Can we just talk for a second? Seriously, right this moment, I am sitting on the floor of my living room writing as FIVE WOMEN rush around cleaning every inch of my house. I do not know what I should be doing. I can’t do the things I normally do at this time of the day while they are here… like take a nap… so let’s chat.
My whole life, I never thought I would be a stay-at-home-mom…homemaker… household manager… domestic engineer… or whatever the politically-correct-non-offensive term it is that we are calling ourselves these days. I have always had a job… like a W-2 job… Come on, guys, don’t make me overly explain myself. I know being home with the kids IS a job, I just didn’t ever think it would be MY job.
I wasn’t home full-time until a few months after our 2nd daughter was born. That was just about two years ago now. You know what I’ve figured out? I’ve never been trained for this.
I’ve been trained in how to open a bottle of wine with a wine key without setting the bottle on the table in front of the guests. I’ve been trained in sales. I’ve been trained to process bail bonds. I’ve been trained in international shipping procedures. I’ve been trained to setup and tear down a trade show booth. I’ve been trained on the proper way to explain informed consent for a government research project. In all of those instances, I was able to shadow someone else, ask questions, and be monitored and evaluated until I felt comfortable and confident to do things on my own. Some of those things took longer for me than others, but eventually I was off and running independantly.
This homemaker stuff, however, I sort of just landed in without any training at all. I feel like I am constantly faking my way through cooking and house cleaning … uh… remember how Tony makes dinner every night? I think he figured out I was faking it… I feel like people will come into my home and look around and say to themselves, “Poor thing, she must be so overwhelmed with three kids” even AFTER I’ve done my best to “clean up.” Fortunately, it’s usually just my friends that come over, so I don’t stress about it that much. But last week I noticed something on our calendar that has had me STRESSED!!!
Back before we had our third little baby, when I was still pregnant, a group of Tony’s guy friends pitched in to purchase us a maid service for a day as a gift to welcome our new little one. Amazing, right? Little Alice is now five months old… which is not a reflection of them holding out on us, but instead a reflection of me not being able to figure out how/when would be a good time to have our house cleaned. Tony finally just took it upon himself, got it scheduled, and put it on the calendar.
They’ve already been here over an hour and I feel so awkward! I’d leave, but the girls are taking their afternoon nap, and I don’t think childcare is a part of their services. Sitting in the middle of this is making me CRAZY!
I got up early to clean before they were to get here at 1pm. I know that sounds ridiculous, but when I was a nanny, the family had housecleaners and I remember them being very specific that they weren’t going to “pick up,” they were just going to clean around anything that was left out. I figured if these women were coming to my house to clean, I’d better get everything I possibly could out of their way so they could do it. I’m telling you, I’ve never been more motivated to clean my house than finding out other people were going to come clean my house.
Have you ever watched professionals clean your house before? It’s fascinating… and intimidating. I am watching and thinking, Crap, it never even occurred to me to wash the molding up at the top of the walls. Um, is she cleaning the door hinges on the bedroom doors? At one point I even texted Tony and said, “Babe, one of the ladies is cleaning out our refrigerator. Is that normal?” Listen, I’ve never felt more like a spoiled white lady than I do right now.
My only saving grace is that I grew up speaking spanish, so I’ve been able to ask a few questions like, “What do you want ME to do? Please, will you tell me if I am in your way?” Lupe, the first woman who introduced herself to me just keeps smiling and giggling at me while she works her tail off. She is excessively gracious, and I’m sure it’s clear to her that I am a pitiful excuse for a house wife. How have I gotten away with being such an imposter for so long?
I feel the same way when it comes to being a mom. I mean, I read books and blogs and try my best, but I just know that when the UPS guy comes to my front door and sees through the window that my kids are watching cartoons, he’s thinking to himself… “Ah those poor girls. Hasn’t their mother seen any of the amazing Pinterest crafts they could be doing right now?” Listen, dude, I’ve seen them. They’re cute. But I’ve got dishes and laundry to do so I’m not trying to make even more work for myself by preparing – and let’s be honest – executing one of these crafts myself. So I can what? Have another art project that I feel guilty for throwing away?
And why, you ask, am I worried about the UPS guy judging me? Because I am judging myself, obviously. … Hold up, this incredible woman is cleaning my baseboards with a TOOTHBRUSH!!! I might sneak a picture… Anyway, there’s this role I have, but there was no undergraduate program to prepare me for it. There’s this stuff I’m supposed to do but no clear sense of whether or not I’m doing it correctly. It’s supposed to feel natural, but I constantly feel so dang clumsy. The UPS guy should judge me because he is a trained pro at what he’s doing, and I am clearly an amateur.
It’s the way I felt as I gave birth for the first time. Everything was supposed to happen, and I figured I would understand my part in it once I got started, but I laid in that hospital bed feeling so inadequate. With every push my husband and the nurse said to me, “You’re doing great! She’s almost here.” And with every subsequent push I thought, “You guys are full of it. I have no idea what I’m doing and you keep saying she’s almost here, but she is NOT here!” I felt silly and inadequate and like there must be a right way to do this, and I so wished I knew what that was.
Claire, our first born, did eventually arrive. The nurses and doctor were worried about her, so they examined her for about 35 minutes before I was allowed to hold her. WORST 35 MINUTES OF MY LIFE! You know that dream where you are screaming for help and people are standing right next to you, but nobody can hear you? That’s how I felt during those 35 minutes. When I finally held her in my arms, I cried and cried and just kept telling my sweet little baby I was so sorry. I felt sorry that I’d caused her any pain. I felt sorry that I didn’t know the right way to give birth. I was thrilled to meet her and astonished by her wonderously large brown eyes, but I felt sorry that I was already a pretty crappy mom.
From the first moment I became a mom, motherhood for me has been equal parts JOY and GUILT. Joy, as I say to myself, “I can’t believe I get to care for these incredible little people!” Guilt, as I realize, “I am totally going to screw up these incredible little people.” Motherhood is the most wonderfully vulnerable place I’ve ever been. It’s really not a role I ever aspired to fill- otherwise I might have actually tried to get some training. It is a task I am learning and re-learning and un-learning and trying every day to get better at. I’m trying to figure out what my kids need because I so desperately want to provide it for them. I want them to grow up to know they are valued and cherished, that they are strong and brave, that they are hilarious and sweet, that they are creative and unique.
For now, rather than beating myself up for not being a “professional” mother, I’m going to allow the professionals to clean my house this one time and just enjoy it. I’m going to be grateful for the men who wanted to give us this gift. I’m going to thank my husband for scheduling it.
By the way, there are no professional mothers. If you think that having three kids makes me better at being a mom than having one or two, you are mistaken. I certainly feel even more like an amateur now that I have three than I did when I had one. If anyone is telling you they’ve got this motherhood thing down, they are a mean liar and you should not be friends with them. Each of us will do our very best to care for our littles the only way we know how. My baseboards may never see another toothbrush again, but my girls will have my whole heart and occasionally clean sheets while I stumble along to figure it out.
From my spotlessly clean kitchen, I’m raising my glass to you this weekend. Cheers to all of my fellow amateurs. Cheers to all of the moms and step-moms, grandmas, aunts, and sisters! Cheers to all of the women loving and giving everything you’ve got. Let’s remind each other that, untrained as we may be, what we give is enough.
You are reading QUICK! Clean Up Like the House Cleaners are Coming!, a #staymarried blog. If you liked this post, you may also like to read How to Be a Great Dad and Holding Hands: A Simple Act with Profound Impact. If you think these could encourage a friend, please consider sharing. You can also feel free to pin the images above if you like.
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