An ex-friend once said to me (in, what felt like, an accusing tone), “Just because your kitchen floor is clean; it doesn’t make you a good Mum.”
I was taken aback and so surprised that I didn’t know how to respond and, therefore, cringed and wittered on about ‘my weird need to have things in order’ and, basically, agreed with her! It wasn’t till later, when I had a chance to think about her comment and tone that I really felt the kick.
To my mind, what she meant was that I wasn’t as good a Mum as she was because I prioritised sweeping my floor (and occasionally mopping it) over spending quality time with my five little angels, whilst she lived in complete disarray, dust and dirt but devoted every spare second to her kids’ demands.
A long time later, this still riles me.
I’ve never been the tidiest person. My Mum would laugh out loud at this understatement! In fact, I was so untidy as a teen that, one day, when my Mum invited someone in to have a look at our house extension (which they were considering doing at their place), she took them into my bedroom and they thought we’d been burgled. Oh, the shame!
When I first saw my husband’s, then boyfriend’s, bedroom, I was aghast at how minimal it was! Not a thing was out of place. In fact, not a thing seemed to live there! There were no piles of books and magazines strewn across floors or desktops; no bottles of toiletries at various levels of volume, with lids on or off, some fallen over and spilling; no dirty clothes thrown off as he’s crawled into bed; no pile of neatly-folded clean clothes that his Mum had left in the vain hope he’d put them away. Do you get the picture?
Over our years of dating, then living together, it took a while, but eventually I got there. I’m still not a naturally tidy person but I do it, not only for him, but for me. I much prefer a clean tidy space to a messy, dirty one. It lifts my mood to look around at this place that we’ve worked so hard to have and to fill with people and things that we love. On the days that I let the housework go a little, I wander into the offending room and think, “Urgh!” It gets me down.
I don’t feel so strongly about a clean house that I let it rule me. It doesn’t stop me letting the kids empty their toy boxes over the living room floor (as long as they’re put away when finished). It doesn’t stop me from baking cupcakes and brownies with them, or watching while the bigger ones learn to do it by themselves whilst trashing the kitchen at the same time! It doesn’t stop me playing with them, wrestling, tickling, going for walks, going for exciting days out; being a Mum.
It doesn’t stop me loving them.
Am I a better Mum because my house is tidier than yours? Are you a better Mum because yours is messier than mine?
No. I am what I am. You are what you are. Are our children loved, fed, safe, comfortable? Yes? Then I think we’re both doing ok.
What sort of world do we live in that we put each other down to make ourselves feel better about our inadequacies? What happened to the sisterhood of women? Don’t put other Mums down to make yourself feel better. If you want a tidy house, have one. If you don’t, it’s your choice.
I’m lucky. I know I’m a fab Mum cos my kids tell me every day! If you feel insecure when you see how we live, look at yourself – not me!