I grew up surrounded by neat freaks. My mom, dad, and sister are all GREAT at being organized and keeping things clean. I never realized until recently exactly how much the immaculately organized and disinfected environment in which I was raised has affected me. I'm not saying they are OCD or anything; they just have high standards AND the ability to meet their own standards. To my mother's credit, even though she kept the house so lovely, I don't remember it ever feeling like it was a place where we were not allowed to live and play and make messes. That is an amazing accomplishment. They never seemed stressed out that I was going to "mess up" all their work. HOWEVER, I was and still am continually called out for being the one who is messy... Messy Bessie, to be exact.
Here is my dilemma: I have inherited the high standards and know how pleasant it is to live in a very clean, well organized home, but I did not get the genes that supply that innate ability to meet the high standard. I am not saying I don't know how to do it; I just REALLY suck at it. My mom made sure we knew how to keep things nice. 6 days of the week we labored and did all our chores. Mine were something like this:
M: clean the bathroom (toilet, bathtub, sink, fixtures, baseboards, sweep, mop, clean towels, etc.)
T: Dust living and dining room furniture
W: Vacuum everything but Mom's and Whitney's room
Th: Clean my room (change sheets, dust, vacuum, organize)
F: Sweep the garage
S: Do all your own laundry- including your own color-coded bathroom towels.
In addition to this, Whitney and I cleaned the kitchen every night which included loading the dishwasher, hand washing some stuff, cleaning the counters, table, and cleaning the sink with Comet.
Yes. I'm serious. No. I'm not exaggerating. Yes. Until the last couple years, I thought all decent families have houses this clean. No. I'm not complaining! Yes. I absolutely plan to do this with my own children just as soon as they're ready. (I remember Whitney using a step stool at the washing machine on her laundry day.)
You see my dilemma, right? Do you think I'm able to get all that done each week at my house? HECK, NO! Do you think I get all that done in a month (particularly the floor cleaning...)? HECK, NO! So, I have existed in a miserable state of self-loathing for my inadequacies- especially since finishing school and being a "full-time, stay-at-home mom."
My other compromising factor is that my husband is almost NOTHING like my father, except that he is a wonderful, loving, God-loving man. But, I have to beg for Brendan to notice messes. My dad is practically programmed to make them disappear.
Brendan is often kind to mention that I don't know what my parents' house looked like when I was 2.5, and my mom never had two children under 2 at once. Still, I don't want to set myself up to expect to be able to accomplish all that my mother did when the kids are older.
2 things have helped me in my state of dilemma:
#1: Housekeeping Service
Yes. I have had "maids." Yes. That makes me feel like a spoiled white girl. Yes. I had to convince Brendan. I'm not sure what has possessed me to so publicly reveal this (not that it is a secret), but I think I just want other moms to know that it's ok! When I was 9 mos pregnant (broken foot and all!), I got to have cleaning twice a month- my baby gift from my mom and Brendan because they knew how much that would help me. By the time Ivo was a month old, I begged Brendan to let me keep having the cleaning once a month. That way, I could know that at least once a month, my home was how I want it. And. YES. Coming home after the cleaners have been here is AMAZING. It is not as expensive as you might think, and it is COMPLETELY worth it. I have never been one to spend money on stuff (clothes, jewelry...), so my spending money has been reserved for this once a month cleaning. Of course, this also implies that Brendan and I have been greatly blessed to have some spending money- a gift from God for which we are continually thankful and a little bit shocked.
BUT, I'm experiencing an inner revolution that has lead to the cancelling of the housecleaning service. Some of that is that Ivo is older and therefore sleeping well, so I have my energy back. But mostly it's due to...
#2: Life Changing Realization: It is OK
It is OK...
to not have a house as clean as my parents. They are special.
It is OK...
because no one expects that from me but me.
It is OK...
because God didn't give me that gift. He gave me other stuff, and if I spend all my time trying to clean my house to live up to this standard that only I carry, then I'm not able to use the other things.
It is OK...
because needing grace is good. If I could truly "do it all and have it all" as some brands of feminism suggest, I wouldn't need God. And I like needing God. I also would have the "right" to judge other's who don't do it all and have it all. And I don't need that... REALLY, don't need that.
Today, I looked around the house and as the freak-out session began to well up within me at the sight of my cluttered bathroom counter and toys on the living room floor, for the first time, I comfortably said to myself... "WHO CARES? Brendan? Nope. Ez and Ivo? Nope. God? I don't think so. It's just you! And do you really care? NOPE! I know I can clean that stuff up if I want to or need to. But, right now, today, it's FINE for that stuff to be out. It's not unsanitary. It's not dangerous. It's FINE!"
So, I exercised. I journaled. I cleaned the kitchen (because I DID care, and it wasn't sanitary...).
SO GOOD TO BE FREEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!
And, I reserve the right to save my spending money for housecleaning every 6 mos or so just so I can know the floors are getting a good cleaning and that the grout has been scrubbed.
So, what's the ridiculous standard you can't meet or let go? It's all idolatry you know...