Note: This column was published in the Barrow Journal on April 17, 2013.
One day when I was pregnant with my first child, I stepped into the entryway of a neighbor’s home. She homeschooled her children, and, in fact, she’s the person I learned about homeschooling from, but at the time, I wasn’t considering homeschooling. I hadn’t even had a child yet.
While I was speaking to her, she excused the state of her household because they had been very busy, and she didn’t have time to clean that day. I had not noticed the interior of her house, but when she said this, I glanced over into her dining room, and I could see her table was littered with toys and other stuff. You couldn’t see the top of her table.
Politely I told her to not worry. I certainly didn’t care, and I didn’t think badly of her for it, but I fully admit that as I walked home, I thought to myself, “I’ll never let my house get THAT messy.”
Yes, what a jerk I was! It seems to be an epidemic among some childless people. And once multiple children arrive, especially if there are some boys in the mix, you shake your head and think, “Now I know. Now I know.”
And I know too well. Most days, chaos reigns in this house. Every tabletop is strewn with toys, and the floor doesn’t look much better. The activity room is usually covered with some kind of project, such as paints, markers, stencils, sewing kits, Legos, glitter, or a combination of those. Glitter is permanently embedded into our floors.
Before I had children, my porches were filled with potted plants. Now they are dusty, muddy and full of dirty toys. The yard of my dreams has taken a huge beating, and our big “puppy” has pulled up garden borders. We’ve always had two dogs, and I never thought a different dog could possibly make things any worse, but this one has. She brings mud into the house, and the boys’ shoes track mud in behind her.
I clean, I straighten, I mop, and the boys know how to pick up their toys, but none of that matters. In five minutes, the mess will be back where it was before. My attention is diverted from one person, activity, chore, or “fire” to put out all day long. There’s no quitting time, few breaks, and no weekends. It’s enough to make a mama a little nutty.
I won’t lie and say it hasn’t caused me frustration and fatigue, but after almost seven years of child rearing, I can say I’m embracing the chaos. I picked this life. I better embrace it.
I was chatting with a friend today about how it’s easy to let “perfect” people get into your brain. You feel their criticism and sense that they’re looking at you down their noses. But in reality, that person has barely given you a moment’s thought. You’re the one who is criticizing what you deem to be an imperfect life.
I’m sorry to say that I’m guilty of this, but I’m trying to turn over a new leaf. I’m exorcising those self-appointed critics, and I’m reminding myself why I love the glitter and the mud. I got into this homeschooling gig because I wanted my kids to have more time to play, create, move, and think independently. And I get paid by living a fun, creative life.
Sometimes moms feel like we have no time to do it all, but actually, there will always be time to clean the house because the house will always need cleaning. What we don’t want to do is miss the moments with our kids as they grow, get paint in their eyes, and mud in their hair. We don’t want to miss a single, sweaty hug. Their three-year-old giggles won’t be here tomorrow, and once they’re gone, they’re gone forever.
A lot of older people say that they wish they had spent more time at home than at the office. The time goes so fast. At least I know that won’t be me. If I have any regrets, it won’t be that one. Nothing worthwhile is neat and tidy.
Be sure to check out Embracing the Chaos, Part 2 where I explain exactly how I’m handling the chaos! And please tell me, are YOU embracing the chaos in your life?