Monday, June 4, 2012

When to Quit Shoveling

“Cleaning your house while your kids are still growing is like shoveling the sidewalk before it stops snowing.” – Phyllis Diller
Messy house, happy kids.

Since having my children, keeping my apartment clean has come to feel like an experiment in self defeat. A futile task that's never really finished. It's not that I don't try. On the contrary, I can confidently say that it is all I do. Or at least it feels that way. In the Special Skills section of my Mommy resume, I could easily add, without embellishment, "Devoted dishwasher who only tears herself away to fold laundry or wipe a dirty tushie" (both of which are in endless supply). It's no wonder I've commissioned my two-year-old to start pulling her weight around here. Though, this request often gets lost in translation somehow.

Me: "Lina, time to clean up. Say goodnight to your princess dolls."
Toddler (with newfound interest): "Hi, Belle. Hello, Rapunzel. I'm Angelina, let's have a tea party!"

Then the tea set I just cleared from the rug is brought back out with fiery enthusiasm, as if the Queen of England is dropping by for a cup of chamomile.

In truth, it would serve me best to simply wait until the kids are in bed before cleaning up the heaps of toys and discarded juice boxes that litter my living room. But despite my best intentions, something always seems to come up at the last minute, knocking my nighttime cleaning goals down to the bottom of my priority list (i.e. a new episode of The Real Housewives of New Jersey).

Since bringing my kids into my home, I've learned to master the art of tidying up, as opposed to thoroughly cleaning. In other words, I make it a point to regularly run the dishwasher and scrub the toilet seat of excess urine. But that's really it. As for the books, and dolls, and laundry piles, and the stack of mail on the kitchen table that I never seem to get to the bottom of - it can all wait. Unless the Queen really is popping over, I simply can't be bothered with it all. This is a newfound attitude I've only recently adopted after Lina demanded that I please stop cleaning so I could have a dance party with her instead. So I did, putting the Clorox away and trading the toilet brush for a toy microphone.

One of the most lasting lessons I've learned since doing the whole mommy thing is that your best memories rarely lie in the big moments alone. For us, it's been the small, unexpected moments that have pieced themselves together to hold my happiest memories - like putting the cleaning on hold for an impromptu dance party, or flaking out on Gymboree class to spend a rainy morning cuddled in bed with my family. These are the moments that matter, the moments that shape my relationship with my daughters and husband. What a shame it would be to have missed them, to have let them slip away in between scrubbing the bathtub and taking out the garbage.

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