The towel rack is on the bathroom floor. It’s a scene of cotton-based carnage.
When I walked into the bathroom tonight and saw the crumpled pile of bath towels I wanted to cry. (Yes, there are more important things to cry about! But tonight, the towel rack hit my radar screen in a more powerful way than human trafficking, extreme poverty, or starvation.)
I’ve mentioned before that housework is not my forte. Proof? Before marriage or having children, I paid other people to do my laundry! (After having children I knew those dollars were better spent elsewhere on things like date nights, fruit snacks, and diapers.)
I hate sorting socks! There is a layer of dust on the television that, if left unchecked, will turn into a fossilized fuel at some point in the near future. We’ve had the windows open for most of the summer to catch the breeze – we’ve also caught the fine dust of the dirt lurking outside our doors.
The kitchen sink? Sometimes it’s spotlessly clean! (For 23.8 minutes.) But earlier this week I found those tiny fruit flies floating in a lacy swarm above the sink. I don’t know how to remove them, and I suspect they’re feasting on any uncleaned drip around the sink or countertop.
It makes my skin crawl.
So, seeing that towel rack on the floor… I wanted to give up! Throw in the towel. Quit. It was just one more mess to be cleaned up, like the extra loads of laundry after the squirt gun war or the beads scattered across the living room after a strong pull from Tres popped the necklace string.
The broken towel rack became the perfect illustration of my desire for perfection actively at war with the reality of living.
I want a house that looks like a photo from a home and garden magazine. That is simply, blatantly not the case.
I want my cooking to be appreciated and adored… and at least one of my children refuses to eat at each meal because it’s not yummy.
I want pristine sofas that invite you to snuggle down with a good book. But the reality? Our microfiber is in desperate need of cleaning.
I can choose to look at this season of housework and child-rearing and imperfection and become hopeless. OR… I can choose to recognize this time of constant cleaning and chaos… it won’t last forever.
And it’s OK if the floors need to be vacuumed. For three weeks. Or the dogs need to get haircuts and look like small versions of the Muppet’s Animal.
The world won’t stop spinning if the towel rack is on the floor. This event does not make or break the success or impact of my life.
However, my reaction to the chaos, the decision to let perfection rule over the importance of the people in our house? That does make or break the success and impact of my life.
Mother, oh Mother, come shake out your cloth, empty the dustpan, poison the moth, hang out the washing and butter the bread, sew on a button and make up a bed. Where is the mother whose house is so shocking? She’s up in the nursery, blissfully rocking.
Oh, I’ve grown shiftless as Little Boy Blue (lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo). Dishes are waiting and bills are past due (pat-a-cake, darling, and peek, peekaboo). The shopping’s not done and there’s nothing for stew and out in the yard there’s a hullabaloo but I’m playing Kanga and this is my Roo. Look! Aren’t her eyes the most wonderful hue? (lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo).
The cleaning and scrubbing will wait till tomorrow, for children grow up, as I’ve learned to my sorrow. So quiet down, cobwebs. Dust go to sleep. I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep.
by Ruth Hulburt Hamilton
Have you ever hit a point where your house is as clean as you wish it could be?