As a mother, I have come to accept that even the most innocuous choices can become polarizing. We are all out here, surviving in a jungle that we volunteered to get lost in, and sometimes it’s the other moms that instill more fear in me than the kids. I’ve had some weird experiences in the judgment zones of mommy-hood but recently, someone told me that I was clearly not spending enough time with my children because my house was so clean; mom-shamed for being too clean. I’ve been ruminating on that one for a bit, and can I just say, “WHAAAAAAAT?”
Let me begin by acknowledging that my house is clean. I mean, there’s dust on my blinds, and I don’t know the last time I scrubbed a baseboard, but if you’re walking through, there isn’t a lot of clutter. I grew up in a military household, and I tend to purge more than your average person. My husband grew up in a family with very similar expectations of neatness, so our cleanliness expectations are very similar. (As an aside, this is a lovely commonality in my marriage, we don’t fight about cleaning.) In fact, if you were to drop in unannounced on either of our Mother’s you’d find empty laundry baskets and a guest-ready home 99.9% of the time. It’s how we grew up, and I’ve never really thought about it being a bad habit to have. Every night before dinner, our children clean up their toys; they get up and have breakfast, and head upstairs to make their beds every morning. Do I clean every day? Yes. We live here. Things can get out of place, and spending a few minutes a day tidying keeps things from piling up.
So, yes, keeping my house clean is a priority of mine. If I had to spend hours and hours cleaning every couple of weeks, my kids would be getting a lot less attention from me and likely spend more time in front of a screen (which would also be OK.) How have we gotten here? I mean, c’mon, if you’re going to mommy-shame me, can it at least be that I started making my kids a separate dinner during the pandemic despite a deep insistence that I would NEVER be a short-order cook? Or maybe that my middle child won’t eat a single vegetable? I’m a stay-at-home parent living through a global pandemic with my three children and a Husband that took over the guest room almost two years ago for an office. All I do is spend time with my kids. The worst part is that I initially felt like I needed to defend myself with mentions of all the books I read, or art projects we do, or dance parties we have; like I could still be a good mom even though I keep my house clean. It lingered, too, folding laundry and thinking I should be playing. I mean, where would it end? Spend more time reading the same book instead of brushing my teeth?
Here’s the thing, the expectations game is hard. The emergence of social media and the literal bird’s-eye view of my living room invites others to comment on my choices. I mean, I write about my journey in this Mom race every month. We are all already our own worst critics. I doubt the woman that mentioned my housekeeping skills even remembers that she made that remark. Maybe I need thicker skin? Maybe we all just need to take a minute and consider that we’re all just doing the best we can. Maybe instead of mopping my floors tonight, I’ll watch a movie with my family? Maybe I’ll just do a quick pass and then watch a movie? You do you, and I’ll do me, and if the kids are alright in the end, then that’s all the really matters.