“Sorry for the mess,” I inevitably mumble to my feet (and some random toys nearby on the floor) when a visitor passes through my entryway door.
Well, I’m here to announce, and to convince myself, that I’m done apologizing for the state of my house.
I finally have reached the point in my life that I could keep my belongings neat and orderly, if I lived alone. I like to hypothesize so, at least. I consider reaching such a hypothetical stage a hypothetical accomplishment, coming from a childhood where my parents sometimes referred to me as “super slob”. However, I will never know for certain, as I do not live alone. Rather, I live with four males, three of them under the age of eight.
In reality, as much time as I spend following my children around picking up Pokémon cards and LEGO, articles of clothing and remnants of food, and one piece of every other toy we own scattered in every corner of the house, I simply can’t keep up.
I attribute the near constant mess to several factors. First, of course, I wasn’t naturally endowed with the ability to keep my surroundings orderly. As much as I desire that my house look perfect, I lack the innate talent needed to make it so. We all have our strengths and weaknesses, though I confess I’m still searching for my domestic versions of the former.
Second, I lack the determination and stamina required to fold every piece of laundry, sweep every crumb, scrub every dish, and pick up every toy. When I have a rare spare moment during the day, I would sometimes rather scroll on my phone or do nothing at all than attend to those things. At night, after my fourteen hour day with children including the final two hour climax that is bedtime, I would rather watch “Bridgerton” (note to mother in law who saw me watch: it indeed wasn’t porn) without domestic distractions. And when I do try to straighten up throughout the day, my cleaning stamina is about equivalent to my jogging stamina—hopelessly unimpressive.
Third, I have a not-so-secret love of toys, particularly LEGO. With help from spoiling grandparents, over the years, we have slowly accumulated a small children’s museum of things. Sometimes I nostalgically look back on photos from when my first was little and only, and the floor was wonderfully empty. But it didn’t last. As much as I wish I wasn’t, I’m a maximalist.
Fourth, I’m working with the small space of a city apartment, with a living room/dining room that doubles as our playroom, and limited closet space.
Last, but certainly not least, my circumstances create an uphill battle—a steep one. Parenting three young boys is a recipe for an insurmountably disastrous surroundings. Having one child results in a mess; each additional exponentially wreak havoc. Add the wildness of my boys and the situation soars out of control. Yes, children, at least mine, are home wreckers in the literal sense. I’ve seen them enter a put together house and destroy it in sixty seconds flat. As much as I failed to inherit my mother’s knack for organization, I seem to have passed along my innate chaos to my offspring, who seem to view the floor as their garbage and the walls as their napkins (an actual occurrence—he had to go further to wipe his face on the wall than to take a napkin from the table in front of him).
Don’t get me wrong, I do spend a lot of my days picking up. But I burn out far before I accomplish every task. As a result, at best, I can basically tread water—a clean-laundry-and-toy-filled type of water. Better than dirty laundry, right? More often than not, the mess level slowly rises. But sometimes (okay, every weekend), the mess explodes and I’m left spending my Monday morning attempting to remedy my house’s weekend hangover and getting about halfway through before I give up.
Sometimes when I go to my most organized friends’ houses, I’m temporarily inspired to make my house look like theirs. When I return to my houseful of reminders why it doesn’t, my inspiration dissipates before I even try. And frankly, I’ve seen the effort it takes to make a house look like a Zgallerie or Pottery Barn magazine, and even if I could possibly accomplish the task with my domestic skill level, I ordinarily don’t find it worth it.
I’m obviously not a pioneer in expressing that parenthood is hard. As a priority, we have to keep the kids alive, happy, growing, and preferably entertained. Despite my awareness of the universality of the struggles of motherhood, I inevitably find myself apologizing for the mess to anyone who enters my home, from my friends to the neighbor to the plumber to the carpet guy. I can’t seem to keep the apologies from slipping out of my mouth.
But I don’t want to be sorry. I don’t want to be sorry for doing my best, even if that best is rather far from perfect. Moreover, I don’t want to be sorry for being okay with my glaring imperfection. I’ve written this article outlining the reasons I shouldn’t be sorry, as much to convince myself as anyone else. And I’m going to make it my goal to stop saying I am.
Maybe I’ll even post this piece on the door to welcome my guests, and to remind myself not to let the apologies slip.
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