This is why I shouldn’t clean

The more I clean the more I notice mess around me. The more I do the more I realise is still to be done. The tidier a room the more one little mark seems to belch out a tune with gusto “you can’t catch me.”

This is why I don’t clean. No I’m kidding. I do clean but sometimes I wish I didn’t.

I can co-exist with mess and clutter to a point but once I start I want it all perfect and I want it all perfect NOW. If not five minutes ago. Is anyone with me?

Truthfully I need a clean and tidy environment to thrive. I get irritable, depressed and anxious when my home is cluttered, messy, unclean. I yearn for cleanliness and clarity. That’s the ideal, however, living with two kids means I have accepted a life of busy mess and playful clutter. The alternative, meaning following the kids around with spray and wipe and never letting them touch a thing, is not going to sit well around here.

I don’t want to be the kind of mum who doesn’t allow my kids to play, to breathe, to feed themselves, to learn, to experiment and to create. I want my kids to be kids. I don’t want to miss out on enjoying them be kids because I’m too busy trying to tidy up after them. I don’t want to be afraid to cook nice things or bake or paint or glue or any of that stuff. I love the creative side of being a mum.

It has been really hard for me to find a balance. I’m usually an all or nothing kind of girl. When I start cleaning I want to clean everything immediately. When I’m ignoring mess it’s embarrassing how bad it can get before I need to intervene. I make things harder for myself by not cleaning up sooner. As for dust, well, I dusted our room at 10am and by 10pm it was covered in dust again. That’s life where we live but that doesn’t really give me permission to never dust does it.

It’s a fine line between fun mum and competent housewife. Trying to juggle blogging and breastfeeding and maintaining some semblance of a social life as well is hard enough. Plus my faith and my health and rumour has it I’m trying to prepare to sit gamsat in March. Am I trying to be superwoman?

It is possible to juggle all this. It’s hard but it’s possible. I often feel like I suck at everything because I’m trying to do too much. That’s not true though. It’s ok to drop a few things occasionally. It’s ok to be super mum one day and then fob the kids off to grandparents while I clean a few days later. It’s ok to lower my standards. It’s ok to make priorities and let a few things slide as long as I pick them up again later.

Chasing some allusive ideal isn’t really healthy is it. Everybody ‘cheats’ a little bit. Nobody can do it all. Some people have cleaners, some people use child care, some people have really helpful friends or family, some people never leave the house, some people are never home to make mess, some people just chuck everything in a box in a cupboard to be dealt with later (my personal system).

The house doesn’t have to be perfect, not even for inspections, it is foolish to expect it to be perfect. It is ok to want it to look nice though and it’s ok to feel good for a job well done. It’s ok to admit that I would like to have done more but I ran out of time. It’s ok.

One of these days my son will start sleeping through the night. Again. He was but then he got sick, followed by teething, now he’s walking and teething again etc etc. He’s learned to sleep through before, he’ll do it again. Once that happens I’ll be able to stay up later or wake up earlier but for now it’s still sort of a sleep when baby sleeps thing around here…. And that’s ok.

So I try to clean with the kids around. The plus side to this is teaching them an ethic of cleaning up as we go. I don’t want them to grow up believing that they can make as much mess as they want and the cleaning fairy will come along while they sleep or party with Nanna and Grandad. I want them to be free to play and make mess as they please but I want them to know that their actions have consequences.

As young William perfects his walking skills it is more important than ever to keep clear paths for him. I’m trying hard to convince the kids this. Add to this the fact that Alexis still has the occasional accident through her undies. I have had a bit of a rule that anything left lying around that becomes a causality of a stray yellow puddle gets put straight into the bin. That didn’t last too long but it was fun.

The fact of the matter is they just don’t seem to care much about mess. They need to be taught. It takes three times longer to get Alexis to pick up her crayons than it does for me to pick them up myself but that is totally beside the point. I can help her but I cannot do it for her. We’re getting there.

There’s a few fun sides to cleaning for a two year old. The other day I let her stand on my dressing table while she cleaned the mirror. She thought that was fun. She’s also responsible for cleaning our bath. She just wipes it with warm soapy water and a face washer while she’s already in the bath. She can put her books away and she’s getting better at packing up toys. She takes her dirty dishes to the sink and rubbish to the bin. She’s a pretty good kid and aims to please but there’s just one problem…

… William…

He’s 13 months. He pulls things out of containers for fun. He tips over buckets for fun. He smears peanut butter all over himself, his chair, the hallway, for fun. If you give him a washer he’ll “clean” but he has an aversion to tidy. Not only will he not tidy but he will actively seek and destroy anybody else who is tidying.

I can forgive William because he’s young and vulnerable and adorable. Alexis, on the other hand, gets fed up with her little brother thwarting her efforts to tidy and clean and keep mummy happy. I’ve seen her get so worked up. That’s not good but I can understand it because it is incredibly frustrating.

How do I teach Alexis it’s good to care for her things without her thinking that she has to do absolutely everything to keep things tidy, even if it means restraining her little brother. How do I explain gently that there are different standards for her and William, not because I want to be harder on her or slack on William but because he is younger and cannot understand things the way she can? How do I teach her that it’s ok for William to make a little mess with what we have in play but it’s not ok for her to get down every toy box, craft bucket and bag we own for him and let him run riot spreading the entire contents of a cupboard from one end of the house to another.

Baby steps hey?

Perhaps I need a routine approach. It is play time, it is packing up time, it is food time, it is playing with something else time, it is packing up time, it is food time again etc. I’ve tried this a few times but maybe I need to be firmer.

Or maybe, just maybe, I just need to embrace the crazy just a little longer. They’re only children and they’re not going to stay little Bubbas for long.

One day at a time.

Perhaps it is time the cleaning fairy paid a visit after all.

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