Sometimes, I look around at my life. My house, my kids, my husband. My face. I look at all of these things and I think ‘Good God. We all look like straight-up garbage. Is this okay? Can I call myself an actual mother or even a real adult if everything around me is in such disarray?’
I don’t want to mislead you here, it’s not like things are horrifically bad. We wouldn’t be eligible for one of those depressing TLC shows like ‘Hoaders’ or ‘My Junk Room Ate My Baby.’ Everything is just… scruffy. Used. Unkempt. Not NICE.
The house is always some combination of dirty, dusty, sandy or sticky. The couch is only three years old but looks like it’s lived a thousand lifetimes and somehow exudes depression. I guess if I’d been peed on by four out of six members of a household, I’d exude depression too. The beautiful hardwood floors that I was so excited about when we moved in are now etched with tiny white scratches because my kids think it’s super exciting to balance their tiny bums on trucks not meant for riding and scream-chase after each other for an hour. During the spring and summer, when the boys are constantly in and out between the kitchen and the backyard, I just give up on cleaning until it rains, or else I’d drive myself insane with the utter pointlessness of my broom.
No matter what I try to do with my boys’ hair, they always look like they’ve miraculously survived being electrocuted and I’m lucky if I can hold them still long enough to push a washcloth in the general direction of their faces. This morning as my four year old and I were walking into his Pre-K classroom, I realized, unbeknownst to me, he has spilled a glob of yogurt on his black Darth Vadar shirt and now had a huge, crusty white spot on his sleeve.
That story pretty much tells you everything you need to know about the state of my children at any given time.
My husband works from home, wears pajamas all day and has a beard that I now forget why I made him grow. Sometimes when I see him walking down the stairs during the day, I feel startled and a little nervous. Not because the flame in our marriage is still alive, but because I’m afraid a vagrant has somehow broken into my house and might murder me. Then I realize it’s just my husband and go back to ignoring him.
And I, sadly, am probably the scruffiest of us all.
Five plus years of pregnancies and breastfeeding has made my actual clothing size an elusive mystery, so I just kind of make do with what I already have. Some are too big, some too small, but all are at least three years old and all make me want to set fire to my closet whenever I go in there. My hair, which started going grey at 26 after my first child, never gets dyed, only gets trimmed three times a year and stays permanently pulled back in a bun that’s always in the process of falling down. My clothes and hair say twelve-year-old-who-hasn’t-quite-figured-out-life-yet, but my face says exhausted-30-year-old-lady-who-hasn’t-worn-makeup-in-six (okay, nine)-months.
I’m like Benjamin Button with a much less interesting life.
There are days in which I really absorb all of these things and immediately plunge head first into a deep shame spiral. What must people think of us? My house SHOULD look more like the fancy after versions of a Property Brothers house rather than the dilapidated befores. I SHOULD spend more money on clothes and force myself to wake up earlier so I can be one of those moms sporting nice boots and shiny blown-out hair, rather than yoga pants and a shirt I’ve owned since 2005. My kids SHOULD wear something other than $3 t-shirts from Old Navy and my husband should probably just do the exact opposite of everything he’s doing right now.
When I’m just on the verge of tears, when I’ve basically decided to set fire to my house and fake our deaths and re-emerge somewhere like Arizona as a nice, clean, put-together family, I stop. I breathe. And I ask myself what I always ask whenever I’m feeling anxious about something: ‘Does this really bother you or do you think it’s supposed to bother you? All things being equal, if you didn’t worry about what other people thought about any of this, would it still keep you up at night?’
And the answer is, honestly, no.
I DO wish things could be a bit nicer, that I could have a beautiful house and good hair, but I also know I don’t have the time or energy to devote to making that a reality right now. In three years we’ve moved overseas, replaced 98% of our belongings, bought our first house and given birth to our second and third children. Right now our lives are just about playing catch-up. Right now, as long as everyone in my house is healthy and safe and goes to bed without screaming too much, then it doesn’t matter how terrible we all look. We’re just surviving and doing what we can and that’s okay.