Achieving Domestic Perfection

For those of you who are familiar with my posts, you already know I have stains on my mattress and a knack for embarrassing myself in public.

What you may not know is I used to have an affair.
A love affair, rather, with house cleaning. I used to love scrubbing floors, cleaning toilets, dusting, and vacuuming. Taking in the smell of Mr. Clean intoxicated my mind, which I am sure was just brain cells being destroyed. As I watched the dirty water being wrung from my cotton mop, I would almost giggle with glee, re-saturating the fibrous strands with bright yellow liquid and liberally massaging it into my linoleum floor.

And bleach. Oh, my goodness! Fresh, sanitizing bleach in the sinks and all over my whites. I was in chemical heaven!

What turned me off to house cleaning? Having children. When my husband and I were first married, we both worked outside of our home so when we cleaned the house, it stayed clean. Saturday mornings were observed for "deep cleaning" (a term I use loosely) which took an hour, tops.

Enter child #1. I was adamant about keeping a clean house. Good lord, if other people could have a immaculate home, so could I.

I mean, what else did I have to do?

I kept up with the cleaning and laundry and even managed to solve the explosion of toys around the house by purchasing several storage bins. I had a rule: all toys would retire to a bin in the toy closet at the end of the night.

Enter child #2-I thought it was hard having one child until I had our second. Two years apart, it was quite an adjustment to juggle 2 kids. I have to say, once we embraced crazy, everything got easier.

However, with a 2 year-old and a newborn, I realized that I had to start letting some things go. I physically could not do everything.

But, the expectations for the modern mother today is ludicrous and unrealistic. We need to have perfect children and a beautiful, fully furnished (and decorated) home. We must have a job, but be a dedicated and active parent at home. To top it off, I need to have makeup on everyday, be completely up-to-date with fashion trends, be fully accesorized and have six pack abs.

Well, you know what?! I can't do it! I cannot physically and mentally
be everything the world wants me to be.

In the past, I scrubbed away while my son play quietly on the floor next to me. I have mastered multi-tasking, but in time realized I was being stretched too thin. I wasn't doing anything with 100% of my usual positive energy and ability.

When I was pregnant with my first child, a wise woman told me,

"Don't get caught up in the cleaning. The dishes will get done. Play with your kids if you can stay at home and enjoy every minute of them when they are little." (Thanks, Mrs. Howell!)

When I get distracted by the laundry, checking my email, dusting the trim, sanitizing the counter tops, watering the plants, weeding the yard, brushing the dog, sorting the toys, rearranging the pantry, making dinner (I could go on and on!) I distract from what is happening right now.

Right now:
-my son is learning how to sound out words
-my daughter is drawing a self-portrait
-a bird is building a nest in our bird house
-my dog is chewing on his Kong
-the window is open and I can hear the frogs ribbiting
-a yucky fly is trying to get out of my screen door

I asked my feisty 93-year-old grandmother, how on earth her mother, who raised 8 kids, kept a clean house.

"We didn't have stuff like people do today. Our homes were small. We had 8 kids living in a 3 bedroom apartment."

Aha! Grandma's words stuck with me. Her family had close to nothing in their home. Each boy, maybe, had one pair of pants and two shirts. The girls had a dress, a skirt, and a shirt.

And toys? When I asked grandma about toys, she laughed and said,

 "Do you know what 'kick the can' is?"

I am placing unrealistic expectations on myself to achieve domestic perfection. And unless I hire help to clean my corners and keep my petunias perky, my house will never be perfect. I also realize that I have been consumed by a mindset of hyperconsumption. I don't need half the stuff I want!

Today, I am beginning to accept it is okay to let a few things go so I can take an extra walk with my kids, create the perfect pirate ship with couch cushions or play Trivial Pursuit with my husband.

I will attempt to stop apologizing when my neighbor comes over and sees a tornado has blown through the house in the form of two small children and the dishes from breakfast are still in the sink.

Baby steps.


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  • I struggle with this. I would be humiliated if my neighbor came over and saw my house a mess. Although in reality I know they wouldn't think twice about it.

    My solution: My main room and kitchen I keep as clean as I can. The kid's room and basements are a mess. And it makes me CRAZY. But, I can't do it all.

  • In reply to bethprystowsky:

    Great advice, Beth! I, too, try to keep my family room and kitchen clean for pop in visitors. Maybe I need to start a house cleaning schedule to keep on task and not get distracted as I go from room to room...

  • In reply to erago:

    We also just started to tell my 5 year old son if he keeps his room clean for an entire week he gets a dollar. This was extremely motivating for him.

  • In reply to bethprystowsky:

    I think my 4 year old is understanding money now. He has a fancy wallet and everything! I am going to try to incorporate the kids into the daily chores. I have a feeling they will really like it.

  • In reply to bethprystowsky:

    I could really relate to your post today. I feel like I never really have an entire clean house: as soon as I am "done" cleaning all of the rooms, I will notice that the first room I cleaned is destroyed... AGAIN! I have stopped cleaning my children's rooms except for twice a year, when I clean the rooms with them and we deep clean everything. They are required to pick up each night before bed. I have also slowly started to ask for help. The problem is that no one can clean according to my standards. It really is a continuing battle. As long as my counters and downstairs bathroom are always properly clean and disinfected, I can sleep at night... sometimes.

  • In reply to soontobehotmama:

    Maybe this is just temporary b/c my kids are small? Once they can really help themselves, I can just start saying things like, "This room is a pigsty!" and "I can't even walk in this room to kiss you goodnight!". And, I guess once they are in school all day I can clean without interruption. (Well, just work interruption.)

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