Kids vs. Housework

Question of the week:

“i choose my babies over housework am i a failure?”

The answer is, no, ma’am, you are a WINNER!! A big winner!!! Anyone who can make this choice, who is strong enough to say that their priority is their children and not the hardened dust coating forming on the blinds, is OK in my book.

I was actually just having the same thought the other day while climbing the stairs in my house. Each stair was buried under a small pile of my sons’ toys. I’m sure this happens in other homes, but it’s worse here because when my boys leave their stuff in the living room, I have to move it to the stairs so the day care kids don’t get it. There is a large basket on one step that’s usually filled to overflowing, and then the stuff cascades to all the steps around it.

I spend a lot of time trying not to break my ankle on the stairs.

Then, when I got beyond the toy avalanche and made it to the top stairs, I saw all the little tumbleweeds of dust blowing around on them. And I thought, I am a pathetic housekeeper. (Which does tend to lead to, “and a failure.” I get that.)

But I was on my way upstairs to get changed because we were taking the boys on Mommy-Daddy dates. Every once in a while when the boys start acting out we realize it’s because they need a little alone time with one of us. This weekend it was Younger Son’s turn with me, and he wanted to see the Yogi Bear movie. Daddy and Older Son went to Barnes and Noble to get new books. Oh, we’re such cool parents. *Sigh*

And when one of us cool parents gets cranky because the house is a disaster from bottom to top, we have to remind each other of this: We have made a conscious choice to be in our kids’ lives. That means less housework. Or less playing on the computer or having “me” time. But you know what? When my kids are gone and I’m depressed and lonely, I won’t be regretting the time I missed with them. (And the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon…) Sorry I couldn’t help it.

OK back on the topic of being a VERY GOOD mom if you choose to let the floors be dirty because you’re playing with the kids. Occasionally when I start feeling like “I can’t live in this filthy house anymore it’s an embarassment,” I will get on a cleaning jag. But it doesn’t work. All I do is cause a lot of stress when I try to push my kids away so I can buff things that nobody ever looks at anyway. What’s the point? They’re sad that I’m ignoring them, I’m angry that they’re bothering me, and within hours whatever I just cleaned will be dirty again. And there goes our whole Saturday.

It’s like when my poor husband mops the floor and I don’t know it so I go trotting in the kitchen for something. I’ll hear him desperately/angrily bursting out with “I JUST CLEANED THAT FLOOR!!” Of course I tell him I’m very sorry. And then I think…Welcome to my world.

So WHY bother? When you have kids that want to play with you, take it as a compliment and give them everything you’ve got. They won’t always want to hang out with you, remember? Those teen years are approaching fast. Faster than you’d imagine.

I taped this poem to my fridge a few months after my first son was born. I’d say it sums up my cleaning philosophy. And I know it sounds lame but when I feel bad about my housekeeping skills I go and read it, to remind myself of why I live in a pigsty:

The cleaning and scrubbing can wait till tomorrow
But children grow up as I’ve learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down cobwebs; Dust go to sleep!
I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep.

– Ruth Hulburt Hamilton

You can read the full version here, but get the tissues first.

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One thought on “Kids vs. Housework

  1. Must be something in the air I just sent this poem to a parent in my class yesterday – maybe its just that we are all trapped inside with more time to see the dust bunnies.

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