I had an interesting phone conversation with a good friend the other day. She has two small children, and recently quit her job (as a PhD working in the field of training educators) to stay home with her kids. She basically expressed that with all of her friends (and even two sisters) that are stay-at-home-moms, no one EVER mentioned how hard staying at home is. Her frustrations had to do, in particular, with the cleanliness of her house. She exclaimed, “I finally finished cleaning in one month what it took my housekeeper one week to do!” I reassured her that this was normal. She was particularly relieved because she has known me for most of my life, and she knows how much “attention to detail” I pay to cleaning my home. (This is a nice way of saying that I’m anal when it comes to cleaning.) Well, she knows how much attention to detail I USED to pay to the cleanliness of my home. Now that I have to clean in the midst of two small kids, not so much. We laughed that while cleaning the toilet bowl can be done because it’s a quick task, scrubbing the tub can’t generally be completed without interruption. I have also found that the dusting of lower objects and shelves can be completed regularly if you can convince your preschooler that this is a fun task. This is why if you ever visit my house you will notice that the only objects that are dusted are shorter than about four feet. There are basic tasks that have to be completed for everyday living, such as preparing food, running and emptying the dishwasher, and washing clothes (notice I don’t include folding and putting them away), but by the time these are complete, there is often little time left for other tasks such as mopping the floors and ironing.
This whole conversation gave me a bit of validation. I know other stay-at-home moms feel the same way that my friend and I do. (I can only imagine that being a working mom without a cleaning service is even worse.) I think I just forget sometimes that other people are experiencing this same feeling of failure over what doesn’t get done during the day that I do. I have to work sometimes to remind myself that it is not so much about what I DON’T get done, but rather what I DO get done, both big and not so big. I brushed my teeth; more importantly, I brushed the kids’ teeth. I made my bed. I have fed the children and kept them alive and mostly happy. Also important, I’ve played with my children, enjoying this brief period of time when they are young and tender and actually want my attention. I’ve walked the dog and fed both he and the cat. I have written this blog! I think it is important for my own mental health to keep this perspective, focusing on the positive of what I have accomplished (no matter how small or seemingly insignificant) rather than focusing on the negative or what I have not accomplished for the day (you know, those illusive tasks such as showering).