My house is a mess. I know, without a doubt, that I could walk into any given room and spend at least a half hour tidying up. My kitchen sink is overflowing and I’m pretty sure there are clothes I forgot I owned at the bottom of my laundry pile.
How I long to walk into a room with everything in its place, with clothes in drawers and crumbs off the floors, dishes neatly tucked away in the cabinets instead of piled in the sink. I really do wish I had a clean home.
Here’s the rub: life is a balancing act, and you have to learn to let things go. Oh no, not that again! I’m sure you’ve heard it so many times from well-meaning friends and family that you are sick to death of that particular piece of sanguine advice. But hearing it and knowing what it means are two different things.
Here I am, typing to you instead of going to tackle that pile of dishes or scrubbing down my toilets. Instead of addressing those things, I’m choosing to be here creating with you. Why, you may wonder, don’t I want a clean home? I do — but I just can’t have a clean home and create.
It comes down to needs versus wants. I can’t fill this void inside of myself that longs to create and to connect, while also having a tidy space. There just isn’t enough time in the day for those two things to align while caring for three young children.
As parents, our days are consumed with caring for others, and we’re left with little slivers of time to care for ourselves. Taking on the great needs of our tiny growing humans is a big responsibility, and there are so many times when we don’t manage to get any of our own needs met. Days when our kids are sick and just want to snuggle, or when they want some special mom time. I know I’ve put aside my laptop many times when my 7-year old has wandered into the room with a question in his eyes: “Can we play hide-and-seek?”
On those days, I have to swallow my own needs, push them deep down with a whispered promise that I will get to them soon. It doesn’t matter whether I need to clean or create, my child’s needs trump my own. They come first and they depend on us. For 95% of the time, it’s all about them.
What we choose to do with the other 5% is critical. That’s the time meant for us to fill our cups so that we can have something to give to our families. So, what will we do with that time: clean or create? This varies, and that’s the balancing part.
On some days, I need to have a clean home. I crave that sense of control that comes from a more organized and usable space. Those are the days my house looks pretty good, for a while. Then there are the days when I choose to create. When I let things go. Where I decide that having a pristinely clean home isn’t as important as having a mother who is fulfilling her role as a creator and is all the saner for it.
Sometimes, I need to create to be my best self for them. There is a burning desire that lives in my chest, needling me all day long. A desire to create and touch people with my words; words that play over and over in my mind until I feel like I’m going to explode. Those are the days where I MUST choose creating over cleaning, making a conscious effort not to look too closely at my countertops. That’s a hard thing to do. I so badly want to have a clean home. The thing is, that’s a want, not a need.
Life is a balancing act. Let things go. Those words feel preachy, but, viewed in another light, they are empowering.
My kids don’t need a pristinely clean home, they need a mother whose needs are being met. A mother who is able to laugh and play with them without that burning frustration living in her chest.
My house is a mess, but I created today. I created, because that’s what I needed.
What do you need today?
About the Writer: Hailing from the magnificent suburbs of Mississauga Ontario (Canada), Miriam Benarroch-Altman is a mother of three who regularly ponders the complexity of the human condition. A storyteller who craves connection, Miriam uses both images and words to draw readers into the labyrinth of her mind.