Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Mr. Clean Don't Live Here Anymore.

Why is it that a clean, tidy house and I must be natural enemies?

Here's a demonstration. I am sitting at my husband's desk in our "office" right now. I am going to look around and tell you what I see. There will be no exaggerations.

On my husband's desk (from which he frequently works from home; in other words, it's not purely ornamental) are the following items:

- boxes of business cards (appropriate!)
- a ream of white paper (appropriate!)
- a stapler (appropriate!)
- stacks of business files (appropriate!)
- giant white fairy wings, about 3 feet across, made of feathers (umm...)
- a "New Baby Congrats!" collage made by the kids 2 months ago for a neighbor (umm...)
- a huge pink tin of the girls' necklace beads (umm...)
- 2 bottles of children's cough medicine (umm...)
- a flashlight (umm...)
- a newspaper from January 22, 2010 (kind of appropriate?)

On the floor:

- a printer (appropriate!)
- my husband's shoes (appropriate!) (although untidy, sure)
- a breast pump, last used in November 2008 (umm...)
- a stack of empty kids' DVD boxes (umm...)
- 2 empty suitcases (umm...)
- a pile of doll clothes (umm...)

You get where I'm going with this. If I wanted to, it would probably take me all of 20 minutes to put all of these questionable items back in their appropriate places. But here's the problem: I DON'T CARE.

Which, objectively, is not good.

It's a character flaw, I admit it. I don't care about being tidy. I can look at a room filled to the brim with clutter (all the rooms in my house are presently candidates) and not see anything wrong with it. I mean, yes, I often can't find my stuff (case in point: WHERE THE HELL ARE THE DIAMOND EARRINGS MY HUSBAND GAVE ME; PLEASE LORD DO NOT LET ME HAVE THROWN THEM AWAY BY ACCIDENT), but I've made peace with that reality. It's just the cost of a non-tidy person doing business.

But even I will concede that sometimes it's kind of appalling. Not SO appalling that I'm going to do anything about it, mind you.

This is not news. My claim to fame used to be my minivan. On any given day, it would contain:

- seats
- a steering wheel
- 3 kiddie car seats
- bags of chips, cookies, orange puffs (some unopened, some opened)
- countless DVDs (for the fold-down DVD player that continues to bring me indescribable joy and in-transit peace)
- water bottles, in various stages of fill
- clean diapers
- maybe ONE hidden dirty diaper (pee only! how sick do you think I am!) (and they're easy to miss!)
- a clean change of clothes for the kids
- a set of clothes that had been sullied, and changed out of, long ago
- pacifiers (covered in crumbs, no doubt)
- many, many pairs of kid shoes (is it MY fault that the rugrats shed their shoes as soon as their bottoms hit those seats?)
- magazines (for those long carpool lines at school) that I have read, and reread, and reread...
- etc., etc., etc.

But so what? It made sense to me. It MAKES sense to me. It jibed with my lifestyle and philosophy (which is, when dealing with multiple toddlers, YOU NEVER KNOW WHAT YOU'LL NEED OR WHEN YOU'LL NEED IT). It didn't bother me. In fact, the only reason it's not *still* my claim to fame is that I now have a housekeeper who has figured out how to get the vacuum plug to reach the driveway.

It does get a wee bit uncomfortable, though, when I notice that my husband has to maneuver around the breast pump to open certain drawers in his filing cabinet. (And no! He doesn't dare clean up the office himself! I would have a fit and accuse him of misplacing all my stuff!) (ahaha I'm so evil.)

So today's question is: Does the stay-at-h0me mom have an OBLIGATION to keep her house neat and clean, even when she is *convinced* that neat and clean IS HIGHLY OVERRATED?

I am ashamed to admit that my slacker attitude is not even limited to the housekeeping arena. I never learned how to cook proper meals for my husband and me because I DON'T CARE ABOUT EATING. No, I mean it! I HONESTLY don't get why a person would spend an hour making a pasta dish, when such things COME IN CANS, and humans have INVENTED THE MICROWAVE. And I'm not a hypocrite: you will never find me bitching about how there's nothing to eat, because BREAKFAST CEREAL IS APPROPRIATE FOR ALL OCCASIONS, and as long as I keep on buying milk, we have all the ingredients.

Now before you call Child Protective Services, rest assured that I am not feeding the children breakfast cereal for dinner. No, for those growing bones I break out the Kraft Mac & Cheese (don't hate, it's awesome), or a gigantic salad (which qualifies as COOKING!), or I heat up (AGAIN, there are appliances being used) the leftovers of whatever healthy eats my husband cooked for himself the night before (hey, he who cares about nutritious food can make nutritious food. I'm not blockading the kitchen door).

Now in case there's any confusion, let me just say that my untidy house and underutilized kitchen are NOT the result of laziness. I AM NOT LAZY! (stop laughing, I'm not.) I just have some slightly unorthodox priorities. While many women are standing over the stove, I'm cataloging literally tens of thousands of photographs for our scrapbooks. While countless moms are dusting the bookshelves, I am scouring the toy stores for the PERFECT I-Can-Read books for my newly literate 4-year-old. While innumerable parents are planning weekly menus, cleaning out closets, and moping up cat vomit (we have 2 cats; one will eventually gobble up the other's puke) (don't blame me, blame cat gluttony, and it's an efficient system), I am surprising my kids' classrooms with Munchkins, babysitting a friend's newborn so she can get some rest, and desperately trying to get back on top of my ever-growing list of overdue baby presents, wedding presents, engagement presents, and the like. I promise you I am NOT watching soap operas, getting manicures, or taking leisurely naps during my 3 precious child-free hours each day!

So as for my question, if I could step outside of myself for a minute I guess I'd say that yes, a stay-at-home-mom does have an obligation to keep her house at least *somewhat* neat and tidy.

Good thing I married a guy whose definition of "somewhat" is very, very generous. :)

p.s. To Anonymous with the 11-month-old son: This one's for you! Thanks for single-handedly getting me back in the saddle. And, as always, thanks to "Al" for the unending encouragement. Sending love to you both.


  1. When I first started reading this entry, I breathed a huge sigh of relief and thought "YES! I'm not the only one!"...

    Then I continued reading and saw that your lists of "clutter" were depressingly *not* impressive compared with the archeological-dig-esque rooms in my house. (Seriously. I literally worry about being ambushed at the next family gathering by the camera crew from "Hoarders".) My feeling of solidarity disappeared completely and my shame grew as I went on to read about your scrapbooks and other activities, since I am still clinging to the "sleep when the baby sleeps" advice during my child's nap times (nevermind that said baby is now 16 months old).

    So, please rest assured that your habits are decidedly *not* appalling and it sounds like your priorities are nicely balanced. I, however, am clearly in need of some behavior modification so I'm now off to make myself a sticker chart (or a could go either way).

  2. Thank you for this post. I want to have children and can't wait to be a mom but I've always been concerned because I don't have that chip that sees clutter and reacts. Instead I see right through it and make it a part of my world. I guess there's no huge point I'm making except that it makes me feel better to read this.

  3. Seriously, what is it with taking shoes off as soon as kids get in the car? I'm already hugely late everywhere we go anyway, and then I have to take another precious five minutes to get shoes (and socks, of course, because heaven forbid someone leaves SOMETHING on his feet) back on whenever we get where we're going. IT MAKES ME CRAZY.

    I even made my three-year-old walk barefoot between the car and school a couple of months ago, when it was only about 35 degrees outside, to try to teach him a lesson. The only thing I learned was that other parents are not afraid to stare disapprovingly in that situation.

  4. Most of our home looks more or less like a disaster area. Especially the little man's room. The only reason the floor downstairs is not as cluttered is because our dog will eat anything she can reach. I do keep things clean (dirt, food remnants, presents from the dog), but I don't spend that much time keeping the clutter at bay. I'd just rather spend that time hanging with my little guy.

    Since the wife has been traveling so much lately, I've been having a lot of single-dad days, and my rule for dinner on those days is: whatever takes me less than five minutes to prepare. I only get three or four hours to hang with my little guy after work, so I don't want to waste one of them cooking. We still eat reasonably healthy (except when he demands pizza), and we get in a lot more quality time in this way. Don't tell my wife, but I enjoy the single dad days (and weeks) because I'm usually not his #1 buddy when she's around.

  5. You are my hero!! And your house was always a breath of fresh air... never had to be on top of the kids spilling their drinks or messing up the toy piles... it was just like being at home!! Miss you!!

  6. OOH! I feel so famous - I guess my cyberstalking and daily harassment worked. You rock!

    Don't worry about neat and tidy - I have no children; nor do I have a husband. Other than someone else's 11 year old who I am sometimes responsible for (a total of 5 hours week. Maybe 6.) I pretty much only care making sure that the dishwasher is loaded in the "proper order" b/c I have some obsessiveness about that. I could stop slacking off, and vaccuum, put books back in the bookshelf, file all my reports in file drawers, and spend some time folding clothes that have taken up permanent residence on my bedroom floor (why bother filling those empty dresser drawers? I find it perfectly acceptable to keep a constant rotation of "clean" and "dirty" piles at opposide ends of the room).

    You have three kids, and three hours a day to yourself...what's my excuse? I like your lifestyle philosophy.