Let’s talk housekeeping and motherhood. Do you often look around your house wondering what exploded in there and when? Dishes piled in the sink. Dirty clothes piled on the bedroom floor. Toys strewn about everywhere. How about those markers and dirty handprints on the walls? The dust accumulating on the blinds? By the way, when is the last time you wiped the windows?
Does this scene make you feel like a “bad mother”?
Let me tell you a story about the first time I experienced the truth that housekeeping does not define my motherhood.
During our time with foster care, our sons’ social worker would stop by the house every month to see how they were adjusting, growing, and doing overall.
Some of the visits were scheduled… and some were not.
Well… on our social worker’s first surprise visit, he experienced our crazy house! This particular visit was a major surprise to this tired, probably smelly, post first-day-back-to-work mama. I was cuddling our youngest on the couch watching Mulan while our oldest played with Tommy (what he called Thomas the Train) when we heard the knock on the door.
Who could that be? Did my husband order something from Amazon?
When I saw their social worker through the peephole, I instantly panicked. The house was crazy (or so I thought). Toys everywhere. Sippy cups and snack bowls on the living room floor from earlier in the day. Books and toys all over their bedroom floor. Dishes in the sink (I’ll spare you the photos of this). Last night’s dinner still on the stove and counter. Mail and computer clutter on the dining table.
To say I was embarrassed would be an understatement, but I had to open that door.
The day before this surprise visit was my first day back to work after two months of parental leave. My husband and I were not concerned with dishes, clearing dinner, or singing the clean-up song before bath time. We just wanted to hug and snuggle and play with the kids. And go to sleep. We were a very tired family.
So, here we were… two days worth of dishes in the sink (with kids, that’s A LOT) and two days worth of toys throughout the house.
And enter our social worker.
“Hi, come on in. Sorry, it’s a little crazy in here after going back to work yesterday.”
“Oh, don’t worry. Things are going to get crazy with two small boys.”
Phew. Some understanding.
We had a normal visit. The boys were always so happy to see their social worker. He would play with them a bit and ask me all the standard questions. He liked that the boys were growing healthy and the kitchen full of food. I shared that they were now sleeping through the night and how they would wake up happy and talking to one another.
The social worker saw how our youngest ran to me with smiles and laughter for big hugs and lovies. He saw how excited our oldest was to show me something new he created with his blocks. He saw how happy I was to have a hang out day with the boys after being at work all day.
As we went through the foster/adopt process, we had this scary thought that maybe they would take the boys away if the house was crazy and it looked like life happened in it.
But I learned quickly that they expected to see life happening in our home.
I learned that smiles and play and hugs are so much more important than empty sinks and pristine bedrooms. I focused more on my growing, healthy and happy boys and less on the clutter on the kitchen table or last night’s dinner on the stove.
We did not want our social worker to see a crazy house every visit, nor did we want that to be the daily condition of our home. But we learned to be okay with the house looking like a tornado had just touched down in it.
They just wanted to see life with two boys. Messy, crazy, happy, loving life.
I look back on these photos of what I thought a crazy house looked like and laugh. Now that we have three young sons, two days worth of dishes in the sink has turned into four. The laundry is not only in the bedroom, but the hallways and bathrooms and living room, too. The toys? Still everywhere. I often find them in my bed, and toss them to my bedroom floor before going to sleep.
It’s absolute utter chaos, but I now look around at the crazy and simply see evidence of my kids everywhere. Evidence of so many dreams come true.
Mama, I know it is easy to beat yourself up when your house is looking crazy. Or life feels disorganized.
The important thing to focus on is that your kiddos are happy, healthy, and loved!
If our social worker thought we were doing just fine, I’m sure you are, too!
When it comes to housekeeping and motherhood, please don’t ever forget that housekeeping does not define your motherhood. Crazy house or not, you’re doing good, mama!