I enjoy having a clean living environment. It’s borderline compulsive. I’m sure a psychologist could have a field day analyzing my affinity for neatness, maybe tying it down to a need for structure resulting from a chaotic childhood, blah, blah, blah…whatever the reason the fact remains that I am the epitome of a neat freak.
Unfortunately my neat freak nature clashes—hard—with the sticky fingers and muddy shoes that are my two sons. Mamas everywhere are sighing as they read this. You get it, right? What’s the point in even trying to clean when three seconds after you wipe the smudged glass on the sliding door five more hand prints appear with bonus chunks of who-knows-what leftovers from lunch.
Last week I lost my mind over it. Friends, I freaked out. I blew a gasket. I fell apart, tears and all, because I just couldn’t do it. I felt so tired from the battle of trying to balance enjoying motherhood with enjoying a clean house. Keep laughing, all you well-seasoned mamas. You told me that I could either have a clean house or a happy one, but that both are darn near impossible. Did I believe you? Nope. I embraced it as a challenge, silently shouting a battle cry in my head: “Tawanda! Don’t say never to me!” (Fried Green Tomatoes, anyone?)
My husband saw (and heard) that I was losing it. God bless that patient man. He swooped the kids out the door to go play and get takeout for dinner. I was left alone to clean. And clean I did. I scrubbed, and sprayed, and wiped…I pulled out an old toothbrush to get into the bathroom vents and everything. I mopped, and dusted, and exhausted myself from the exertion.
When I finally sat down it hit me how much my clean house cost me. My house was clean; no sign of life anywhere. And I was alone. And I was sad because of it. I wasn’t anyone that my boys wanted to be around, and I chose rage-cleaning over them. I essentially communicated to them that they were ruining my–not our–environment. My house. My rooms. My stuff.
That’s not the home I really want. I want the “our.” I want the memories, and the laughter, and the music, and the conversation that comes from being in relationship with my husband and children. But that night I forfeited it all. I made it pointedly clear that I would rather have a museum than have them.
That’s not the dream. That’s not what I’ve longed for. I dream of a family that plays games together, and builds blanket forts, and has movie nights, and laughs, and cries…together. But together exists with fingerprints and muddy shoe prints, and who-knows-what in the powder room sink (guess I’ll be cleaning that up later).
There’s nothing wrong with cleanliness. I’m not planning on letting entropy reign supreme. But in my freak out moment I believed a huge lie, and I allowed my motives to be obsessively selfish. I bought into the lie that I clean for myself. The truth is that I clean for us. I clean for our family, not my comfort.
So I’m presented with opportunity cost. I can either choose to pay the price of an immaculate home at the cost of a safe relational environment, or I can pay the price of a healthy family at the cost of less-than-pinterest cleanliness.
I’ll choose the latter. I want to choose them over spotless glass. I want to choose the “us and ours” over the “me and mine.” I want to choose the beautifully chaotic mess of family over the pristine loneliness of isolation.
Help me, Jesus.
Run Hard. Love Strong.