I've seen it on plaques, in frames, and all over Facebook, in its various iterations:
Good moms have sticky floors,
Piles of laundry,
And happy kids.
I don't know how old it is, but it's been around for years, and I remember finding solidarity in it even as a childless singleton, hopeless housekeeper that I've always been. Certainly, I can relate to it now, and it seems a popular little adage particularly among the mothers of the very young, who are quick to share and re-share it among themselves with great enthusiasm.
You'd never know it from their houses that many of these same mothers share in a similar struggle, though. Every play date I've ever attended is hosted in a home that boasts a great deal more organization and tidiness than my own. Granted, I'm sure that I'm not the only one who finds time where there is none to put on my best face when it's my time to host, but still I wonder: is my reality really so far removed from everyone else's, or are we all just really good at pretending to be better put together than we are?
Well, I was okay at it. Never good. But that was back when I had one child, not three.
When there were just two children, I rarely had a spotless home prepared for my family's weekly visits, but I tried to make the oft-frequented rooms presentable. I made double or triple the effort for the rarer get-togethers with Tom's family.
Then I got pregnant again, and beyond the second half of my second trimester, finding the time was only half the issue. I didn't have the physical capability. I had to swallow my pride, attempt to transform my burning shame into a healthy humility, and lay bare my reality for all to see.
It's no easier today than it was yesterday. It will be no easier tomorrow.
However, I try to assuage my own feelings of conflict and discomfort. I apologize profusely. I make jokes. I convince myself that when the typical responses of, "But you have three babies!" or "It's okay, we understand," come my way, they are truly honest. And because they come from people I love, I have no reason not to believe that they are.
Until I have reason to believe that they aren't.
As another well-known saying goes, "The truth will out."
It's a ridiculous thing to be so upset over, but it hurts all the same. After all, no one knows better than me just how chaotic my days are, just how messy my children, just how lacking my energy, just how precious my free time. Worst of all is the likely assumption that I'm happy with the state of things, or that I just don't care. Quite the opposite. The degree to which my environment aggravates my depression goes a long way towards the continuation of the status quo.
The lack of understanding contributes to the bafflement. I get it. I'd be baffled, too, if I walked into a house that looked like mine.
And yet, someone out there knew enough to write that cutesy little poem. I would imagine it's so popular because there are others who can relate.
I just wish I knew who those others really were, and whether the problem is that my floors crossed a line somewhere into too sticky, that my laundry piles are too high, that my oven is too gross. Maybe the problem is that I've run into yet another example of things that people like to say but don't really mean at all.
Of course, I'm not sure why I ever bought into such empty words to begin with particularly since, upon close inspection, they're really rather ridiculous. I understand that the implication is that good mothers spend the time that they could be cleaning doting on their kids, but in my case, it's not quite so simple as all that. While I may or may not actually not be a particularly good mother on any given day, that quantifier has absolutely nothing to do with the state of my house. Sure, the laundry must go on, so the piles must then necessarily rotate between clean and dirty in an infinite, hellish cycle, but I'm honestly too busy trying to survive each day to worry much about the state of my floor or oven.
Maybe that's just me.