My life is a mess. Not some philosophical, metaphorical mess. An actual mess.
One where the counters are cluttered with dishes more often than not and I’ve stopped counting how many days it’s been since I bothered to mop up the toddler’s cereal sludge from under his chair. I woke up in a child’s pee puddle this morning and may or may not actually get new sheets on the bed before tonight, and I’m pretty sure we’re creating a new organic life form with our bathtub slime. It’s the kind of mess that makes my slightly anxious, uptight skin crawl but that I feel totally powerless to overcome.
Oh sure, I can get the house “clean” once in a while. I can tackle an organizational project. I can even sometimes get every single piece of clothing laundered, folded, AND put away. But the problem is, it doesn’t last. We live here. ALL. THE. TIME. And by golly, we use dishes and wear clothes (sometimes multiple sets a day) and make messes (I’m looking at you, Yogurtface McToddler).
Wasn’t becoming a stay-at-home mom supposed to solve all of these problems? Wasn’t I going to have a systematic daily cleaning routine etched into the many hours that my children would sleep or keep themselves happily occupied? Why did no one let the children in on my plan?!?
It’s no secret: I love all things organizational. I love neat, tidy spaces. I love the smell of clean. But it seems that every day is a battle between the me who wants to have everything in order and the me who is just trying to survive life with young children and hopefully make some happy memories in the process.
When I’m not actively engaged in child maintenance (diapering, feeding, making balls out of Play-doh on demand for what feels like an eternity, etc.), the question arises: what do I do now? Do I follow-up with that weekly cleaning checklist that is laughing at me from my Pinterest account? Do I take my children on Mary Poppins-esuqe outings or engage my toddler in fun, educational learning activities? Or is that what Umizoomi is for? Do I remind myself that I’m supposed to be running a business too and lock myself in a closet to get some work done? Do I hold my baby and gaze lovingly into his eyes in a postcard-worthy picture of motherhood?
More often than not, the window of time that I have to get stuff done is spent making a list to prioritize what I actually need to get done. And boom. Someone is crying, so nevermind.
The days are long, but the years are short, I know… but either way, my house is still a mess. And when my house is a mess, my life is mess. It’s science.
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not just being self-deprecating. I have some friends who are genuinely and exceptionally gifted in the art of homemaking. The decorating, the cleaning. the organization… and aside from being incredibly jealous, I think that is amazing. But for me, there are some days when scraping dried Cheerios off the floor just doesn’t make my to-do list (or at least not the part that I actually get to).
I miss the days of feeling like I had my life together. When the momming gets rough, you may fantasize about running away to a tropical island, but all I see is a tidy, modern apartment with actual decor that hasn’t been broken by my toddler. Nothing is on the kitchen tables or counters, and somehow the dishes are always done. I’ve never tripped over a toy train track in this fantasy or stared at a jelly stain wondering just how on earth it got THERE. The throw pillows stay neatly on the couch (flat — not smooshed — like God intended), and the coffee I drink is always hot. There are definitely no poopy diapers in this dream world.
But something is missing from this vision of perfection, something I know I would never want to live without… the little hands that made the jelly stains or dropped the train tracks, the tummies that were filled by the food on those dirty dishes, the chasing games that knocked over the (now broken) home decor, the tickle wars that knocked the throw pillows off the couch, the “come on, mama!”s that pulled me away from my coffee, the funny little toots that filled those diapers… the laughter, the love, the LIFE that makes our home ours.
I might not have it all together. In fact, it may feel like my life is a mess most days. But yes, the days are long, and the years ARE short … and this beautiful mess is mine. And whether I like it or not, day by day we’re drawing closer to a season when there will be no little mess-makers running around to contend with.
So for now, some days we’ll tackle the laundry mountain, and some days we’ll play at the park all day. Some days Umizoomi will babysit while I catch up on work, and some days we’ll spend hours making Play-doh balls. I’ll try to take deep breaths, tidy when I can, and do my best to keep the mess from consuming my peace because if motherhood has taught me anything, it’s that there are more things out of your control than in it, and it’s worth ignoring a few jelly stains now and then to share your messy life with the ones who make it truly beautiful.
Just be prepared to step over the laundry piles if you come for a visit.