My house is a chaotic disaster and I blame my children.
My success rate of accomplishments has greatly diminished since the onslaught of reproduction. Motherhood is the toughest job I ever had, and not because peeing on the floor happens more frequently now, both me and the kids, but because children make the easiest tasks impossible to implement.
Before becoming a mom I was one of those naïve young women who are really annoying to real moms. I actually thought what would happen is I’d send the kids off to school, clean for a couple hours, and then watch Lifetime movies all day pretending I worked harder than I actually did when father dearest came home from work. I actually thought my family would be a scene from a Norman Rockwell print where everything is peacefully cute in a serene setting of normal. Had Pinterest existed back then, I’d probably assume I’d be one of those moms who would take pride in a DIY transformation of an old door into a beautiful bookshelf, who cuts the sandwiches into the shape of the children’s favorite trademarked character, and bakes picture-perfect fat free, gluten free, all-organic cookies from scratch.
But I’m not that mom. In fact, I’m nothing like that mom.
Before motherhood success was easy in the sense of my boss gives me something to do and I do it. I do it well. I do it on time. I do it so well I make all my co-workers jealous enough to plot revenge.
But I’m here to tell you, reconciling multi-million dollar bank accounts with a 100-page size 10 font General Ledger is easier than doing the dishes. Finishing basic military training, including passing that PT test, was easier than cleaning the house, and it gave you so much more sleep than motherhood permits. Designing a camera bracket on AutoCAD having no idea what you are doing was easier than putting together toys. Turning a business from a 30,000 dollar loss into a 10,000 gain in one tax season was a thousand times easier than teaching a kid to pee in the potty.
No matter how difficult the task, everything without the kids is easier to do than even the simplest task with the kids. Children have this knack for needing something every 30 seconds. Can you do anything being interrupted every 30 seconds? And sometimes the interruptions are simple like, “Can I shove this in my nose?” No. “But why?” Because I said so. “Ok. What about this?” Sometimes the interruptions are not so simple like, “Um, is the water supposed to pour over the sink all over the bathroom floor? And that white stuff is toilet paper I flung everywhere a minute before I drowned the sink, and that stuff on the wall, that’s toothpaste and preparation H. Do you like my heart I drew with your deodorant?”
Obviously, outside of needing stuff every 30 seconds, children can go from amused to bored in point 5, and in that time they can wreak more havoc than George Bush’s weapons of mass destruction. I used to think the government should recycle dirty diapers as ammunition. I mean everything they touch they destroy, whether it’s the diaper they are wearing or the goo on their hands touching everything which could be chocolate or poop. Do you dare find out? They throw things, tip things, dump things, remove things, hide things, stomp on things—all this is their idea of fun and play. This is their job: to destroy everything. That’s why they are here.
And it’s not enough to have one kid that makes cleaning the house impossible. Someone like me was dumb enough to have three kids, back to back, as if my one kid needed partners in crime. I did eventually figure out where babies came from and what causes that sort of thing, and it’s not whiskey like I first thought.
So when I thought I would be watching Lifetime movies, I was in this world living one. I still struggle to clean the house but it’s different now than it used to be. It used to be I would attempt to clean and spend eight hours on the hamster wheel working my tail off to end up nowhere. Why? Because I have children three steps ahead of me. Now, I have PTSD from that kind of extreme housekeeping. Seriously, I get flashbacks.
I knew then what I know now: the solution. The only solution. Yes, this is part of parenting where there is nothing but one solution. There is only one way to do this successfully and it’s the reason I struggle with this success.
In order to defeat the feat of cleaning the house with children around, you need more feet. You need help, from other grown-ups (I so use that term loosely.) And I’m not talking one person who takes your kids for a couple hours on Saturday, though that’s much better than nothing, but you need a village to raise your kid. You need a team of grown-ups to help you through it. You need play dates to have grown up conversations that aren’t about Dora the Explorer. You need someone to handle the kids so you can clean the house in one swoop regularly, and someone to handle the kids so you can rest from it.
Many times, people lean on a spouse for such kind of help. Then there’s also their mother and friends. Some moms start a tribe of moms where they take turns watching each other’s kids.
In my case, I couldn’t find help. I found a lot of empty promises and a huge can full of disappointment. But not all is lost. As the kids got older, they became the extra feet I needed to help me handle their extra feet. It’s important you show them how to clean and make them do it occasionally. The more independent your kids are in the realm of taking care of the house as well as themselves, the more you get to watch Lifetime movies instead of being in one.