Tuesday, February 4, 2014

We CAN be friends.

I read this article the other day. It's called "We Can't Be Friends." It's not as bad as some others that I've read, but it implies many of the things that I hate most about these Real/Genuine/Messy/[Whatever Typically Unflattering Adjective that Pertains to You] Motherhood. And it's the one that's been going around Facebook most recently. So it's not the source of my annoyance, but it is the catalyst for writing this post.

She starts off saying that if she has to clean her house for three hours before you come over, then she can't be friends with you. I am so on board with that. That kind of pressure would be exhausting in a friendship. The first time I have someone over, I am a nervous wreck over the state of my house, the food I feed my new friends, the behavior of my children. Imagine doing that every time in a longterm friendship. I would spontaneously combust.

But I hate the implication that, if MY house is clean, it's because I'm trying to impress you, or that I don't play with my children. I like my house to be clean. Clutter is mental noise to me, and I become more and more stressed out around it. In other people's houses, I don't even notice (unless it's up to the level of CALL CPS). I don't care. If I have a place to sit that isn't filthy, if your kitchen doesn't look like a biohazard, then I'm good. And not in a politely tolerating it kind of way. I GENUINELY DON'T CARE.

I spend a lot of time with my kids. We play games I don't hate and read a lot and go for walks when it's not freezing outside. We also clean together, believe it or not. It takes longer, but it wears them out, and then they sleep better. They also spend a lot of time playing on their own or together. They fight, but unless there's blood, I let them, because I think learning how to fight (fighting isn't good, but it's inevitable, and never learning how is even worse) is a valuable skill. Since I started this, they have learned how to get along so much better.

While they are fighting/playing/picking their noses, I get my cleaning done. It doesn't even take that long. They mostly pick up their own toys (we have set times of day to do this), so the amount of regular work I have to do is pretty minimal. Almost all of it is done as I go about my day. I wash my hands in the sink, I wipe the counter and mirror with the hand towel. I take a shower, I wipe it down (in less than 30 seconds) with a rag that I keep in there so that I never have to scrub the shower. I throw dirty clothes down the stairs when I change, and then put them in the hamper next time I go down. I'm not an obsessed clean freak who ignores her children all day in favor of ensuring a sterile environment.

I'm lucky. I only have two kids. They're pretty mellow. They can make huge messes, and they're not always awesome at picking up in a timely fashion, but their basic natures make it pretty easy to have them help me out with the housecleaning.

I'm also a SAHM. That's not something everyone can do or wants to do. If someone has a full time job, of course she's not going to have all kinds of extra time and energy at the end of the day to clean her house by herself. That's just stupid to expect that.

I have a clean house because I like a clean house, and it has nothing to do with you. Different people have different priorities. I sometimes wish I were the mom whose priority was to teach her kids all kinds of different sports, or who could spend hours baking with her kids in the kitchen. I wish I could understand their weird imagination games and play along for more than ten minutes without dying of boredom. I wish I yelled less. I wish, I wish, I wish. But that doesn't mean I look down on moms who do all those things. I have never said, "Well, I COULD play soccer with my kids, but I have a house to clean," with a smug sniff.

No. I am what I am. Some things need improvement (yelling). Some things are just how I am, and they're never going to change. The choices I make are my choices. I don't have to justify them by pointing out the great things I do that others don't. I don't have to put down your love of baking so that I can feel better about my storebought treats. So why do we get like this over clean houses?

I'm glad that it's become more acceptable to be more honest about real motherhood. I can't imagine how stifling and isolating it would be to do it any differently. But let's not be mean girls in our "honesty." Honesty should be equal opportunity. "I have a messy house," or, "I haven't showered today" shouldn't be the only things that are acceptable. How about, "If my kids get underfoot while I'm cooking, I lose my mind." Or, "I hate mornings so much that my small children have to get their own breakfast." Or, "Sometimes I put my kids to bed an hour early because they can't tell time yet, and I'm just done."

How about we build each other up instead of me declaring that we can't be friends if I perceive that you are better than I am at something? How about, "You make the best cookies. I bet your son loves that." Or, "Your kids are so athletic. I think it's awesome you have the energy for that." Or, "Her hair is so cute today! I love how creative you are." <-----Those are all things that I'm terrible at doing with my kids. And guess what. I don't feel ashamed or embarrassed over any of them. I think it's cool that my friends can manage this stuff, and it doesn't cost me anything to admire them for it.

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