Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Perfect Heather

I know I've renounced housekeeping in the past sometime, but on Monday, I thought I'd give it one last go before giving up completely. Remembering Tamsin's 30 days of 29 and her "Best Self" day, I thought I'd try that. I called it "Perfect Heather." My mind was busy writing a commentary.

Perfect Heather wouldn't fret about gaining 3 pounds over the weekend. Of course, Perfect Heather wouldn't have gained those pounds to start with."

After an imperfect weekend, which does Perfect Heather tackle first? The dishes in the sink (and 3 countertops and table)? The laundry drying on our make-shift line that's strung between the office and the bedroom?

Does perfect Heather tackle all the projects she's put off during nap time (like thank yous and calling old friends) or does she nap with the children in order to promote her lactation amenorrhea?

One of the things on Perfect Heather's mind was putting things away as she or the children used them. You see, I had read a blog post a few months back that had the attitude, "Keeping your house in order is easy- what's so hard about putting things away as you use them? People who say that's not possible are just being lazy."

Because that had been under my skin, and because putting things away as you use them sounded like something Perfect Heather would aspire to, I tried it.

So I actually made the bed once we were up. I washed the diapers first thing in the morning. I even did circle time with Margaret and read my scriptures! And after eating breakfast, I cleaned the breakfast dishes. I put my dirty clothes in the hamper and rinsed out all the wet diapers thoroughly in preparation for cleaning them the next morning. I even did my dishes plus some extra at lunch. Perfect Heather was on a roll!

Except she wasn't. You see, while she was doing those dishes and putting things away as she used them, there were 2 other people NOT doing that. For example, in the time it takes me to unpack and put away the diaper bag, a naked toddler can make her way into the bath tub and get water everywhere. And after I dry her off, she goes back in and gets the bathroom wet again. Oh, and the little boy needs to nurse and has 2 poop explosions.

I realized that besides the fact that "Perfect Heather" was a myth, it was physically impossible for me to have a continuously tidy home. At the end of the day, my legs hurt from all the ups and downs and all arounds. And the house was still not perfect. The dinner dishes didn't get clean right away because I simply could not do them.

Now I will officially write off that "what is everyone's big deal about not being able to just put away things as they use them?" concept. I was going to anyway, but since I had sincerely tried it out, I didn't feel so bad about rejecting it. It is physically impossible to keep my home neat.

Whew! That guilt is gone. Maybe I'll try that goal later in my life, but right now I'd rather do things I actually like to do, so I'm just going to do those instead. A tiny part of me used to think that I was just not applying myself and that I still needed to have "good housekeeping" as a worthy ideal. I thought that goal that would actually be achievable if I just tried harder, found the "perfect" weekly cleaning system and re-dedicated myself. After all, I was a Mother Who Knows!(TM). But now I know something more: it wasn't ever achievable. I was setting a goal that no matter how much energy I put into it, would never come to fruition.

So I can honestly say to myself: I tried. And I failed. And so I'm not going to keep trying. I heard something once about doing the same things and expecting different results. And I'm not going there anymore.

Homemaking can suck it.


  1. BIG FAT "AMEN!" :O) Life is too important, childhood too fleeting. Do what matters most, love the little people (and the big hairy one). :O)

  2. I was talking to my aunt the other day, someone who is notorious for keeping her house spotless. She was talking about how her husband had talked to her about not worrying about cleaning so much, because once the kids were out of the house, she was really going to regret it, if she didn't take opportunity of that time. (Her youngest is around 12, and the oldest just left home).

    Having a clean home is nice. Having everything neat and tidy is comfortable, but I think much more important is savoring those beautiful moments we get with our children, to play with them, to chase after them in the next bit of chaos they are bringing to us, to smile and laugh with them. We want to teach them to clean up after themselves, but until they are ready to learn that lesson, I think we also want to teach them how to not sweat the small stuff, and to really appreciate the meaningful aspects of life.

    So good for you Heather. I'm glad perfect Heather failed, so a more perfect Heather can take her place. You're an amazing woman.

  3. "A clean home is the sign of a wasted life." My husband disagrees, but I hold to it!
    This week my Aunt gave me a bag that says "I'm creative you can't expect me to be neat too!"
    I love it. It's so true.

  4. I have to say putting things away when you are done with them is easy...if it is just you and your stuff. Right now it's just me and my hubby and when the day is done and the house is messy I know it really was a lazy day. That statement becomes void once children are added to the mix. "I started washing the dishes, but then the baby woke up early from her nap, and then so-n-so got into (fill in the blank), and then...., and then...., and then..." Between the newest mess and wanting to bond with your kids, not just clean up after them it's best to put the idea of a spotless home on hold, maybe until they go to college.

  5. My husband made a plaque of a quote after our daughter was born: "Cleaning and scrubbing can wait till tomorrow, for babies grow up we'ved learned to our sorrow. So quiet down cobwebs, dust go to sleep. I'm rocking my baby, and babies don't keep."

    I live by that now. My cleaning goals involve cleaning enough so that our home isn't unhealthy or unsafe for our child. I try to put some things away to avoid the frustration of not being able to find what I'm looking for, but that's it. Toys on the floor, clothes still in the basket, clutter on the table, there will be a time for those.

  6. I have fond memories of my childhood, because my mom canned the housework! My husband doesn't have as many happy childhood memories of his mother, because she was constantly cleaning the kitchen, or making sure the house was tidy. I believe it is TOTALLY worth it to have a messy home, as long as the kids really understand that they are loved!

  7. Mallory- Margaret HATES it when I do the kitchen. "NO KITCHEN!" Yeah.

    Abigail- I'm glad. After reading a couple of your blog posts, I wondered if you were caught up in the "Mormon women should be the best homemakers in the world" anxiety. :) And we all know that genius can't exist when you're busy cleaning.

    To be honest, even when my kids are out of the house, it probably won't be clean. I have things I want to do! Like knit. :)

  8. I remember when I first started reading your blog I saw a picture of possibly one of your projects or maybe just you and Margaret playing, I forget... anyway, in the room was a modest amount of "kid mess", you know, toys strewn about and the general signs that it was being used. I can't tell you how much that picture meant to me that particular day! As long as I can pick up the "stuff" and keep everything generally clean... I'm not going to worry anymore...

    I actually considered this week taking some photos of my home in its natural state... maybe they will help some other mother who is struggling with expectations people seem to have that our homes should be like those in the catalogues...

    I hate it when someone (VTers in particular) come round and start picking up and putting away toys etc when they visit, as if they're doing me a favour... you know as soon as you put them away they become instantly more attractive to the smalls??!

    It's like someone said on my FB page this morning... tidying up/cleaning when there's kids around is like shovelling snow whilst it's still snowing!

    Don't be "Perfect Heather", be "Happy Heather" (hmm.. I didn't intend that to illiterate, but ok)

    Having two kids is hard. You do AMAZING things! Be easy on yourself!


  9. funkyhan- I'm totally considering doing a "Shape of a Mother's House" post. :) Maybe we should do a link up blog carnival or something where lots of women post pictures of their homes "as is."


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