A year ago, the local sheriff showed up on my front door, followed a few hours later by a trio of social workers. The accusation? My house was a mess and my kids were dirty. During her visit, the lead social worker said the following words to me:
“I don’t want to take your children from you, but…”
And I’ve been living in fear, ever since. Fear that if I don’t keep my house clean, my kids will be taken from me. Fear that if the yard gets messy, a neighbor will report us.
Today it occurred to me that maybe the key to conquering that fear is to take the advice from Glennon that I posted the other day and shine truth into the situation. Radically. Shamelessly. So here it is:
I don’t have it all together. I’m not always (or even usually) organized, neat or responsible. We leave dishes in the sink and laundry in the hampers, on the couches, on the beds, in the floor. We let the kids play in dirt and mud. They climb trees and run through water hoses. They have goats as pets. There are tissues all over the house. Used ones. I get allergies fairly often and am incapable of throwing my tissues away. They’re on the night stands, the end tables, the coffee tables and eventually they pile up and billow onto the floor and we just step right over those puppies and pretend we don’t see them. Except for Jon. They inexplicably drive him crazy, so he frequently makes a trip around the house and cleans them all up, without even complaining. That man loves me. And then there’s the family vehicle. Suffice it to say that when we open the doors (by crawling in through the passenger seat, because both the side doors and the back doors only open from the inside,) food wrappers, hay, papers and (yes) tissues billow out the doors like confetti. Once a month or so, I’ll make the kids clean it out as punishment for some especially heinous crime. It requires a shovel and several trash bags.
And you know what? That’s okay with me. I mean, it’s embarrassing and creates some awkwardness when people drop by unexpectedly, or need a ride in our van (or even just see us pile out of our van, with the stuff-chasing that ensues.) But over the years, I’ve learned to let these things go in favor of keeping sane. Because whenever I decide that I want one of those highfalutin clean houses and some a’them squeaky-behind-the-ears children, I tend to get overbearing, pushy, irritable and angry with my junior cohabitants. Trust me, dear CPS worker and concerned neighbors: I’m a nicer mom when my house is messy and my kids are happier, too. I suspect it’s that way for a lot of us moms who wear so many hats and juggle so many precious responsibilities.
So rather than live in fear, I’m owning my particular brand of crazy and opening up the conversation. My name is Rina and I’m a slob. A slob with happy, healthy, amazing and wonderful children (four of whom, oddly, like to keep things neat and tidy. My oldest actually said to me the other day, with all the righteous indignation and sage wisdom her 13 years have granted her: “I just cannot understand how you can tolerate having such a messy bedroom.” It takes practice, my dear. Years and years of practice.)
So now I’d love to hear from you other moms out there, who have given up clean houses in favor of happy kids. Or maybe you’ve given up something else that society tells us we must have or do or be in order to be “good parents.” I’d love to hear from you. Other moms would love to hear from you. You, who have struggled with perfection and won – not by becoming perfect, but by realizing you’re never going to be and embracing the crazy of it all. The comments section is yours, today (and every day.)
“Where the stalls are clean, the stable is empty.” (Proverbs 14:4)
Our lives are full.
PS. In the interest of full truth-telling, our house is pretty nice these days, since we moved (more on that, later.) Something about 10 people no longer living on top of one another in a tiny 3 bedroom 1 bathroom house has made things a lot easier to keep up with. We even vacuum every day, if you can believe it! I almost hate to say that, because it sounds like I’m trying to put a nice spin on things, in case any social workers or concerned neighbors are reading. I’m not. Things still get messy around here, there are still days when nothing gets done and at this point in my life I’ve come to realize that my room will always and forever be a disaster, no matter where I go. And I refuse to be ashamed of that. Or at least, I’m trying not to be ashamed of that.