Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Do You Let Your Guests See Your Mess?

Last weekend, some friends of ours saw our house for the first time - and it was a complete mess! It was embarrassing, yes, but in the end they didn't care one bit and we had the best time chatting and drinking wine and beer on the patio late into the night. After they'd gone and a new week was underway, I realized that the mess more than just a mess...



Let's face it, I was pretty much a hermit from the time fall hit and Theo and I visited Zurich right up until the sun came out again just before spring break a couple weeks ago. Consequently, aside from Christmas when we had 20 guests, our house has consistently been at various stages of mess, ranging from cluttered-and-untidy to straight up frat-house level nastiness.
Friday was leaning more toward the frat house variety. So when I got an invite to meet some friends for dinner, I thought, "Great! Our mess will be safe and sound - and out of sight - at home!"
When dinner was finished, we were having so much fun and it was such a gorgeous evening it seemed a shame to all go our separate ways. So, I invited them to come hang out on our patio. The patio is looking great even if the house is a dump! But, having had a couple of beers, I completely forgot about that one room in the house. You know, the one all the magazines and Martha Stewart tell you to clean the best of all because it's the only place your guests really spend any time alone in your home.
Yes, the bathroom. When I showed my friend's husband to the bathroom, not only did we have to avoid toys and jackets and helmets strewn about the house in order to even get there, but there was a complete toddler girl outfit (probably wet) just hanging out, underwear up, on the bath mat. And the toilet itself was not sparkling by any measure. Oh, the horror!
In a feeble attempt to tidy up, I grabbed a few of the toys lying about in the living room and kitchen and put them away so at least no one would trip. Then, when when the bathroom was free again, I threw the clothes in the hamper and gave it a quick glance over. I was pleasantly surprised to see we had both a reasonably clean hand towel and a sink absent of fuzzy business growing on it. Hey, at least there was that, but over all it definitely needed a scrub, sweep and mop and the towel rack was overflowing and messy!
I apologized and, being lovely guests, they assured me their house is messy, too. I know that there are people out there who manage to keep everything clean and perfect all the time, and that is amazing, but I am just so not one of them. Since welcoming Theo to our family and having two children, it's all just proven to be too much. I often wonder if it would be the same if we were still in Kieselgasse. Probably. I like to think it wouldn't be, but it probably would be just as overwhelming. Two kids is the real deal.
As a mother and a writer, it's a balancing act. If the house is clean, then the blog posts cease and I don't write anything to submit for publication. If I'm doing a great job on the blog and writing other pieces, then the house is a disaster. It's a bit of a struggle, but one that I'm pretty grateful to be able to grapple with each day. I was chatting with my friend Rachel about it yesterday and then I happened to see the article A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Mom, by Kim Brooks this morning. I read it while nursing Theo before we got out of bed for the day, which seemed especially fitting. Brooks does such an incredible job of articulating the opposition between creativity and parenthood and the tension it creates for the artist or writer as a parent. Art is, after all, the process of breaking down and unpacking, while parenthood is the daily practice of tidying up and keeping it all together. They are truly at odds. Brooks' message is almost starting to seem hopelessly depressing when it comes around full circle by the end. While parenting and family life may limit our creative expression for lack of time and head space, it enriches our understanding of life and can serve as the most beautiful of muses.
I realize that the full-on mess since Theo was born has been a lot about my feeling wretched. I need external order in my life; and I feel ready to create it. This time with little children in my life is flying by, and I certainly don't want to miss it. But it's important to fill one's cup, too. So tonight, while J's at class, I'm going to declutter the rest of the house (I already tackled that bathroom!) and have everything prepped to deep clean in the morning. Then, I'm going to work on a schedule that includes time every week for me to go to yoga, and write, and have some head space of my own.

Three cheers for spring, for coming out of hibernation and for another step forward in the process of moving onward!

Do you let guests see your mess? What's your mess really about? Do you spring clean your heart and mind as well as your home?

12 comments:

  1. I appreciate that you take the time to write here as I relate to a lot of your posts. Have you seen the documentary Lost in Living? It's amazing; it is about four women who are artists and mothers. I feel like my creativity goes on hold when I'm not sleeping enough, but motherhood had helped me see where I want to go with it when my energy and time return.

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    1. That should have said "has helped..". Also, I just finished reading the article you mentioned and it was a good read. Interesting and reassuring and ... Truth-y, but also a little pessimistic in tone overall. Something my Mom said recently has really stuck with me as I slog through the fog of the early parenting years (mine are 5 and 1), is "it sometimes seems like I never had little children now". It makes me feel comforted that parenting is always about changes and growth and there will be time for my own work to fit back into my life without the level of angst the article focused on.

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    2. So true that it's important not to fall into the trap of thinking how hard everything is and focusing on the negatives all the time as a young mom. But I did appreciate the negative tone because it is an interruption and does make it really challenging. It's refreshing to have someone be out with it, rather than this whole idea that with enough organization or determination, we can do it all! ;) Nevertheless, I am trying to focus on the positives.
      I'm going to check out that documentary! Thanks for the recommendation. xoxo

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    4. I deleted my comment because it was too much of a rant about the myth of "having it all" and how we can have many things but throughout our lives, not necessarily all at the same time. Young children require a lot, but unless you homeschool, I expect (hope) that there will be more time and energy for other pursuits in not very many years. I think this is what my mom was getting at (and certainly by her example and my mother-in-law too, there will be time... Eventually). It is reassuring to read that other moms feel similarly though.

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    5. I saw it on email! I totally agree. It's hard not to rant against this pressure. I mean, it's everywhere, all the time, thanks to our little devices and Facebook and articles swirling about. Sigh. I think we all need a nice long media cleanse. Text and email only. Kind of like a juice and water only cleanse. ;)

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  2. Thank you for the link to this article... Interesting! I think that the sooner we (as women) stop trying to fit our creative achievements into the cannon as defined by (mostly) men, the better. Blogs are HUGE and significant creative endeavor by women / mothers, but we downgrade the significance of them repeatedly. I'm as guilty as the next person. We need to do a better job recognizing ourselves and others.

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    1. Agreed! Thank you for that reminder. xo

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  3. Thank you so much for this honest post. We have two young kids as well (who do not like to play in their bedroom) and we are both teachers, so our house is a mess of toys, books, half-graded tests and clothes most of the time. I have come to accept that it's both a phase and part of who I am. I prefer playing with my kids to cleaning up, and, once they're asleep, I definitely prefer reading, doing yoga and sleeping to cleaning up. Nonetheless, I do feel better in a non-messy house - but that happens only once a week, when our cleaner comes...
    Take good care of yourself and enjoy the mess while it lasts. We can still enjoy our tidy homes when we're old.

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    1. HA! So true. The exhaustion is real. When I go to my mom's tidy, clean house, I remember to appreciate the current chaos...and I know that I can look forward to clean and tidy later. Her house is proof! ;)

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  4. My house is almost always a mess. Aside from my feeble attempts to keep up with my cleaning schedule, the only time the house gets tidied up is when people are coming over. BUT I am actually OK with it if friends see my house when it's a mess. Maybe they will have sympathy for me (that poor girl trying to balance it all with small children) or empathize with me (yes, she's a slob like me!), so either way it's good. Just the other day, Hunter was home sick so naturally we were all in our pajamas when my friend called to remind me that she was on her way with two of her daughters to drop off some hand-me-down clothes. I scrambled to put away some toys so that there would be places to step and sit, but the house was NOT clean. Bathroom -- eew. Dirty dishes all over the counter. And you know what? I opened the door with a big smile on my face and welcomed them in! Also, when I go to my sister's house, she never apologizes for her mess because she doesn't have to and vice versa -- I love that!

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    1. I love this! We should ALL stop apologizing for our messes, don't you think? ;) xoxo

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