I used to be a neat-freak.
Really. Ask my former housemates. In college, I’d dedicate one day a week to cleaning every surface of our living space. I even used to clean around the kitchen sink with a toothbrush. No, I’m not kidding.
Which is why, when one of my best friends (and one of those former housemates who you can verify my neat-freakness) came to dinner with her family soon after I had my third child, she came back to the table after a brief trip to the bathroom and said, with just a hint of suppressed amusement, “Um, Jill, I know I can say this to you because I’m your best friend and you won’t be offended. But, um, there are dust bunnies in your bathtub.”
And she was right. About the dust bunnies in my bathtub. And she was right. That I wasn’t offended. But not because this critique of my cleaning skills was coming from a dear friend who I knew was just giving me a hard time, and loved me regardless of my dust bunny collection. But because I’d long stopped caring. At least, caring about a bathtub that no one has used since we added a second floor to our house (with two new bathtubs for me to clean – what was I thinking??), and has a pretty shower curtain that does a fairly decent job of keeping the dust bunnies hidden from my sight. And for the record: the rest of the bathroom was clean.
I do clean. I dedicate Tuesday mornings to cleaning, as a matter of fact. But what I can fit into four or five hours of cleaning is all I can commit to these days; there are just too many other priorities. And once Baby #3 came along? Well, something – or (can you hear me snort?) let’s be honest, quite a few somethings – had to fall off the list.
Put it this way: when a neighbor of mine – another very good friend, which is why I didn’t even think about breaking all the bones in her fingers – was over last summer before she left for two years to China, she said good-bye by drawing smiley faces in the dust on all my shelves: just a little reminder of her quirky sense of humor that I would soon miss. She also observed (with a wink), “Uh, Jill, I couldn’t do this before you had Broder!” Clearly, dusting was what had fallen off the list. Among a bazillion other little things. Please observe, for your amusement:
Yes, that’s right. That’s a SLED on the front porch. Actually two sleds, one stacked on top of the other. Two sleds left on the porch after some rollicking fun in the snow… wait for it… more than 6 weeks ago. Sleds right next to some lovely, BLOOMING flowers. In bloom because… it’s not snowing any more. And hasn’t snowed for… that’s right, more than 6 weeks. The best part? I seriously doubt that I’ll actually get around to putting those sleds away for another 6 weeks. Minimum.
Because, if you want the truth (and why wouldn’t you??), I have other priorities.
I was only reminded of this, however, when yet another dear friend, who just had her third child a month ago and is also in the middle of moving to a new house (!!!), texted me wondering how I do it all. Bahahahaha! This is how the conversation started:
But as we continued to chat about how hard it is get it all done and still be a good mama, I kept returning to those three priorities…
And then it hit me.
It turns out, I am NOT lazy, like I had assumed. It turns out, I have NOT lowered my standards, cleaning or otherwise, even if I don’t still clean the kitchen faucet with a toothbrush.
It turns out, I’m pleased to say, that my priorities really are still firmly in tact: 1) get dressed, 2) do laundry, 3) feed the kids. As much as I wish that my house was dust-free, or that my kitchen was sparkly clean, or that the sleds were safely stowed away in the garage now that Spring is knocking on my door, I simply don’t have the time I had back in college, or even when I was working full time at an office downtown before I had children. I have three little precious beings who need a healthy meal or three or seven (even if they DO prefer goldfish crackers to my homemade chickpea and artichoke heart stew – which is, I have to say, very tasty), who need clean clothes (even if my 9yo DOES prefer to wear dirty jeans with grass and paint stains), and who need me to play games with them and take them to the park on a regular basis (for which, who knew?, I need to be dressed – hence, Priority #1). My kids, and taking care of them, trump dusting every time.
Funny enough, I currently don’t have any dust bunnies in my bathtub – of all things, one of the cats has been getting sick in there, so it’s actually been cleaned recently. Crazy, I know! But I have no doubt that those dust bunnies will soon be back. The dust bunnies in the upstairs hallway, though? They’re more like dust yetis, they’re so abominable.
But that’s okay. The dusting can wait.
Right now, I think I’ll go challenge my kids to a game of Sorry.