One of my son's friends -- a favorite of mine, actually -- walked into my house today and, after gazing at my kitchen floor for half a minute, said, "The floor is REALLY dirty over here!"
First reaction? Let's just say I'm glad I kept my mouth shut; several inappropriate responses came to my mind. I settled for, "Yeah, it is. Lots to do and I really don't like cleaning."
This (generally lovely and polite) child then asked me if I have a housekeeper. (Uh, NO...but what a nice idea.) I then asked him if his parents did. (Again, no.) When I consider that both of his parents work full-time, have two boys, take care of several rental properties AND keep a perfectly-appointed house, I feel a little inadequate. What is my excuse for not doing "as well"? Couldn't I keep the damn kitchen floor a little more shiny?
This boy lives in a home where --seriously -- dust. does. not. exist. Where piles of paper are never in sight. Where dishes are always done. Where floors are always shiny, carpets always vacuumed, and the children ALWAYS remember to take their shoes off in the garage (NOT at the front door). In fact, said garage is, hands-down, the cleanest, most organized, possibly anal-retentive garage I have ever seen. The parents are on the same page regarding housework: They both like a clean house and they both work like the dickens to keep it that way. (I know because I asked.)
Part of me is predictably envious. I like things put away and organized and clean, too. However, I actually would feel uncomfortable living in such a pristine house. Their house doesn't feel lived in; to me it feels, well, like a museum. For all I know, their child experiences something akin to coming to the dark side when he visits my house.
Generally, I think my house looks pretty darn nice. One's perspective, after all, depends on one's point of reference, and I have *plenty* of friends who do not keep house even as well as I do. When I compare myself to them, I think I'm doing purty well; when I compare myself to people like this boy's parents, I feel terribly inadequate. Downward comparisons always improve your mood. Gotta remember that.
This boy, when he comes to my house, is exposed to a mother who doesn't. like. to clean. He learns that I occasionally leave baskets of clean laundry for a day or two before I cave and fold it and put it away. He learns I sometimes even leave a dish in the sink over night, and that I have papers and books on countertops and desks, and that my husband has a totally messy home office. He has asked me why we allow our children to keep their rooms in a state of semi-squalor, and only require major cleanings every two weeks or so. The answer? We figure it's their room, so let them live like pigs and discover how unpleasant it is!
Needless to say, such an approach would NEVER happen in this other child's house, and hearing our perspective I think really shocked the poor boy. I'm not sure what the parents think would happen if they let their standards slide, but I'm pretty sure that in their worldview, cleanliness does indeed equal godliness.
I think I now know why my mother kept her house so dark: my friends had to use their eyesight to see where the furniture was, and needn't have worried about being able to detect the dust or cobwebs. Alas, I have moved into a big, bright house where dust is all too easy to notice.
But that still doesn't make me want to clean more. Perhaps I should just close the blinds before the kids' friends come over.
- My interests include veganism and vegetarianism, health, ethics, politics and culture, media, and the environment. I have three kids; I teach college part-time, study piano and attempt to garden. I knit. I blog on just about anything, but many posts are related to my somewhat pathetic quest to eat better, be more mindful of the environment, and be a more responsible news consumer. Sometimes I write about parenting, but, like so many Mommy bloggers, my kids have recently told me not to. :) Thanks for reading.