Have you noticed it is not very popular to be a mother of young children who likes to keep her house clean?
What I mean is this.
Anytime you confess that sometimes you just want to get the dishes done and put away the laundry, everyone and their brother will say something like this: "but the dishes will always be there. Your kids won't."
Dun, dun, DUNNNNN.
Translation: if you choose to clean rather than be with your kids, you totally suck as a mom, and your kids will know that you don't value them, and in a short time when they grow up, you will all be in therapy as a result of your choosing to wash the dishes.
At least that is how it feels to me sometimes.
How many of us praise ourselves, or each other, because we ignored the dishes and read to the kids instead?
How many of us have Pintrested this saying, "A clean house is a sign of a wasted life," and have that saying haunting us every time we shoo our kids outside to play so we can scrub the tub?
Is this all there is?
A messy house = a good mom, and a clean house = a bad mom?
Can't we find a happy medium somewhere?
OK, I love my house clean.
When my house is clean, my whole world feels peaceful, beautiful, and wonderful.
There is a sense of calm that I don't feel when there are toys strewn about, crumbs all over the floor, a dirty stove top, and dirty finger prints around every door way.
I have been this way since I was a very little girl, and loved cleaning my own room and those of my friends.
Does this mean that I have set sail on the course to waste my life and ruin the lives of my children?
I don't think so.
What it does mean, though, is that I strive to find balance in this area of my life nearly every day.
It means it is an area ripe for being challenged, and for those challenges to grow me as a person, a wife, and a mother.
It means some days I go into the laundry room and I kick the washer because I am so sick and tired of never, ever, getting caught up with the house work.
It means that some days I leave the house for a day of adventure with the kids, and I dread coming home to the disaster we left behind.
And I count it a victory that we left, rather than stay home to get caught up on the housework.
It means I don't let the desire for a clean house rule me, but I also don't pretend it's not there.
So I teach my kids the importance of putting things back in their place.
I teach them to wipe out the sink after they brush their teeth.
I teach them to put away their own laundry, and I don't worry so much that their drawers are a mess because #1, I can't see the mess when the drawers are closed, and # 2, they need to learn how to put their laundry away.
I tell them not to put their hands on the walls when they've been outside playing all day beacause their hands are filthy.
And then I point out the dirty handprints they just made, and have them wipe them off.
I can't do this alone.
Even when Aaron folds laundry nearly every night, and does the dishes when I say, "I'm too tired. Just leave them for the morning."
Even then, I need more help.
They need to help.
Because, I like a clean house, I don't have a house keeper, and there are 6 of us living here.
But most of all, it's not helping them any if I try to do this all by myself.
I forget that sometimes.
When I was in the living room doing school with the big boys and Lilly and Davy were in the kitchen having a tea party.
To me that meant a pretend tea party, with Lilly's small tea set.
This is what it meant to Lilly.It meant she made all kinds of crumb making snacks for her and David to munch on, and step on, and spread throughout the house.
It means they emptied a couple drawers of everything to find other tea set pieces when she couldn't find her own.
It meant they played happily and peacefully while the boys and I read, and did math.
They had a blast.
But when I walked into that kitchen, my initial response was, "Lillian Catherine! What did you do in here?"
And I was bummed out, and overwhelmed, and I wanted to kick the washer.
But then I looked at David.
And he was so cute and smiley that I had to take a picture.
I took a couple deep breaths.
I went outside to find Lilly, and nicely asked her to come in and clean the kitchen floor up.
She happily complied, and then showed David how to pick everything up and put it away.
He was pleased as punch to help.
And she was pleased as punch to show him how.
When they were done, she turned to me with a big smile, "Mommy! Can you believe how fast we cleaned that up? Davy is learning how to be a good helper, isn't he?"
That's when the truth of that annoying saying hit me.
If I had just cleaned the mess up myself, muttering under my breath and slamming cabinets along the way, it would have been a total waste.
Instead, Lilly and Davy experienced the joy of helping and being useful.
They practiced responsibility.
And I felt a real weight lift off my shoulders when I saw the mess in my kitchen get cleaned up, even just a little bit.
It was a pretty sweet moment.
I'm not saying that I always respond this way.
There are plenty of muttering under the breath moments.
Just ask my kids.
I'm sure they'll grow up with plenty of stories about mom and her crazy, house cleaning rampages.
But I also hope they'll remember these other moments.
The moments when I gather them in my arms, and squeeze them, and say, "thank you for being such good helpers. You make my whole world brighter. I love you."
All day long I am given the opportunity to choose my attitude, choose my perspective, and choose my response.
Here is what I'm aiming for: this and this.
And to get those dishes done.
From one clean loving mama to all the others I know are out there--you aren't alone.