Mother, O Mother, come shake out your cloth,
Empty the dustpan, poison the moth,
Hang out the washing, make up the bed,
Sew on a button and butter the bread.
Where is the mother whose house is so shocking?
She’s up in the nursery, blissfully rocking.
Oh, I’ve grown as shiftless as Little Boy Blue,
Lullabye, rockabye, lullabye loo.
Dishes are waiting and bills are past due
Pat-a-cake, darling, and peek, peekaboo
The shopping’s not done and there’s nothing for stew
And out in the yard there’s a hullabaloo
But I’m playing Kanga and this is my Roo
Look! Aren’t his eyes the most wonderful hue?
Lullabye, rockaby lullabye loo.
The cleaning and scrubbing can wait till tomorrow
But children grow up as I’ve learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down cobwebs; Dust go to sleep!
I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep.
Yeah, its a lovely poem. And on a particularly good (or bad) day it tugs on my already strung out heart strings. But, what if your need for a tidy home doesn’t come from outside societal pressures to have it all, all at once? What if it stems from your own deep-seated desires to have things just so? Where’s the sweetly worded poetry about how stepping on a crumb makes you want to peel your skin off? I’ve yet to come across prose addressing the anxiety that makes my very brain tissue itch when dishes are piled with last night’s sauce still smeared and wet towels are slumped on the floor. Sure, clutter-free homes are prime Instagram content, but I can promise you the place I’m coming from is that stuff suffocates me. I’m not trying to impress anyone; I’m trying to breathe.
Yet, what can I do when my day starts at 5:30am, I get home twelve hours later, and only have a couple more before the whole bedtime rigmarole? And then we’re up three, four, five (six, seven??) times a night?
Sorry. The whine snuck out there. Let’s start over. Everyone go grab a cup of tea and come back when you’re feeling better.
What I’m trying to get at is that I spend a lot of time intentionally directing my gaze away from mounds of, well, basically its just random junk all over the house. That dining room table? I don’t even know what’s on there anymore. I could probably just sweep it all into a box for Goodwill and be happy. At this point, the only thing keeping me from doing that is this inkling I have that there are a couple of lenses lurking under some paper. For a couple of weeks we made a valiant effort of clearing off enough space that we could still dine like civilized people each night. We have since said, “Fuck it,” and now eat on the couch. (While on the couch I make a real effort to not notice the GIANT spot on our beautiful rug; it was created when recently my dog removed a box of hot chocolate from the pantry? And opened a packet?? And then forcefully licked its contents into the rug??? Fantastic.)
I had every intention of opening this text box and telling you all how I gladly turn my back to the mess while I rock my babe, thinking wistfully how woefully short this season of life is.
Sometimes I do that.
But, sometimes I am rock-rock-rocking in the dark asking God to please give me a grateful heart because in that moment I want little more than to throw all of our shit into a dumpster and light it on fire because its gotta be a helluva lot easier to keep an empty house clean. Sometimes I gaze lovingly at her perfect, angel face and think about how lucky I am. And sometimes I want to sit her down for a talk and explain in my Mom Voice, “It’s time* for you to sleep longer than three hours, young lady.”
(*It’s not “time”. You’re only six months old. Keep doing you, you’re doing just fine.)
I wanted to be able to say that I am at peace with my surroundings right now. That because I’m doing the important, holy work of mothering it is well with my soul. Amen. Hallelujah. Praise God. It is good enough. Except its not.
I think I slipped back into whining again back there somewhere. Ughhhhhhh I really didn’t want to bring that to this space today. I wanted to bring you something better. Something tastier. That we could all fold neatly into our back pockets and walk away a lighter, happier person for it.
I couldn’t. I can’t. And for now, that has to be good enough.