prize for abandoning all else to give every second of your attention and soul to your children. They’re going to be just fine. Better even, maybe? Because perhaps, you will feel a weight lift off of your shoulders. And maybe that weightlessness will roll over into laughing a little harder, playing a little longer, or holding them a little closer.
And if you’re sitting there reading this, passing judgement or feeling the need to defend… I’m sorry that “mom shaming” as entered your world. What is so heartbreaking is that we are all sharing this common experience and too often missing the chance to show support and share a laugh, a hug, or a good cry.
There is so much to celebrate. So much wonder and love in raising our children. Could we share more of that? Could we acknowledge the sticky mess without glorifying it? Would it hurt to show more love and less judgement?
Mama, regardless of the state of your mess today… you’re a “real mom”. And I bet you’re trying to love your babies and balance all else. I’m sure sometimes you have to choose between play and work. I’m sure it can feel overwhelming. I’m sure you often question whether you’re doing it right.
You know how I know? Because I’m right there with you. We’re in the same beautiful, challenging, heartbreaking, joyful, laughter giving, tear inducing, and yes…often messy…boat.
Share this with someone who needs to hear it today.