I grew up in a clean home. Even today, my mother is one of the most orderly and organized people that I know. Every thing in her home has a place, and every THING is always in its place. I have to admit, there are times when I envy her organizational skills, especially now that I have a family of 6 living in a small home.
Still, growing up in a very strategic and controlled environment has taken its toll on me. I have regrettably, never been one of those mama’s who could just leave the toys out on the living room floor after the kids were done playing. I don’t go to bed at night with a sink full of dishes, and have slowly, over time graduated to a simple, but diligent routine of cleanliness that I perform every day.
It’s pretty much always the same – and the ‘routine’ of it makes me feel very comfortable. I drop the kids off at school, clean up breakfast dishes, start dinner, sweep the kitchen, living room, hallway and bathroom, vacuum the throw rugs, dust off things, put laundry in and bleach all the counters and disinfect the bathroom. This whole cleaning process takes me about an hour, which really isn’t much in the course of a day.
The problem is when I don’t do these things, I feel out of sorts. Once, I even posted the poem about a ‘messy house being a symbol of family happiness’ on my fridge to remind me that disorder and chaos would be okay. (It didn’t work!)
I attribute a messy house to environmental chaos. This probably has a lot to do with my upbringing. When I am surrounded by environmental chaos, I have a difficult time doing my job (which is creative), relaxing, or being productive in my day. It’s stupid, I know. The kids – as they have gotten older have taken to sort of laughing at me, and call me OCD or anal. “Geez mom, why does it matter if the floors are swept,” they will say in disgust when they seem me searching for the broom.
The other day, after reading a snippet from The Libertarian Homeschooler, shared by a friend on Facebook – it hit me how much my cleanliness was about control. My environment is the one thing I feel that I CAN control on a daily basis. The kids are all wild cards, and it is not my desire to control them in any way, but rather to support and love them. All of the other people in this world are vehicles of their own free will.
The problem is most of the things that we claim to ‘control’ in actuality control us.
The house, the sweeping, the cleaning – is something that I can control. It is also something that I have taken to defining myself by. I have subconsciously fell victim to generalizations such as “A good mom has a clean home!” I worry if the house was a mess, it would look like I am not doing a good job at being a work at home/stay at home mom.
And, the energy and time spent cleaning helps me to blow off steam and generally vent nervous energy that is cooped up in my brain.
However, I decided after reading the snippet, that I had to be able to ‘let go’ of the clean floors and perceptions of environmental chaos so that I could enjoy my life a little more. So I said, “SCREW THE SWEEPING” and refused to pick up a broom for the entire weekend. Every time I saw cookie crumbs and pieces of dirt, I resisted my instinct to lift feet and clean underneath them – and instead chose to ignore the incidental messes.
By Sunday evening, the house really wasn’t a mess. At all.
The world did not end. (Much to my surprise!)
I did not need a Xanax to keep my nerves in order. (Either that or my perception had altered a little). I didn’t feel jittery or uncomfortable, and realized that taking a break from the so-called and chosen duties of being a stay at home mother was liberating. I gave up control – and realized that everything was still absolutely okay. Instead of being resentful that I am always the one cleaning and tidying up, I enjoyed just being with my family and not worrying about the residue that results from 4 pairs of feet LIVING in my home.
Yes, stupid insight from something as trivial as sweeping, I know. But 15 years as a stay at home mother ALTERS your sense of reality! And hopefully, now I can learn to focus my attention on things that are more important to me personally.