I wrote this about a year ago for Peekaboo magazine but felt like it bears repeating. Have a lovely day friends!
I am sitting here in my living room, looking around. There are makeshift beds on the floor and couch, the remnants of a sick and feverish Norah. Sippy cups and coffee mugs are on the tables and couches, Cheerios on the floor, the table, under the table. Don’t walk into the dining room, where Max’s leftover peas and bananas are sure to crunch and stick to the bottoms of your shoes. There is a wet towel in the bathroom, the only evidence of yesterday’s forays into fixing the leaky toilet. Norah’s room is a mine field of Little People and play food and my room is littered with piles of clothes, clean and dirty thrown around in patterns discernible only to the residents of the house. Do not, and I mean DO NOT walk into the kitchen unless you are ready to be assaulted by the dirty dishes that have taken on a life of their own and seem to be breeding.
Yeah. I have a messy house. I am a messy person. There are brief periods of reprieve, when the house is clean and smells good. There was a whole week just before Max was born that my house was perfectly clean, an effort to feather the nest before his arrival, probably the longest standing clean streak in my history, and I have to give the 38th week of pregnancy credit for that one.
And as if the general messiness combined with mildly obsessive-compulsive tendencies and laziness don‘t cause me enough problems, I have these two little mongrels in my house too. So even on the days that I manage to work through everything that keeps me from tidying the house, Norah and Max make messes just as fast as I can clean them up.
It is easy for me to equate my cleaning practices with my worth as a mother. I doubt I am alone in this. For some women it is craft skills, for some it is cooking skills, for some it is the inability to breastfeed, but no matter the details, I would guess that most mothers have a weak spot, a sensitive area where they feel like they are failing. That feeling of failure is scary because failing in one area of life, for some reason, equates with failing in the most important area of all: mothering. Its silly when you break it down. Why would the cleanliness of my house be related to how good I am to my children? Sure, its messy here, but by no means is it a dangerous or unhealthy place to live. My kids are healthy and happy, and have the added bonus of being able to find a quick Cheerio snack under the coffee table if they get hungry. But this is what I do. I take these menial things like the state of my floors and translate them into being A Bad Mother.
Its easy to get bogged down in that insecurity (or any of the other thousand insecurities I have floating around in me) so I have to find a way to avoid the bog. It is a daily process, something I work on continually. I have had to learn the importance of making small goals, whether those goals are related to housecleaning or confidence building. I also work to remember what is important. Housekeeping is important, but not the top of my priority list. The dirty house will always be there, three year old Norah will not.
And last, I remember the pediatrician and psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott’s theory about what it means to be a good enough mother. Being a good enough mother frees me from the traps of perfection, that require my kids, my house, my meals to meet impossible standards. Being a good enough mother allows me to focus on the good, the fact that I have great kids, sharp and hilarious Norah, affectionate and adventurous little Max. It allows me to remember that they are beautiful little kids who are thriving on love and care and attention, regardless of the piles of laundry. And most importantly, being a good enough mother allows me to be myself. I am messy and obsessive and creative and I am fierce about loving my kids and cultivating who they are. I’m not perfect, but I am certainly good enough.