Over the weekend – I posted this picture of my messy living room on my Photography by Brea Facebook page with the following post attached to it: “My clients know that the first rule of my in-home newborn sessions is this: No apologizing for a dirty house. I AM here to document the fact that your family has grown. I am NOT here to judge your cleaning abilities. I wouldn’t want you to judge mine…. Here’s to a “lived in” home.”
In less than 24 hours it has become one of my top three most viewed posts (crazy right?). It spurred comments where I could almost hear the sigh of relief as they were being written… as if people had this sudden realization that they aren’t the only one who deals with a mess in their house. And as these likes and comments have been coming in … I’ve been commenting to my husband about how interesting it is that a picture of a cluttered room could cause such a response with my followers (many of which are Moms). It’s got me thinking about a bunch of things… and when that happens… a blog usually follows. So here it is.
Before I start… let me be the first to say this: I am not knocking anyone who keeps a tidy house. I believe that less clutter and clean space really does affect your mood/psyche as it opens up space for you to really “live” and relax… and not feel like you’re constantly having to navigate through all of these obstacles in your house. I am personally just someone who has always struggled with maintaining that kind of space. I’ve beat myself up over it for a long time …. and I am guilty as anyone of pulling the old “shove a bunch of stuff in the laundry room and shut the door” before someone comes over to my house. Then once that’s done, I pull out the old 409 and start going to town on the macaroni and cheese stain on my stove that’s been there for two days. (some of you are smiling and nodding your heads right now, I see you!)
Whyyyyy do I do this to myself???
Well, I’ve never asked myself that question… but now that I have, I guess my answer would be: “I don’t want people to think that I have a messy house.”
Which kind of spurs another question:
“Why do I care if people think I have a messy house?”
… and my answer to that would be, “because people will think that I’m lazy and that I don’t have everything together.”
Let’s cut to the chase on that answer. How RIDICULOUS does that sound? It’s ridiculous that I think it – and it’s ridiculous that half of you reading this probably would answer the same exact way. Because the reality is – that person that you are worried about judging you, is probably someone who worries about you judging THEM when you come to THEIR house. So why are we doing this to ourselves and to each other?
I’m going to go ahead and call this “The Messy House Effect” – it’s similar to the Facebook effect where we, as Moms, are constantly exposed to what other Moms are doing and begin to define our own selves based on what we see. We see posts of creative birthday parties with creative favors and over-the-top decorations… and we start beating ourselves up over our own “I just ordered pizza and some balloons” birthday party that we threw for our child the week prior. We see Moms posting pictures of the festivals and gym days they attend with their kids … and we start beating ourselves up over the fact that our toddler has been on the iPad for the last hour so that we could get some laundry folded. The thing is… as you compare yourselves to those Moms, there is probably something wonderful about you or some gift you have which THAT MOM is comparing herself to.
Then comes this messy house thing … the response to this picture of mine just shows that this is yet another point of contention that we as Moms use to compare ourselves to each other, and to gauge our own selves on how “good” of a Mom/housekeeper/wife/etc that we are. (Seriously, guys. I hope you’re feeling as crazy reading that as I do writing it)
Listen. I’m not advocating a movement to never clean our houses again. Putting dishes away and re-organizing the living room at the end of the day is not a bad thing. The bad thing is when you start to think about your friend’s house that is ALWAYS put together and start to “wish” that you could be that way (<– I do this one). The bad thing is when you are exhausted at the end of the day and just want to sleep, you see the messy house as you go up the stairs – and start to beat yourself up that you didn’t clean it and maybe choose to not sleep (and take care of yourself) and instead clean that oh-so-important mess! (<–me all of the time). The bad thing is when you realize that you’ve spent more time trying to keep your house clean, then diving on your stomach on the living room floor in the middle of all of it and playing in that mess with your kids or (God forbid!) going and doing something for ourselves… even if it’s just going out on the porch to read a book.
So bottom line… can we just stop it guys? Can we just stop believing that a messy house defines us? Can we stop scurrying around to clean when a friend comes over, and instead leave the mess so that she doesn’t have to worry about cleaning HER house when you stop by? Can we stop trying to keep up with Momma Jones? If Momma Jones has a beautiful, well-kept, not-a-dust-bunny-to-be-seen house…. who cares? You know what we SHOULD start caring about?… the way that we are treating ourselves. The way that we are letting what we “think” other people think about us start to define us. The way that we are beating ourselves up over what we are not …instead of celebrating the things we ARE.
You ready for this? Go back up and look at that picture of my “Tornado Toddler”-hit living room again. If you look real close… right there smack in the middle underneath his play mat is my little dude, Carter. What’s interesting? Not one person who looked at that image commented that they saw him there. Everyone saw “the mess” …. probably because that’s what we all focus on when we look at our own spaces. We see the clutter. We see what we “didn’t” get done that day. We see another item stacked up on our to-do list. We “feel” the judgement of other people.
But … if we choose to ignore the clutter (both the physical stuff and the mental stuff)… we just might be able to focus in on the things that are truly important instead…