I am currently overseeing an epic NASCAR-style race through my house.

I am supposed to be furiously cleaning. Every year for my birthday, my mother gives me the present of  having my house cleaned. And finally, exactly six months after my birthday, I have it scheduled for tomorrow. It is sorely needed, as the house has become a disgusting combination of a movie theater (with those sticky floors) and a public bathroom (I blame that one on the fact that I live with all boys, including one just barely toilet trained).

I just can’t keep up with the dirt and the clutter. My days are filled with refereeing pillow fights or breaking up arguments over Legos and Thomas the Tank Engine trains. If I turn away for a minute to get the vacuum, or clean a toilet, or empty the dishwasher, inevitably the baby climbs onto something he shouldn’t, or Howie is tickling the baby too hard, or Gerry is trying to watch a show but Howie keeps crashing into him. I spend more time as a police officer than a housekeeper.

The “nice ladies” who are coming to clean gave me two weeks notice (we call them the “nice ladies” because they are nice enough to not call social services on us when they see the squalor that the kids live in). The woman in charge told me that should give me enough time to “organize things so I could find them again”. Loosely translated, this means “I’m giving you two weeks so I can find your kids’ bedroom floor”.

Recently, my Facebook friends and I had a discussion about which we’d prefer more – someone to cook for us or someone to clean up after us. For me, that choice is easy. I absolutely hate to cook.  I’m sure some of that has to do with the various food issues in my house. With my husband’s vegan diet and Howie’s food aversions and intolerances, making one meal for the five of us is quite a chore. And I’m not good at it. There’s no satisfaction at all for me in making dinner. Cleaning is something I actually enjoy. Sometimes it’s the one tangible visual accomplishment I have – a clean counter top, a basket of clothes put away in a bureau.  I can look at that and say I got something done.

But now my two weeks have gone by and I haven’t accomplished anything. I just can’t get to it all.

I’m watching the boys run those laps inside our house – all three of them chasing each other at a speed more appropriate for a high school track than a living room floor. Instead of cleaning off my desk so we can tell what color it is, I am yelling things like “That’s too fast!” and “Don’t push your brother out of the way!” and “I’m going to throw the red flag if you don’t slow down on the corners!!”

My husband always reminds me that the only thing that matters is that the kids are happy and healthy and raised in a loving environment.  He tells me that the mess in the house should not be seen as a reflection of the chaos and stress of our everyday lives, but rather as a statement that taking care of our kids’ needs come first above all else.  He reminds me of this most often when the house is at its most catastrophic state, perhaps trying to convince us both that this is true.

So with that in mind, I’m waving the checkered flag at the end of the race. The finish line is that large sticky spot on the kitchen floor.

Clean up, clean up
Everybody everywhere!
Clean up, clean up
Everybody does their share
” – Barney the Purple Dinosaur

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