When I first became a stay-at home mom, I took great pride in keeping my house absolutely pristine. Not just tidy, you understand, but ORGANIZED. Each toy had its proper place; paperwork got filed neatly away; coats and pants were stored according to season; and shirts were lined up by color, sleeve length, and collar type. There wasn’t a single thing where it wasn’t supposed to be.
I also deep-cleaned. Constantly. I scrubbed down the bathrooms each and every day. I swept, mopped, and vacuumed EVERYTHING. I dusted and polished every surface, from the blades of the bedroom ceiling fan to the fake butt indentations on the dining room chairs.
No speck of dirt was safe—not the curly hairs behind the toilets, not the mushy residue in the soap dishes, not the Goldfish crumbs between the couch cushions. My house was immaculate.
Then I decided to go back to work.
I refused to return to a starchy office smelling of burned popcorn and sexual harassment. No thanks! I was going to jump on that new-fangled “work-from-home” bandwagon that everyone was talking about, and no one was going to stop me. Best of both worlds, right? I’d be able to bring home the bacon while still keeping my house spic-and-span. After all, I was my own boss! I could take a break any time I wanted and scrub out the tub ring. I could rinse off the dishes after lunch and load them into the dishwasher. At the very least, I could keep the laundry going at a slow but steady pace.
These delusions lasted no more than a week. I quickly realized that working moms of ANY variety have to drastically change their housekeeping expectations PDQ—or use some of their precious income to hire a cleaning service. Here are just a few examples of how I personally have devolved from”Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval” to “Final Order of Condemnation”:
Making the beds. I used to change the linens weekly, and when I did, I would launder everything from the mattress pad to the actual duvet. Now I throw myself a parade for just changing the sheets—which maybe happens once a month, or whenever my husband gets in bed, starts scratching like a feral cat, and launches into theatrics about how “EVERYTHING! ITCHES!” You know. Whichever comes first.
Dusting. I once dusted every imaginable surface. Wainscoting, crown moldings, shelves full of knick-knacks, entire bookcases—nothing was spared. But not anymore! Now I only dust what’s visible. If it can’t easily be seen, it can stay hidden under a six-inch layer of dust for all eternity. I could not give less of a care.
Vacuuming. I used to vacuum 3 times a week. Now I vacuum once a month and tell myself I’m not doing it more often because it “scares the cat.”
Cleaning the bathrooms. Okay, bathrooms do need to be cleaned regularly, and they need to be cleaned well, because otherwise that’s just gross. But since I’ve gone back to work, I am cutting myself a *little* slack in the bathroom department. Now, instead of washing my towels every few days or so, I let them age like a fine wine. A fine wine that smells like a moldy hobo.
Trash. Changing the trash, which used to happen daily, has now become a fun game that I like to call “Mexican Standoff.” My husband and I spend days watching the garbage crawl out of the trash can and up the kitchen wall. Whoever gives in and takes out the bag is the L-O-S-E-R.
Laundry. I used to keep on top of our laundry. Not anymore. Nowadays I don’t do laundry until we’re all wearing bottom-of-the-barrel underwear and irregular “Simpsons” socks from Family Dollar. Even then I just wash whatever shit is laying on the floor next to the machine, which is usually some completely useless combination of a leg warmer, 59 pairs of tightie-whities, and one of my husband’s dress shirts. And what’s that, you say? Let the damp load rot in the machine for a week? Don’t mind if I do.
Mopping. My previous regimen was what I would describe as “mop early and often.” You could run your finger across my kitchen floor and not pick up a speck of dirt. Now? “Eh, no one’s going to notice that dried blob of pumpkin guts from Halloween two years ago. And even if they do, so what? Are the Housekeeping Police on their way? Am I going to have to pay a fine? No? Then who gives an ever-loving shit.”
Surface cleaning. I mentioned that I used to be a stickler for surface cleaning. Now I subscribe to the philosophy that since my tables and counter tops are always covered with crap anyway, what’s the point? No one ever sees them. (With regards to the TV screen, the important thing is that I can still *almost* tell what’s happening underneath all of the snot smears and Nutella fingerprints.)
Organizing. It didn’t take long for my opinion about the organization of closets and drawers to go from “a place for everything and everything in its place” to “ain’t nobody got time for that.” Pajamas are now shoved in with underpants. Shoes are piled in a jumble on the closet floor. Toys lie wherever they were when last used. Why put that shit away when it’s just going to come right back out again?
Cleaning up cat barf. What cat barf? I don’t see any cat barf.
Essentially what I’m saying here is that if you’re a stay-at-home mom, and you’re entertaining thoughts of going back to work while at the same time maintaining an impeccable household, think again. Even if you end up working at home like I do, your threshold for what constitutes good housekeeping is still going to plummet. You just won’t have enough time to juggle everything.
And I’m here to recommend that you just OWN IT. RELISH IT. MAKE IT YOUR OWN.
Yes, your standards of cleanliness may not be what they once were. But you know what? A certain degree of freedom comes along with that. The freedom to slack a bit. The freedom to say “fuck it, the laundry can wait” when you’re feeling tired and meh. The freedom to tell your kids to do the chores, even though you know their idea of cleaning the bathroom is “wiping the toilet seat with a piece of Charmin.”
The next time you find yourself clenching your butthole about the state of your house, relax that ass and release that stress into the universe. Even better, take a turn at contributing to the problem yourself. Clog a toilet and leave it for someone else to deal with. Scrape some jam-covered toast crumbs into the sink, hide the mess with a soggy paper towel, and walk away. Fling your kids’ Legos and Hot Wheels all around the room, then wait for someone else to step on them. It’s an adrenaline rush the likes of which you’ve never experienced.
I have to say, I’m glad I decided to go back to work. Who knew being a slob could be so deliciously liberating? *wipes peanut butter on wall*
An earlier version of this piece was published on BLUNTmoms.
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“Washerwoman”: Gabriël Metsu; PD Art – US; Source: “Catalogue of paintings removed from Poland by the German occupation authorities during the years 1939-1945. 1, Foreign paintings” / comp. Władysław Tomkiewicz ; Ministry of Culture and Art. Warsaw 1950 Editor: Ministry of Culture and Art – Modified