I discovered back when DS was a new baby that I was much more at peace and relaxed when my house was tidy. Note I didn’t say “clean”. Cleaning a home is a lot of work, especially for someone like myself who is domestically challenged and can take 2 hours just to fully clean 1 bathroom. I hired a cleaning service as soon as DH got a job here; they come every other week and it’s enough to keep the place sanitary. But I like tidiness. I like having a place for everything, and putting everything in its place. In a tidy kitchen I am inspired to cook. In a tidy living room there seem endless possibilities for play. I walk into a tidy bathroom or bedroom and I feel my spirits lift. I remember in my brief flirtation with flylady reading her say that if you can even have just one room in the house clean and tidy it can really make your day. I flunked pretty much everything else in her program, but I learned that that part was true.
So all this time, tidying up has been a priority for me. I start each day trying to get the house “just so” so that I can then relax and enjoy myself with the kids. I have this image in my head of a neat and tidy house, me sitting on the floor with the children playing games, building towers with blocks, curled up on the sofa reading stories….and that scenario has virtually never played itself out in real life.
Instead, I find I am constantly doing housework. Tidying up happens in between cooking and cleaning up after the cooking, between doing loads of laundry and trying to fold it and put it all away. The reality is that I do housework constantly whenever I’m at home, and whenever I try to sit down and play with the kids (after they have basically had to beg me in a tone that makes me feel like the worst, neglectful mother) all I see is stuff to do. I excuse myself in between rolling the dice to put in a new load of laundry, or I end up grabbing a cloth and wiping down some surface in between voicing my dinosaur character’s part in the latest adventure that DD has dreamed up.
I’ve come to the realization that my desire to have a tidy house has really gotten in the way of me spending time with my kids. I read all these homelearning blogs about all the neat stuff the parents do with their kids at home and I think “I don’t have time for that”. Basically when we are home, the kids are either playing together and/or watching a DVD and I’m doing housework or, near the end of the day, indulging in some “me time” on the computer. And last week’s appointment with the Speech Therapist made it even more apparent to me that I spend far too little time interacting with my kids when we are at home. If I want to unschool, I need to be able to devote a decent amount of time (1 to 2 hours) to being with the children, aiding them in their quest for knowledge and sharing with them in their discoveries in the yard (when and if we have one, lol), on the Internet, and in our books.
So for the last few days I’ve eschewed the housework. Yes, my place is a mess. Laundry is sorted into 2 huge piles – clean and dirty. There are books and movies and papers scattered around. It doesn’t help that the motor in our clothes dryer gave out and I haven’t been able to do laundry for 4 days now (one part after another on hold, latest predition is tomorrow). The dining table is covered with crap and I have half-unpacked diaper bags scattered around the place. I try to do some tidying up in the evening, though often I’m just too tired by then to care enough to muster the energy. Still, it seems to be a plausible way to keep us from going under entirely. I’ve also noticed that no matter how often I tidy up, the house never stays tidy for very long. So if I just miss a few days then, at the end of the week, we’re no worse off. This has been a big discovery/realization for me – the house doesn’t have to be tidy every day.
We’ll see how this all works. I know this much: at the end of my life, it will not matter to me how tidy my house was, but I will have deep regrets if I feel I missed out on the chance to really be with my children when they were young and needed me the most.