Priorities vs Balance

My house is a disaster.

I realize that most women don’t admit in polite company that their homes are more often than not an accident scene.  And it’s even less common for a mom, a STAY AT HOME MOM no less, to admit that she sucks at housework.  But I dance to my own beat and not very many of you have identified yourselves as (exclusively) polite company, so I feel like we can chat about it anyway.

Because here I am, almost five years into this stay at home mom gig, still sucking at housework.  And if I’m honest about it, this is the culmination of 37 years of suckage at the housework game.

Some background.  I didn’t grow up in a spotless home.  Of course, I didn’t even realize this until I started spending time in some of my friends’ houses.  Keeping house just wasn’t prioritized as much as things like play, toting kids to dance classes, homework help, cooking and baking from scratch, volunteering in the community, self care, etc.

The laundry mountain was intimidating.

There were no rooms that were off limits because of fears of disturbing vacuum tracks.

There were no rules about the kitchen being spotless after every dinner.

Our household just didn’t run that way.

There was also very little anger directed at me and my brother about the house keeping.  Rage cleaning wasn’t a thing in my home like it was in so many of my friends’ homes.

There were times the house was cleaner and times when it wasn’t.  We didn’t have insect or mice infestations or filth growing filth in any rooms, but I learned from an early age that as an adult I would be responsible for prioritizing my own time, and that opting out of making my first priority the housework was an option.

I also wasn’t shown an example of a partnership when it came to tackling the cleaning and maintenance of a home, it was women’s work and a huge source of frustration for my mom that she was the only one tasked with it.  I could feel the heaviness of the responsibility and expectations from a young age.

Like most women, becoming a wife and a mother myself facilitated a lot of shifts in my own perspectives.  And surprisingly and serendipitously, creating and writing my own work and nourishing and moving my body became lifelines to my sanity.  In my fairly long list of daily priorities, “keeping a spotless house” is lower on my list than spending time teaching and connecting with my kids, nurturing my relationship with my husband, working toward getting stronger in my gym and kitchen, supporting my clients, and spewing my thoughts on a keyboard whenever possible.

It’s on there, for sure, but lower, for sure.

And the idea that I will ever be able to balance it all: have well adjusted, smart and kind kids, a healthy, banging body, a husband who’s crazy about me and wants to bang said body all the time, the time and space to work and create, AND a spotless house is quite literally crazy making.  But 4 out of 5 ain’t bad, and easing up on my expectations on this one thing goes a LONG way to making everything else seem manageable.

When I’m out and about in the real world, which doesn’t happen often but does occasionally, I am sometimes asked how I manage to do it all.  I usually assume this means “wife stuff”, “mom stuff”, “workout stuff” and “entrepreneur/internet personality/writer stuff”.  This question is usually met with a head thrown back, throaty laugh and the admission that “oh wow, I DON’T!”

Because I’ve learned in my own journey as a wife and a mother that it is not possible, for me, to do it all without wanting to jump off a bridge somewhere along the way.

Something always suffers when I try to balance it all, and that something is more often than not ME.  As someone prone to depression I’ve found a lot of peace in stopping the quest for balance and perfection and viewing things through the lens of “important to me” instead.

I don’t want my kids to look back and think “wow, we lived in a pig sty!”, but I don’t want them to look back and think “wow, I spent a lot of time on my own watching my mom rage clean” or “wow, my mom really seemed to resent some of the things she did to make our house run smoothly”, either.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I love having a clean home.  And there are certain things that are important to me when it comes to keeping house.  Me, my kids, and my husband require clean socks, underwear, sheets and towels at all times. The dishwasher needs to be unloaded and loaded at least once every day.  The bathrooms need to be cleaned weekly.  The floors vacuumed and cleaned at least once every week or two.  I would say I spend an average of an hour or two daily tidying or cleaning.  But the idea of waking up early or sacrificing my time with my husband at the end of the day when the kids are in bed to tidy up things they’ll just pull out again tomorrow?  I don’t love it that much.

All this being said, I do typically “force” a thorough, tip to tail clean of our house at least once a month by inviting a new person over for a visit or playdate or dinner, what have you.  But even when I spend upwards of 10+ hours cleaning everything, I inevitably feel like more could have been done.  It is quite literally a never ending job.  I have a 3 year old and a 4 year old, who sometimes just follow me around and mess things up as I clean them!  Other than installing a velcro wall and crafting some velcro suits for them I don’t really see a workable solution to this other than acceptance. And all new friends get a warning: my house may never look like this again when you come by.  Take me or leave me.

I’ve got a lot of qualities to offer this world, being a great housekeeper is not one of them.  I’m pretty ok with it after all is said and done.  I’m sure my priorities will continue to shift as the days go on.

Do you find yourself continually questing for balance?  Do you wonder what is wrong with you that you just can’t seem to get it together?  Stop doing that.  Start prioritizing work and things that are important to you instead.  You can always go back to the balance quest if it doesn’t work.  Balance will always be there and I assume we’ll always be told we should be striving for it.  I challenge that with the idea that we should instead strive for prioritizing things that are important to US instead.  Do you find this a helpful perspective?  Do you think it’s a copout or bulls*t?  Hit reply and we’ll chat about it!

Thanks for reading.  I know this is a long one and I appreciate you still being here!

xo,

Amber

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4 Comments

  • Theresa (Teri)

    Reply Reply January 15, 2016

    Hello Lovely,

    I have a magnet on my fridge that says, “My home is clean enough to be healthy and messy enough to be happy.” My mom had the cleanest house at all times, even as a single mother with 4 kids. We could eat off of her floors if we wanted. My dad takes after the magnet I have on my fridge, but he wasn’t in charge of any of the housecleaning. That was his wife’s job. None of his subsequent wives could keep a house as beautiful as my mom. I love a clean house, but I take after my Dad and that magnet explains me spot (and sometimes spotless) on!

    Smooches!

    • Amber

      Reply Reply January 15, 2016

      ❤️

  • Wendy

    Reply Reply January 15, 2016

    This post made me laugh out loud, think about my own priorities, and feel like jumping up and saying YES!!!! I love this post and your honesty in here. I agree, housework is a much lower priority than the other things we choose to prioritize as moms and wives. I love love love love this post!!!

    • Amber

      Reply Reply January 15, 2016

      YES! Thanks Wendy! <3

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