I almost spit out my water as I read a private message from my friend last week.
“How do you keep your house so clean?”
She couldn’t be talking about me. Or was this an April Fool’s joke?
When I asked her what she was talking about, she said she had seen a picture of my kids on Facebook, sitting nicely together at the kitchen table holding up Easter eggs. She said that in every picture I post, my house looks spotless, and that she doesn’t know how I do it with three kids — because she has three kids and just can’t keep up. She said she just wishes her household could be like the Cleaver family — I guess where everyone gets along and dinner is ready on time and the house is always clean.
I’ve been in the same position as my friend many times, envying others who seem to hold it all together. Wishing I could be like an old sitcom mom, or like a girl I know who posts elaborate dinner menus for her family. Thankfully, I’m starting to realize there’s a difference between the people in a TV or computer — and in me.
The Cleavers were not real. Neither is Facebook – at least not all the time.
My house is a mess. Always. So when I get ready to take a picture of the kids, I clear out whatever toys or clothes or junk there is hanging in the background, I brush my daughter’s crazy hair, I make my son wipe the yellow sticky stuff off of his teeth, and THEN I snap some pictures. I find the one picture in which my middle son is not making googly eyes or sticking out his tongue, and THEN I post it.
THAT is real life.
Real life at my house means there’s toothpaste on my kids’ bathroom sink every. single. day. It’s even on their bath towels and on the walls sometimes. I’m not ever posting a picture of my bathroom.
Real life means I clean my kitchen all day long. Make breakfast. Clean up breakfast. Make lunch. Clean up lunch. Make snacks. Clean up snacks. Make dinner. Clean up dinner. How, in between all that, am I supposed to make sure it look absolutely perfect just in case someone walks in? One day I cleaned the heck out of it just to see what it would look like. And I loved.it.
Then the kids came home. And that was that.
Did you ever notice that June Cleaver didn’t have piles of laundry to fold, laid out on her couch or her bed, or strewn across her laundry room? Do you think she just never washed clothes? That maybe Wally and the Beav just smelled horrible every day because they wore the same dirty things all week long? NO! It’s because their lives weren’t real!
I’m tired of scooping up my laundry off of my love seat every time I know someone’s coming over. Why am I ashamed that I don’t have it all folded as soon as it pops out of the dryer?
This is real. This is my laundry, people. I fold it in the living room while I chat with my kids, or take in an episode of Love It, or List It — and dream about someone coming into my house to knock out a wall and add an extra bedroom in just a couple of days.
In my real life, I have two active boys who share a room. I can try with all my might to keep their room from getting out of control, but it does. not. work. Every single morning before school, they pull shirts off of hangers, and they put on one but leave the other five that fell to the floor. Their drawers are all pulled out and I can’t tell if the socks on the floor are clean ones that fell out or dirty ones from the night (or three nights) before. They sneak snacks and candy in there and leave bowls and wrappers on the floor. And I know it’s only going to get worse. My plan is to let them live in their filth as long as they can stand it, then maybe they’ll do something about it. Or I will give in and do it myself. Which is much more probable.
And as much as I’d love to post pictures of my daughter’s beautiful room, with its vintage canopy bed and sentimental photos of the day she was born, I can never get past all the toys and dolls and Polly Pockets. I have fought it for so long, telling her to put things back every night before bed. But good grief, sometimes it is just not worth the fight. I’m glad she’s finally gotten to the point where she wants to go into her room and play alone with all her things. She has an imagination like I’ve never seen, and making her get out only “one thing at a time” would prevent Ken from meeting the Loving Family mom and whisking her away to the Little People farmhouse. She puts her baby dolls to bed every night in different “cribs.” She turns her hamper sideways and puts a pillow and blanket in it for her doll. I hate the mess, and it may appall a clean freak. But I LOVE the stories and memories she’s creating at this age.
I’ve worried long enough about what I’m doing wrong when everyone else seems to do it right. But the keyword there is SEEMS. If someone else looked at MY picture and thought my house was spotless in the background, what does that say about my perception of all the people who seem to cook perfect meals, never yell at their kids, or post pictures of their beautiful landscaping? Maybe they burned yesterday’s breakfast, scolded their kids before bed last night, or have a hideous backyard that no one sees.
Before long, this dramedy known as Motherhood will reach its series finale. Do we really want to spend so much time, so many episodes, worrying about how other people do it, how other people think, and why we can’t do it all?
I’m asking all the moms out there who are so hard on themselves to reach up and say something with me:
I am not a character.
I am not June Cleaver.
I am a real. life. mom.
And I am human.