Five short years ago, we built this house. I’ll never forget selecting each and every item. The new home smell that would greet you at the door for months. The fresh start. Everything. Was. Clean. We moved in with two kids under the age of three, and we tried to be realistic about what was sure to happen to all the clean surfaces nestled within these walls.
I blinked, and it’s been 1,800 days. The new home smell vacated some time ago. Doorknobs are sticky, the baseboards are unbearable, and I know better than looking closely at any surface. Take my advice, don’t do it.
Truth be told, I feel swallowed by the burden of keeping the house clean.
In the blur of raising three young kids, I always feel about 2.5 days behind on my workload. Work responsibilities, appointments, commitments, sports, family life all push their way to the top of each week, and I’m left searching for that perfect window to squeeze in a shower or workout. My day starts with a child at my bedside; usually, around 6 am. From there, it’s a blur of (warming up) cups of coffee, zoom calls, wiping yogurt off of everything, baths, snuggles, and the million other things moms accomplish every day.
Fourteen busy hours later, I finish putting three kids to bed, and I am toast. There is truly no part of me that could be convinced to prioritize cleaning a toilet over collapsing on the couch with my husband and filling my cup before I do it all over again the next day. In my heart of hearts, I know I’m instinctually protecting myself from burnout. Shutting my brain off to binge a Netflix show with my man makes me feel human after carrying the physical and mental load of motherhood all day. Finally jumping back into the group chat after going MIA for four days gives me that feeling of connection I need. That moment right before I fall asleep on the couch is the most relaxed I am, ever.
Still, it doesn’t stop me from coming down on myself. At least once a week (and usually when I’m in a bathroom), I catch a glimpse of the dusty baseboards, the sink covered in bubble gum toothpaste, or a mirror crying for attention. Why can’t I motivate myself to keep up with this? The thought will hang in the air for just a second, then quickly disappear as I feel tiny arms wrap around my leg or my 7-year old shout that Mario Kart is ready to go.
My house will never be clean the way I want it to be, and here’s why. I choose to dedicate 80% of my waking hours to my kids in this stage of life. They won’t always live under this roof, need me for every little thing, and actually want to spend their days (and nights) with mama. They choose me, and I choose them. What’s left of my time each evening is strictly reserved for refilling my cup. The want-to-dos. The sanity savers. My mental health directly affects not only myself but those I love most. For now, I choose to close the bathroom door and pour a glass of wine.