As a mother, I have dutifully looked to the uninspired memes floating around Facebook in the guise of unfunny ecards to help me parent more effectively. Since more and more of my friends have become parents, they have helpfully given me the tools to correct my horrible parenting habits. Since only shitty moms have friendships, wear pants, or leave the house on Friday to go be a Sluts McGee all around town, I have tried my best to not do any of those things. But this week, someone took it a bridge too far by pointing out that if you’re cleaning your house, you are missing a vital opportunity to cherish the rapidly waning moments of your child’s childhood filled with their childlike laughter or something.
I’ll say this once: If you attempt to take my CFC-infused Sprayway glass cleaner from me, you’d better make sure I’m good and dead first because I will knife you right in your lululemon yoga pants before I give up the goods. You’ve been warned.
I like to clean. I’m sure you could trace it back to some kind of childhood trauma if you had the time and a few pads of graph paper to waste, but the fact remains that I am not comfortable in my home unless my carpet has shark’s teeth and all of the little toothpaste dribbles have been wiped out of the sinks. I take a lot of pride in my gleaming doorknobs, and yes, I make people take off their shoes before they come in to my house. Being able to sit down on the couch without shoving a pile of laundry to the floor so that I can have a glass of wine with my husband and feel like a human adult is one thing that I refuse to give up just because I reproduced.
To be honest, I never understood the concept that children are little tyrants that rob you of your desire/ability to do big girl things. Because my pregnancy was a surprise, we made the inevitable pros and cons list of why we should go through with it and “being the boss of someone littler than me” made it into the pros list no less than 4 times. Of course, I’m a youngest child, so that probably has a lot to do with it.
I do understand the bewildering task of sorting out your pre-mom self from your post-mom self. I think it’s something that every parent struggles with, and there are a lot of sacrifices that you’ll end up making. For instance, my boobs look like someone popped them, and I read a lot less than I used to. My car is inexplicably sticky all of the time. In fact, pretty much everything my kid touches is inexplicably sticky all of the time. I went for six years before I could pee in privacy. (Thank you, Kindergarten!)
I feel like it used to be an eyeroll-worthy funny ha-ha joke: “Sorry I couldn’t put pants on today but I haven’t slept in three years”. Now, though, it’s been flipped: “Wow, you put pants on? Is your kid okay? Who was watching her while you navigated that button fly?”
Is it just me, or does all of this sound a little Hector-the-Projector-ish? Every time I read a sanctimonious tweet about how real moms don’t go clubbing anymore, I immediately think that whoever tweeted it out is really just kind of pissed that they couldn’t find a sitter. I have to believe that, because only a deluded person would think that watching the Hot Dog Dance for the fifth time in a day is more fun than having a night to yourself, whether it’s going clubbing or just recusing yourself from hearing about how your kid’s farts smell like peanut butter.
Cleaning is my clubbing, and I don’t even need to neglect my kid to do it. Because I am gifted with the ability to talk and wipe at the same time, I can carry on a conversation with her while I dust. Better yet, I refer to one of my other bullet points from my pregnancy pro list and make her do it with me, because why have kids if you don’t take advantage of the free labor?
This goes beyond me wanting my house to not smell like a turd sprinkled with Camembert and lit on fire. I also think my daughter should be able to grasp the idea of taking pride in where she lives. I don’t want her to be one of the kids that I met in college, weeping over the washing machine because they were out of knickers but never learned how to push the four buttons that would spit out clean ones.
Still, that’s something that’s applicable to just me and my kid and our house. It has honestly never entered my mind to visit someone’s home, give one flippity flapjack whether or not they keep it tidy, and then run home to write a snarky post about it on my blog.
I have mom friends that have playdates and book clubs and knitting circles and while I don’t really do any of those things, I’ve never hopped on an ecard maker to draw up a quick guilt-inducing shareable about how the children of selfish scarf-knitting neglectors are missing out on being loved. Above all, and I really feel like I should emphasize this: I really don’t care what your house looks like. You’re not me. If you promise not to judge me for not knitting an adorable beanie for my kid, I promise not to judge you for not being anal retentive about the relative dustiness of your mini-blinds. Pinkie swear.
I don’t clean to make you feel bad, or to eradicate wire hangers from my closets and terrify my kid. Similarly, I’m not doing it to “impress” you or to throw up a façade of having it all together. I do it for me, because it makes me feel like a grown up while the smell of smiley fries wafts through the house. Don’t take that away from me by making me feel like Real Moms© don’t do anything except for emotionally enrich their kids with developmentally appropriate preapproved curriculum in yesterday’s sweatshirt all day.
Can we just stop all of this-- stop comparing ourselves to one another? I feel like there’s already enough crap to feel insecure about without throwing ridiculous skirmishes over baseboard cleanliness into the Mommy Wars.
(Image: getty images)