As I read through this article, I thought, "what an awesome mom! I want to be just like her!" (Maybe minus the dramatic, "I quit" moment, but definitely PLUS the part about making the kids responsible for housework and getting themselves together, and making time to be a family.) Then, I made the mistake of reading the comments. People who had just read the exact same article that I had (you know, the one that was describing the type of mother I want to be) had such a poisoned reaction. Calling the mother of the author "lazy" and "irresponsible." For only a moment, I second guessed myself. Is refusing to be the housekeeper for your kids and expecting that they care for the space that they live in "lazy" or "irresponsible" on the part of the mother?
Just over a week ago, I had tweeted something like, "How do moms clean? Every time I DO something, I have three little "un-do-ers" undoing." A friend tweeted back, "I always said I'd be a terrible stay at home mom, my house would be a disaster, but my kids would be happy." I was immediately sick to my stomach. I frequently make apologies to people about the mess in my house, but I do have extremely happy kids, am I a bad mom? Is this what our culture expects of mothers? That our job description is to keep an impeccable house and raise happy, well-behaved, intelligent kids? Is it the 1950's? I'm all for the happy and well-behaved kids, but the impeccable house thing falling solely on the shoulders of the mother... that could drive (and probably has driven) a mommy (or two) to madness. I know it would me. Listen, I'm not saying that it's not possible to have both. I am not saying that if you are a person who can make it all work, and your kids aren't suffering for it, and you're enjoying your relationship with your children and your role as their mother that it's not perfectly fine or that you are not a good mother. I am not saying that a clean house is an indicator of a good OR a bad mom, I am saying that our priorities are screwy if we allow a judgement on cleanliness or tidiness or willingness to delegate in terms of the aforementioned to be a blanket judgement on someone's mothering.
My house, while not entirely a disaster, is never all the way clean unless we're hosting a holiday, and when it IS all the way clean, you better damn betcha that everyone who lives here has chipped in to do their part (some people's "parts" around here are smaller than others due to age and size). There is usually some form of mess in each room. While I may complain about it, I am not willing to change it at the expense of the quality time I spend with my kids. The mess bothers me, but not enough to drive me to change my personal routine within my family and the time I devote to being engaged with my kids. For me, it is important for my children to remember the love between us, and not how tidy the family room is. We do not live in layers of filth, but a mess, heck yes. My kitchen floor is not always clean, and I would rarely pass the white glove test, but if we do a 10 minute once over and tidy up, our house is passable for guests. But, I signed up to be a mother, not a housewife. Beyond that, if teaching your appropriately aged children to be partners in the keeping of the house is considered abusive or lazy, then so be it. If requesting that the people with whom you share space to take care of that space and themselves within it makes me a bad mom, then I'll have to be comfortable with that. In my opinion, if I make it my business to do it all, I will both become burned out, and I'll end up raising children with no sense of responsibility. Neither of which entices me in the least.
So, while my house can feel like a land of chaos, my children are brought to and from their activities promptly, they make all their doctors appointments, their boo-boos are kissed, and if hugs and snuggles could create world peace, we'd have it ten times over. They are read to, bathed regularly, they are kept warm in the winter, and cool in the summer. They have a roof over their heads, they are fed 3 square meals per day and snacks, and they wear clean clothing (unless they get it dirty mid-wear, in which case, they are fortunate enough to have a choice of clothing into which they may change). We spend time as a family, our children socialize with other children, and we value our faith together. We laugh a lot, we cry sometimes, we are boisterous sometimes, and quiet others. Through positive reinforcement and discipline we show right from wrong, and sometimes my children really have to exercise their patience while I take care of some business, do a little (yes, I do enough to maintain) housework, or take care of one of their sibling's needs. Even in challenging times, we have a lot. We have a whole lot. We may not have the cleanest house, but I'm willing to let that go - and also let go of the expectation that that is solely MY job as the mother to keep the house. We have a LOT. If I'm failing somewhere in my role as mother, it is NOT in the area of lovingly nurturing my children, and at the end of the day, if you ask me, that is the most important role of the mother.
My mother-in-law shared this part of a poem with me once, and I love it so much. I think of it often when I am having a moment of mom-guilt with the chaotic mess. It provides me the perspective and personal forgiveness I need:
The cleaning and scrubbing
will wait till tomorrow,
for 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.
Where are you on the idea that a mother who expects her children to participate in the housework and meeting their personal needs is "lazy" or "abusive"? I welcome respectful and thoughtful comments, if you have one, please leave it.