Good Housekeeping: Totally Slobtastic Slackermom Edition

March 20, 2009

If you were ever to visit my neighborhood, I would love for you to drop by. I’d be thrilled to see you, and I would totally invite you onto my verandah, and I would fix us up a nice pot of coffee and we would sit outside and eat cupcakes – fresh from the bakery down the street – and drink our coffee and chat. Or maybe it would be, like, late afternoon or evening and I would bust out the wine and the cheese and we would sit outside and enjoy the sunset and it would be lovely, really, just perfectly lovely. But I’d really hope that you wouldn’t ask to use the bathroom. Because I’d really kind of rather you not come in my house.

It’s not that I have anything against you, or that I have weird bathroom issues. It’s just that, you know, if you’d just dropped by? And I hadn’t had enough notice to do a total sweep of the house in advance of your visit? I just would totally not want you to come inside. Because, really, it usually looks something like this:

That’s what it looks like, all the time. Worse even. That room at the back? That’s supposed to be the dining room. Needless to say, we don’t do a lot of dining there. We actually moved the table out so that there’d be more room for things like, say, easels and chalkboards and paints. Also, giant stuffed cows and little plastic grocery carts. The piano is there, just off to the right, and it does get played, but it also functions as a toy shelf and Dora puzzle storage unit.

Oh, we try to keep it tidy. Two or three times a day I shove toys and books and miscellaneous child crap into the various baskets that you see strewn about. Then I vacuum. And then the room looks clean for about fifteen minutes before Jasper and/or Emilia begin upturning baskets and flinging toys everywhere again.

And then it looks something like this:

And this isn’t even the worst room. If I, in a fit of transparency, let you in the front door, I still wouldn’t let you up the stairs. That’s where I hide the real mess: the piles of laundry, the unpacked suitcases (seriously), the random pieces of barely used baby equipment, the children. The bathroom is also upstairs, which is why, if you mentioned a need to use the facilities, I might suddenly suggest that we head to the cafe around the corner. For cookies! They make the best cookies! Also, their restroom doesn’t have childrens’ toothpaste smeared across the vanity mirror, and they probably actually put the toilet paper on the roll.

It’s a losing battle for me, keeping house. I just can’t do it. I have a ten-month old baby who is just starting to walk and using his newfound mobility to seek out things to scatter and destroy, and a three-year old who loves nothing more than to mark her territory by spreading toys and books as far as she can see. And I have a husband who has trouble figuring out the relationship between socks and sock drawers and two cats who have an enthusiastic affection for dragging miscellaneous crap underneath sofas and leaving it there to collect dust. It is Sisyphean, I tell you, the work of managing a household while tending to two very small children and a tidiness-challenged husband. It is impossible, and unavoidable, and necessary, and it causes me no end of stress.

Derrida and Bukowski get tossed and stomped. Not shown: destruction of the lesser post-modernists and later dirty realists.

I can look at pictures, in magazines, of skinny mom-celebs – the Gwyneths, the Angelinas – and it doesn’t bother me, because, please. I know the work of a trainer and a private chef when I see it. But I see images of tidy homes – homes that are ostensibly occupied by families, by people with children – and it makes me a little bit crazy. Because even though I know that images in magazines are set-decorated and fluffed and faked, it still worries me, the idea that somewhere out there, other parents are keeping their homes tidy. I do not, and cannot, keep my own home in a state that even approximates something that even resembles a simulation of ‘tidy.’ And I have no idea how to change that. If I really wanted to lose my muffin-top, I would join a gym or do that shred thing and I would have some reasonable expectation of having some success. But getting my house organized? And keeping it that way? Figuring out the alchemical formula for turning cat turds into gold seem seems a more attainable goal for me.

So I’m trying to come to terms with it, in the same way that I have been trying to come to terms with the muffin-top. Embrace my outer slob, as it were. And it would really, really help if somebody – anybody – out there would stand up and to admit to some slobbiness, too. You don’t have to post photographic evidence (although if you wanted to do that, I’d be really impressed. And grateful.) (Here’s a Flickr group to post to, if you’re so inclined.) Even just a show of hands? Anyone else out there losing the battle of the mess? Anybody else pretty much just ready to surrender?

If not, that’s fine. You’re still welcome to come visit me. Just make sure that you pee before you get here.

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    Alicia March 22, 2009 at 4:12 pm

    I’m totally with you! About a year ago I started posting “Full Disclosure Friday” posts with pictures of messes or stories of disasters just to balance out all the perfect-seeming blog posts out there. Here’s a couple:
    Pics and all!

    BTW, we only have an upstairs bathroom too and I am exactly the same way. Though we have FOUR children and are dimwitted enough to keep them home and homeschool them, so the mess just multiplies like fruit flies.

    I distrust tidy people. I find them oddly fascinating but completely foreign. :)

    Jill March 22, 2009 at 7:53 pm

    *raises hand* Right here!

    I’ve given up too. I’ve pretty much accepted that my home will be in a constant state of toys-and-crumbs. I try to do a sweep once a day, but sometimes I don’t bother, because like you said, 15 minutes later it looks like you didn’t even do anything. So what’s the point?

    I’ve been meaning to write a post imploring other moms to LET THEIR HOUSES BE DIRTY. Not only for their sanity’s sake but so I don’t feel so bad when I come over, or when I ask them over.

    And good gravy woman you get a lot of comments! How on earth do you find time to read them all??

    Stacy March 23, 2009 at 12:08 am

    You are not alone. Really. And I am so glad there are moms like you who admit it. It is not defeat, it is REALITY. It is being FINE with how things are and not stressing over what is just a phase. Hugs to you!

    red pen mama March 23, 2009 at 7:58 am

    ah, yes, thank you, once more. You — and I — clearly have many many compatriots. I do not mean to be a slob, I do not want to be a slob, but I have all the issues that you list here, and then some. Well, no cats. That I am aware of. I am happy to get the dishwasher loaded up and run at the end of the day. I will fold laundry, but getting it put away is another story. And the toys. Definitely challenging.

    The girls are getting older, though, and we are all working on it. Except for my husband, who apparently has no clue what a clothes hamper is and what it is used for.

    And I will not even mention the bathroom. DearDR was going on about all the stuff our house needed this weekend, and I snapped and said, “What we really need is a maid.” And then we had a good laugh.


    Beck March 23, 2009 at 8:51 am

    Want me to share a really terrifying story? Sure you do!
    When The Baby was six months old or so, we all came down with the flu – all five of us. My husband got home from work, sent me to bed, made the kids supper and then passed out on the couch. When I got up the next morning, the kids had trashed the living room and the dishes were unwashed and there was a policewoman at my front door, asking questions about a neighborhood incident.

    She then phoned children’s aid on me because OBVIOUSLY from the unwashed dishes in my kitchen and the toys on the floor of the living room, we were negligent parents.

    Nothing came of it, but the whole thing terrified me more than anything else in my whole life. Now I get panic attacks when my dishwasher isn’t loaded. Fun.

    kittenpie March 23, 2009 at 12:43 pm

    SOOOOO with you here… The chaos makes me nuts, yet I know it’s a losing battle, especiaaly since we are without even one closet until we dfinish this latest (small) reno… Yeah, it’s a fucking disaster. What can you do? With npotice of people coming, I throw it into high gear, ignore my baby, and give the place a once over but the rest of the time, I try to not let it drive me crazy and go with it.

    Karen MEG March 23, 2009 at 1:46 pm

    I think I love you, because you make me KNOW that I’m not alone. First of all, I do not clean. Secondly, I have two kids. Thirdly, I have a neat freak husband. I’m lucky I’m a good lay (oh, sorry, TMI :)

    We repossessed our living room after our daughter turned 3. Before that, it was a circus (I’m not kidding, tent, a separate ball tent, three vehicles, a couple of train sets ….)

    Off to see the gallery of shame and offer my contribution…

    Jaelithe March 23, 2009 at 1:50 pm

    1.) You could totally let me into your bathroom, toothpaste and all, and I would not say a word.

    2.) No matter how clean my house is– even if I have just spent several days in a row cleaning and adjusting and decorating for a party, let’s say– I always think people will think it is dirty and hovelish. Because you see I spent nearly all of my childhood weekends living in an ACTUAL dirty hovel, not like your house, but an actual HOVEL, with bugs and mice and narrow winding paths through junk, with my compulsive hoarder father. Every time someone comes to my house I apologize for the mess. But you see, it is not my mess I am apologizing for. It’s one my guests cannot see. However, this neurosis of mine does not apply to other people’s houses. To me, your house quite looks homey. And safe.

    3.) You need bookcases with doors on. Good, sturdy doors you can lock or tie shut. Trust me. Best $400 I ever spent. Saved my life.

    mumologic March 23, 2009 at 1:57 pm

    Those pictures brought me much comfort.

    tinycandi March 23, 2009 at 2:06 pm

    I absolutely love your blog. You make me smile. :)
    Sincerely, the woman who has three loads of laundry piled on the couch…so if you want to visit me we’ll have to…well let’s just sit on the porch. ;)

    Kimberly March 23, 2009 at 5:01 pm

    My problem is that I am basically lazy and hate to clean. Also, I have a toddler, cat and two month old. Well, the newborn provides much of my excuse for non-cleanliness b/c he is attached to the boob most of the time and I cannot figure out how to nurse without sitting down (yes, I know how to use a sling, but still…). Heh, now that I think about it, this is also the same excuse I use for my expanding gut.

    Betsy March 24, 2009 at 7:11 am

    Why can’t I comment on you mom’s blog? Asks for my profile than shuts me down. Anywho: here is my comment. Please forward:

    This blog is a hoot. I’m going to show it to my mom and hope it brings out her inner irreverent granny blogger. Thanks, and keep writing.

    Anonymous March 24, 2009 at 4:22 pm

    I try. I really do. My husband does very, very little to help unless explicitly asked. So, yes, my house is in a constant state of disarray despite my best efforts and the stress it causes me. It does help to know I’m not alone with this, so thanks for this post.

    Krishna March 24, 2009 at 11:09 pm

    I found your site a couple months ago. After reading a few posts I realized that our babies are the same age. I just went through your archived posts because I suspected that our little ones share the same birthday. And they do. My daughter is about 7 hours and 15 minutes Jasper’s senior.

    Just in case you didn’t know, being born on the full moon in May is kind of auspicious. The May full moon is considered The Buddha’s birthday. Congratulations for bringing in two such beautiful little souls.

    sibelimsss March 25, 2009 at 12:14 pm

    Thank You..
    izmir evden eve

    LilliGirl March 25, 2009 at 7:12 pm

    Hmmmm…My solution is to throw whatever isn’t being pulled out away and then put all the stuff that get’s playtime back in those spaces…Goodwill loves me!

    W.M.E. March 26, 2009 at 2:25 pm

    This is my house, seriously. I’ve learned to do the middle bits that everyone looks at when they come in and then do the edges when bits start to fall off from being too overcrowded.

    It drives the Hubby crackers but keeps me sane!

    Tarasview March 27, 2009 at 12:45 pm

    I just found this post…and I am SO with you. My sons are 5 & 6 and my daughter is 2… my house hasn't been consistently tidy since before I got married… because my husband? Is worse than my 2 year old. Seriously.

    And we moved the first of this month… and still I have unpacked boxes. I am considering leaving them packed. Easier that way. :)

    litanyofbritt March 30, 2009 at 10:09 am

    for what its worth, we bought our first home in september. all of our non-local relatives and friends continuosly demand pictures. but my house has literally never been clean long enough to photograph. except before we moved in when it was empty. 2 little kids+ open floor plan+ blogs to read= embarrassingly slobbish house. honestly if the crumbs on the floor can’t be identified as the original food source, i’m patting myself on the back.

    Steve March 31, 2009 at 5:07 pm

    I am so relieved to see I am not alone. And perhaps I’m a bit over-tired but I am also crying with laughter at the photos, especially this one.

    As I stepped over toys this evening, leaving them were they lay with the thought “heck, it’s late, and they’ll have them all out again in the morning”, I wondered whether I should be feeling more guilty. Thank you for easing my conscience.

    Kimberly April 6, 2009 at 1:34 pm

    I can’t tell you how relieved I am to read this. I go into other mother’s houses, and they are spotless. Mine is always a disaster – toys strewn from one end to the next, cushions on the couch askew, crumbs on the kitchen floor (I do sweep once a day – usually at night. Why bother to do it more than that when it’s just going to be more crumbs after the next meal?)

    I also find housekeeping exhausting and thankless and I’m just SO GLAD to see I’m not alone.

    Suzanne April 9, 2009 at 5:28 pm

    If you mow your lawn and then turn your back for a second and its magically re-grown, plus some huge weeds and maybe your lawn mower caught fire? That is cleaning the house with small children in it. DOES.NOT.COMPUTE!!!

    Anonymous April 10, 2009 at 7:53 am

    oh thank god. there is exactly ONE mom-and-kid pair i feel comfortable enough with to invite them over to our disaster (and even then, i have to crazy-woman-clean first). it’s just too d*mn much to deal with the house on top of the kiddos, cats, dog, job, and husband. i feel so much better after reading your article and the accompanying comments!!

    John April 13, 2009 at 12:26 am

    If you are looking for reliable security guards who can act as doorkeepers for your company with devotion and effectiveness, then without further delay, come in touch with approach servel security online and find the right security guard.

    caoilinn April 13, 2009 at 11:17 pm

    Thank you for this.

    I live in a distorted version of Stepford where I am a complete aberration…and sometimes I forget there are people like me.

    Lisa Renata May 11, 2009 at 12:54 am

    hahaha. even I that was once considered (by many) a clean freak, can’t seem to keep a clean house with two little ones running about.

    so please, don’t worry about those picture perfect living rooms

    Kokorozashi May 18, 2009 at 6:18 pm

    I know I’m a little behind the 8-ball, here, since this entry is from March and all … but if it’s any consolation, I don’t even *have* kids, and my house looks like that too.

    Right down to the cat sitting in the middle of the floor with that admonishing look that says, “I thought I raised you better than this.” (My cat thinks he’s my Dad.)

    Your blog is made from awesome. Rock on!

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