Clean equals calm
Immediately after a woman has a baby, lots of people say something along the lines of, “Don’t worry about the cleaning. Just enjoy your baby. Enjoy every moment because they grow so fast.”
Having birthed my second baby about four months ago, I would say that strategy works for about a month, maybe five or six weeks. Actually, I was fortunate to have a clean house for about the first month after Cecilia’s arrival because my mom kept visiting every weekend, and she cleaned each time she was here.
Since then, there has been so little cleaning done at my house. Here and there, my husband and I do what we can. We are too busy enjoying our children to clean.
Then, it happens. A pair of socks on the floor sets me off. A half-filled cup of orange juice left on the table sends me over the edge. A book that has been sitting on the steps, waiting to be carried upstairs for days, turns me into a crazy woman.
“This house is disgusting!” I proclaim to anyone within ear shot. “I can’t stand it anymore.”
I pick up the socks and hurl them into the laundry room. I snap at Elliot, “Are you going to drink that orange juice? If not, pour it out and put your cup in the kitchen sink!” I glare at that book and inwardly curse my husband for walking past it as many times as I have and not carrying it upstairs.
I huff and puff like the big, bad wolf trying to blow down the pigs’ houses. I slam cupboard doors and roll my eyes.
My husband has witnessed this circus so many times. When this crazy lady rears her ugly head, if Mike is home, he begrudgingly, silently helps me pick up the mess. Elliot gets overwhelmed because we just keep telling him, “Help us pick up!” We remember that he needs more specific instructions and say, “Put the monkeys back into the barrel” or “Take those cars upstairs and put them in your toy box.”
But, I assure you that no one is happy or confident when this pick-up-the-mess scenario happens. Instead, all those involved end up frustrated, confused and probably angry.
By the way, I suppose I should differentiate between my terms “picking up” and “cleaning.” Picking up is basically moving things around – putting them where they belong or moving them someplace where they’ll be lost forever or creating a new pile. Cleaning is actually disinfecting and wiping and washing.
This past Labor Day weekend, since I had an extra day off work to enjoy my children, I decided to (wait for it!) clean. Elliot is rather talented at playing by himself if it’s necessary, and Cecilia is an excellent napper. I figured I could squeeze in a few hours of serious cleaning throughout the day on Saturday. Because it was WVU’s first home game, I also knew we wouldn’t be leaving the house. I made the choice not to feel guilty about leaving Elliot alone in the living room to build a blanket fort and to put C.C. in her exersaucer for a little while.
I always start with the kitchen. I wiped down all the countertops, even moving the coffee pot and the spice rack to clean underneath and behind them! I scrubbed the top of the stove. I swept the floor really well. Although I had warned him about my plans to clean, Elliot’s reaction to my breaking out the mop was priceless.
“Wow, you’re really cleaning!” he exclaimed at the sight of my disheveled self hunkered over the Swiffer mop, scrubbing the kitchen floor.
“I know,” I replied.
What he said next kept away any of that nasty mommy guilt that was trying to creep into my brain. “I love you, Mama. Thank you for cleaning.”
“I love you too, buddy. But, wouldn’t you love me just as much if our house was dirty all the time?”
“Yes,” he chirped. “But, it’s nice to have a clean house.”
Yes, yes, it is.
A clean house helps everyone feel happier. Elliot likes to help me dust the living room furniture, so he experiences a sense of accomplishment too. There is a calm, peaceful mood that a clean house provides.
After the entire downstairs was clean, Elliot and I sat down on the couch together. “Are you tired from all that hard work, Mama?” he asked.
“I am, but it was worth it,” I responded.
“Yeah, look at this place! It looks nice!”
I just hope I can remember those feelings and Elliot’s words the next time the crazy lady tries to take charge! She is not welcome in our house anymore.
Originally published on ovparent.com.