My House is Dirty, but My Conscience is Clean

If you walk around barefoot in my house you will collect this week’s activities on the bottom of your feet. Oats, crumbs, uncooked pasta, cat food. This will all be held nicely together by the sticky popsicle juice. These are all things that Jack likes to play with. I try to clean about once a week, but it usually happens about every other week. I like a clean house. I am not one of these messy-by-nature people. If you follow my blog you will know that I come from a very rigid place. I like things neat, clean and in their place. Since Jack was born one of the many opportunities for growth has been how to let that go a little bit. I throw toys in baskets at the end of the day and load the dishwasher. That’s a successful day for us.

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I am not showing you these pictures to show off some sort of carefree attitude, some holier than thou “fuck it, I have my priorities straighter than you, look at the dirty hippie that was hiding inside me” jab to the gut. I am showing you these pictures because as Moms we often think that all the other Moms have it figured out. We imagine the Mom next door having an immaculately clean house, never getting frustrated with her kids, sitting in a circle singing songs while everyone helps to fold laundry. I am showing you this so that you know that there is at least one other Mom out there who can’t do it all. I cannot keep this house clean, cook, run errands and take care of Jack all at the same time. Maybe some people can, but I can’t.

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I choose to put my time with Jack first and everything else a distant second, third, and so on. I don’t know much about being a Mom, I am new to this, but I do know that I will not sit around when I am older thinking about the oats on the carpet and wishing that I had vacuumed them up more often. I do know that the times that I have put Jack second will haunt me. I know that they will leave a painful scar on my soul that can never be healed. I know that each time I put Jack second it will eat me alive and bring my aging spirit to gut-wrenching sobs.

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I do not remember much from when Jack was a newborn. That was a chaotic time! I don’t remember what the house looked like, what we ate, or what I wore. Except for the time I went grocery shopping with my pants inside out. I remember which pants I was wearing then. I remember our long walks, trying to figure out how to use the Moby, taking turns trying to make Jack laugh, rolling him in the stroller over bumpy grass, and his gummy smile. I take this as a sign that I will not remember this mess in a few years. I will remember running around the parks with him, swimming, cuddling him, breastfeeding him and watching him explore his world.

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I will remember the times that I put him second and it will hurt me. I will regret it. I will look at him with shock at how fast he has grown. I will sit terrified that those things in the future that scare me the most, like him going off to college, not coming home for Christmas, or moving with his partner to a faraway city are coming up fast. I used to roll my eyes at that cliché “it goes by so fast,” but now I sit humbled by how much time has already gone by. Time I can never get back. Situations I can never re-do.

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I will never stray from this philosophy of life with Jack. He comes first. I don’t care what my house looks like. I don’t care what my neighbors say. I don’t care what other people think. This is life. Jack is life. Not that ugly Ikea carpet. Because if you step back and take a look at the bigger picture the crumbs and oats fade away and you can begin to see the real message. Love.

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Abby Theuring, MSW

Comments

  1. You are such a great writer, if you wrote an article about dog crap I bet I would read it word for word in a trance! My daughter, Abby, points at Jack’s pictures and says “ja ja ja!”. I love the picture of your cat watching Jack like she has no idea what that little human is doing!

    • I just had to chuckle when I saw the kitty peering around the corner at the sand on the floor, and thought, ‘I hope she doesn’t think that’s a litter box!’ ;-)

  2. Natasha says:

    Thank you so much! This brought it into perspective for me. I’m always so embarrassed about how messy my little one gets the house….but you’re right. I don’t remember what the mess looked like last week, but I do remember the bond my son and I have formed, and I cherish it. Thank you for being honest, I too am a mother that can not do it all. I will have endless time to clean when my babies are grown, but I won’t have my babies to snuggle and play with. This has been my “oh, duh” moment. I have been too hard on myself.

  3. alexis silver says:

    love it. thank you! if anyone did actually “care” to say something cruel about a house looking like it was loved and lived in, then that would be so sad (and would speak very very loudly about their priorities).

    • For me, its my mum who makes those comments. She comes round once a year, on boxing day, after I have cleaned top to bottom!! I’ve decided that I need to accept that she is different to me, even if she won’t extend the same courtesy.

  4. Oh boy, this speaks such huge volumes to me, thank you so much for sharing!!! I feel very much this way and constantly struggle with it, mostly because my husband is a “neat freak”, and doesn’t understand that I prefer to make memories of *spending time* with our daughter, rather than putting her off so I can make sure the house is clean. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!

  5. Thanks, I needed that!

  6. Jessica says:

    Your house is still cleaner than mine! I’ve had the same dishes sitting in my sink for a month!

  7. Mary Ann says:

    Oh, it’s so much like my place! I work, I cook, I play with my 22 month old son (who’s down to about 1 round of booby a day, but sometimes more) and I’m 3 months pregnant….. I consider Cheerios a decorating choice. The place looks awful, but we’re healthy and happy :)

  8. thank you…thank you ….thank you. My house, too, is a mess but i too came to the thought that Zeph will not remember how clean the house was when he is older but the songs we have sung, the places we have visited, and the laughter we have shared.

  9. courtney says:

    I feel the exact sameway! My husband thinks im crazy when I tell him I didn’t have time to do something. I simply say our boys are happy and well fed, semi clean. I wont regret having a load of laundry getting wrinkled. I will regret missing something in my boys life.

  10. The most beautiful thing to read is a mother speaking so lovingly about we child. I wish my mother had the same philosophy she stressed out all the time. She had four children and a failing marriage and she stressed to gain control so when the house fell apart so did she. She missed out on my cheerleading days. Choir. And not only did it hurt me it hurt her in the future. I moved out after highschool and it all sunk in for her. Now that I am 21 studying in Colleen and living with my partner, she realizes just what you had said in this article.

  11. Janette says:

    Thank you for this. I am constantly battling within myself to not put cleaning first. I lvoe my house clean and feel great afterwards but the whole time during cleaning I feel terrible. I fight with my toddler to self occupy so mommy can clean. I needed to hear that whether my house is clean or dirty will not be in my memories. I will now be focusing on creating smiles and giggles rather then sweeping :)

  12. I am so right there right now. I am preg with #2 and my house have never been such a disaster, but I am working right now, and try to make dinner for us when I get home and I just can’t do it all. I am lucky if my dirtly laundry makes it into the basket at the end of the day. Am I am a super neat freak, I straighten pillows, and towls and rugs kinda freak, and right now-the best i can do is rest on the couch b/c I have been blessed with nausea 24-7 for the last 6 weeks. Praying that in week 12 it will subside, so I can at least shower more than twice a week. Seriously. I know. Thanks for your honesty!

    xoxo, Misty

  13. I love this. Made me cry. It’s like you write exactly what I feel….

  14. Katy venue says:

    Thanks to you posting this my nephew gets to crawl around in used diapers and trash all day. Do you have any idea how hard it been watching him suffer fever after fever because of the filth he has to live in? No one is perfect, but this kind of crap makes nasty people think its ok to leave dog crap, trash, dirty dishes, diapers and God knows what else laying in the floor with the baby. Please stop encouraging my idiot family to be disgusting before they kill my nephew with germs.

    • Woah. There’s a difference between true “filth” and harmless crud on the floor. Abby isn’t encouraging us to live in squalor. Please don’t be harsh, this post is about knowing what’s important and a clean/SAFE house IS IMPORTANT.

    • Let’s look at this honestly. What ever your sibling is going to do or not do clean or not clean is on them. This is about not being neurotic with cleaning and leaving your kid to veg out on boob tube or ignoring them to be June cleaver. To be honest the first couple of years is the hardest when it comes to keeping the house clean. I have a 1,3 and 8 year old and vacuum 4-5 times a day and my for still can look like the kitchen blew up! Lol. If they are having such a hard time how about lending a hand.

  15. You house looks like mine did when I was a young mom ,tandem nursing a newborn and 30 month old.
    Every thing turned out find my daughter is a Badass breast feeder also with a “Loved” house. I am proud of myself Daughter ,son, And my 2 Grandsons. PS. as nurse the only thing I would worry about is if the sand on the floor is from a cat box ,That IS a heath hazard

  16. Thank you so much for this! My baby boy will turn 7 months tomorrow, and I enjoy every moment I spend with him – playtime, co-napping, etc. Lately guilt is starting to creep up on me cause I still can’t find the time to make dinner, not to mention clean our place! Yes, there are the super mama-homemakers out there. But I’m afraid that’s not me. Thank you for letting me know I’m not alone.

  17. Love this!! It really makes me feel better about how I put everything off for my baby. And some days I get nothing accomplished, but my baby won’t be a baby forever!! <3 thank you!! I also shared it on my Facebook for others to read!!

  18. I seriously cannot get enough of your candor or Jack’s beautiful blue eyes! I am a reformed perfectionist myself (or at least I am trying to be) and I find it very reassuring to read your posts and remember that this stage in our children’s lives is worth pausing for; they are worth putting everything else on “hold”. My son is only 9 months old but I swear it feels like it’s only been 9 weeks since I brought him home. I want to be able to look back and have no regrets, no missed opportunities to share in his explorations or witness his “firsts”, because I was “too busy”. Thank you Abby for sharing your journey and your thoughts, I sincerely appreciate your ability to put things into perspective and help the rest of us feel “normal”. It’s nice knowing I’m not the only one that loses my shit every now and then, and still doesn’t “have it all figured out” after 9 months!

  19. I simply loved reading every word, thank you! You are so right and understand so well the way a mother should be… the mother for her child/children. So keep on “feeling” this… so simple and at the same time so complicated…but of major importance job… “Being a mother”… you already are in its best meaning, trust me!

  20. A messy home is a happy home, it means they had fun today.

  21. Loved storey, and lol on the neighbors where singing songs, folding laundry. I also noticed the pic you posted, I noticed your son has a Ohio State hat on and it looks like you guys where at a place called the Old Mill in Utica, OH? I am from Newark, OH. Small world If that is the place :)

  22. I loved reading this! I struggle daily with trying to let go and relax a little bit. I wish it were easier for me not to be so neurotic about cleaning. I am inspired by you and have renewed my vow to stop being such an up tight bitch…. :)

  23. Michelle Lubbers says:

    I can’t do it either, I have a Kindergartner, a 3 yr old and a 9 month old. I do want a little more order and cleanliness in the house, but I just cannot do it all. My husband is gone a lot, so that means it’s all me all day and through until bedtime. It’s a delicate balance. I am just trying to find some balance. Thank you for your honesty. I have many a friend who are totally OCD about their houses, and I just do not have that in me. If I have to clean for 3 hours before you come over to play with my kids, I guess we aren’t really friends. Right now, it’s where I am.

  24. jessica says:

    My son is a severe asthmatic and my house can absolutely not be like this or he’ll end up in the hospital. I’ve become a total neat freak since then, when I walk into my BIL house which is normally messy I nearly have a panic attack. Even though I keep my house clean I still have all the time in the world for all 4 of my children.

  25. annmarie says:

    I feel the same way but just before the weekend we got ants in the house. I went crazy cleaning hardly spent any time with my son and husband. Then all of the sudden yesterday, while I was cleaning, my 20 month old decides to take litter out of the cat box and smear poop all over. After yelling (which I hardly do) and crying a bit (which I do over everything lol) I cleaned up the mess and called my husband to vent. It was then I realized my son made a mess because for the past 3 days that was pretty much all that could hold my attention. I walked into his bedroom where he sat with the saddest most heartbreaking look on his face. I feel so guilty about it even though he’s fine today and I played with him from the moment I got home from work. I just cant stop picturing that sad face and even worse that I put it there. I hope I never do it again but still I know I am imperfect so while some version of this will happen again I just have to keep trying to get better.

  26. Holly Robbins says:

    You’re inspiring and amazing. I follow your posts and take them to heart

  27. sarah garcia says:

    I absolutely love you. I struggle with am I good enough. I even had my sister in law tell her son not to bring anything to my house because we dont take care of anything. They r clean freaks. Iy hurt all the way to my core. Thank u for reassuring all og us that gentle babywearing child cifst parenting is still more important than matdrialistic bullshit. Our kids will thank us.

  28. I was just struggling with this today. I am extremely OCD. I have a vast level of anxiety and I work it out by cleaning. I was just getting ready to have a panic attack today because my house was a complete wreck, Then I looked at my precious little boy, and decided that maybe it would be okay of I just sat and snuggled him. This was exactly what I needed to see. Awesome. Thanks.

  29. Cynthia Choate says:

    Your right. The house is last on list, your child’s , needs, learning and fun should come 1st! That what you will remember and that will build confidence and the knowledge that they can always count on you.

  30. Brenda Holland-Robinson says:

    I’m so so SO glad you posted this again, Abby. Maybe every 6 months would work. As always, you are spot on!

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