Behind the disheveled curtain

…or that period of time when my house was a holy mess…

Today, I read a post from a dad about how he had blamed his wife for their messy house, then was enlightened.  You see more of these articles lately, menfolk backing up what the stay-at-home mom does.

In a way, it’s sad they have to defend their wives and their less-than-showplace homes.

But sadder still, is reading the comments.  Because it’s not men saying “Ugh, wimmen need to be barefoot making sammiches and mopping floors, no excuses!”  No, it’s women stating how they have 2,3,4 kids under the ages of two and they prioritized their home and housecleaning and there is no excuse for living in FILTH!  That if a 4 year old comments that your house is messy, then it must be a filthy germy biohazard full of feces.

Like I said, sad.

Because once again, women are pitting themselves against other women.  Mothers are trying to one-up other mothers.  “Look, I can do it ALL, you can too!”

But some of us can’t.

We just can’t.

I can’t.

I have never been the neatest of people, I will own that.  I can organize with the best of them, but I also end up with piles of clutter here and there.  Clutter doesn’t equate to filth.  I would just clean around the piles, shift the stacks of paper on my desk, wipe the desk clean, put stacks of paper back more neatly.  As a young mother, I may have had piles of clothing out, but they were the clean clothes that I needed to fold after the toddlers of destruction were not present (why is it so much fun for toddlers to unfold folded clothing).  I was a stay-at-home mom of one, then two, then three.  Sometimes, things would slide, then I would catch up.  But while our house was sometimes a bit of a disaster, it was never filthy.

And then, Maura came along.

This is where someone goes “Oh sure, excuses.”  Well maybe, if you consider post-partum depression, then depression and anxiety, as “excuses”. If you do, well, go along with your clean home and heartless soul, this story is not for you.

But yeah, Maura.  Maura rocked my world.  And I was tired, overwhelmed, trying to parent four little kids, realizing that there was something wrong with my baby girl, and it all got too much.  Everything got to be too much.  Anxiety and depression, they’re a pair of right bitches. Really, it’s amazing how I was able to get up every day, dress kids, get them to places on time, feed them semi-healthy meals while trying not to ruin their childhoods with my struggles.  I put blinders on to my surroundings, put on a happy face for the outside world and went into survival mode.  For like three years.

Do you know what it’s like to come out of survival mode and realize your home is completely disheveled?  That you’re surrounded by chaos, and realizing that anyone who walked in the door would probably judge you as a horrible mother?  Forget that I was taking my child to doctors and therapists while trying not to fail the older three kids, and somehow they were all happy and decently adjusted – no, that wouldn’t have played into the situation.  I should have rallied the children, made cleaning fun, and teach them responsibility!  – or so the comments sections of other posts would tell me.

Other mothers have children with special needs and clean homes!

No excuses!

You can do it!

But I wasn’t them.  I was me.  I was me, and overwhelmed and not sure where to start digging myself out of the hole I was in, and still having to take care of four kids, feed them, nurture them, while trying to make the little girl with issues thrive and achieve. It was easier to ignore the mess, ignore the piles, ignore the clutter.  And the more I ignored, the worse it got.  My house was a reflection of the struggle I was going through – but no one outside of my very inner circle could have realized that.  To others, it would have just been a messy house.

This went on for about three years.  Three years of feeling horrible on the inside while coming to terms with our new realities.  Three years of coming to acceptance with Maura’s issues, and growing in other ways.

I did manage to finally climb my way out of the hole, with a lot of help from my husband (who has always proved to be amazing), and some help from a therapist and a bottle of Prozac.  I decluttered, and organized, and moved overseas, and moved back.  I went from having too much stuff to realizing I may have decluttered a little too much in some areas and had to go buy new curtains because I donated all the ones we weren’t using.  I am still going through, making donate piles, organizing life.

My house is still not picture perfect.  It never will be.  I live with Maura, and she needs constant supervision or else we walk into things her trying to cut the watermelon with a giant knife, or bathroom flooding.  And to be honest, if I spend all my time cleaning, and trying to keep things perfect, then that’s all I will ever be able to do.  And I will get very grumpy.  I don’t want my life’s achievement to be the cleanest house on the block.  I just want a happy family and happy life.

So if you stop by and my house is looking more than a little lived in, it’s not because I don’t care.  It’s because every day is its own challenge.  Every day I get up and fight inner demons of depression, anxiety, and general overwhelmedness, and keep moving forward.  I do the best that I can – not the best that you can, not the best that she can – just the best that I can.

The point of the story?  That sometimes, probably more than we realize, the state of a mother’s house is a reflection of her inner state.  Don’t judge a mother by her clutter.