There is currently yogurt dried on my wood floors that I’ve been meaning to clean up for three days now. My kitchen table is the picture perfect definition of sticky. There are little fingerprints on each and every window. And don’t even get me started on the laundry situation. Yikes. Up until recently, I used to think I was really missing the mark. After all, I’m a “homemaker” by trade; I think it’s safe to say that includes keeping the house clean. But instead, everything is a mess – my hair, the bed, my kids: one big wild mess.
A couple of months ago, my dad sent me an email with a FaceBook post that went viral. It was written by a woman who went to visit her aunt and was envious of her perfect vacuum lines. Here’s an excerpt:
“As we strolled into the dining room, I remember thinking to myself, “oh my gosh! Her vacuum lines are still in her carpet probably a week or more after she vacuumed!! What I wouldn’t give to clean my house and have it stay magazine perfect for more than 5 minutes!!” I couldn’t wait for the day that I would be able to do that and not have it messed up by sticky little finger prints on the perfectly waxed dining table, or Legos hiding under the table, or walking in to discover Ryan’s latest art creation had so carefully been designed on the wall with crayons.
Here’s what I didn’t know at that time: that to have all of this picture perfect cleanliness, the kids would have to be gone. You see, I wanted those things because the everyday struggles of 5 loads of laundry, toys everywhere, mouths to feed, meals to prepare, beds to make were overwhelming to me, and the beauty of a pristine home was something only dreams were made of. Hell it took me 20 minutes in each room just to find the floor before I could vacuum it.
Then one day I woke up, went to clean my house, carefully placed vacuum lines in my carpet, looked at my beautiful dinning table with a perfect wax coating and zero finger prints and realized it would stay that way for days…..and that’s when I realized that vacuum lines are lonely.”
My first reaction to the email was “Oh.my.gosh. My house is SO MESSY, that my father is sending me articles about messy houses. Mental note: do a deep clean before my parent’s next visit.”
But then it hit me. The point wasn’t that I needed to clean my messy house, it was that their house was clean. My youngest brother left for college last fall and they officially became empty nesters. They have vacuum lines. My dad wasn’t telling me to be a better housekeeper, he was giving me the grace to cherish this season. Because that’s what it is, a season; and seasons come and go.
It dawned on me, maybe I had it backwards . Maybe I wasn’t failing at all. My days spent playing, exploring, and creating with my kids aren’t wasted days, even if the day ends with a sink full of dishes. After all, the shaping of little hearts is really the most important thing.
That being said, I can only run to Target so many times to buy more underwear before I actually have to do some laundry. And the dishes can’t wait forever because then you will get ants and nobody wants ants. So today I opted for a stay-home day so that we could have some clean clothes to take on vacation and so we didn’t have to spend extra money on an exterminator.
But just because we stay home doesn’t mean it has to be a boring day. You can make adventures right where you are at with the time you have. Today we had the simplest of adventures. It was the kids and I and a bucket of sidewalk chalk. Creative imaginative play at its best. It was unscripted and unplanned and full of giggles and sunshine. There are some really fun and easy things to do with chalk. We drew an obstacle course and a city road for my transportation loving baby. My oldest and I got creative with some our story telling.
Before I had kids I would go over to people’s houses that had kids and each time after I left I would say “When I have kids, I’m going to keep my house in a way where you won’t know I have kids until you see our family pictures.” Yeah, no. As soon as you walk into my house you will see toys exploding from every corner, two high chairs around my kitchen table, and you are bound to touch something sticky as you venture in. I’ve discovered this thing called balance. Well, let me rephrase, I’m discovering this thing called balance. It’s a work in progress. Some days we get lost in the woods all day and the dishes don’t get done. Some days we stay home and the dishes get done. BOTH kinds of days are time well spent.
In this season of life, the housekeeping has taken a back seat to living life with littles and I think that is ok. As the littles grow to bigs I anticipate that struggle between the two will ease.
I love these words by Jen Hatmaker, “You will never have this day again with your children. Tomorrow they will be a little bit older than today. This day is a gift. Breathe and notice. Study their little feet and faces. Relish the charms of the present. Enjoy today mama, it will be over before you know it.”
So to the mom with the messy house, you are right where you need to be. Vacuum lines are overrated.