My house is often a mess. It's not a horrible, cataclysmic, unhygienic mess (often), but it is rarely as clean as I would like. There are usually dishes in the sink, or in one of the dishpans. There are usually toys on the floor. There is almost always a backlog of laundry, to be washed or to be folded and put away. There's usually something on the floor and/or the counters that I should have wiped up hours ago.
I feel bad about this. I like my house to be clean. It makes me feel more in control, and I think it's just a better way to live one's life. And just having kids is no excuse for the mess--I know people with many more kids than I have who manage to keep their houses pretty much spotless, pretty much all of the time, without full-time cleaning help or even husbands who are around much. I won't lie. Sometimes it makes me feel a little bit, um, inadequate in the housekeeping department (and really, more reasons to feel inadequate are just what I need, aren't they?)
Last night, I went with a friend to help set up for another friend's new baby's bris. This friend lives across the street from me, was Barak's morah last year, and is one of my closest friends in town. She made the shalom zachor for Iyyar, takes me along on Trader Joe's runs, and was the one I called when we had water pouring out of our light fixtures and needed somewhere else to spend the night. She has twice as many kids as I do, who are always clean and usually pretty delightful, and not only is her house impeccably tidy and organized, but she cooks genuine meals with more than one dish out of healthful food every night. She has a job, not quite as many hours as I work, but still.
I was telling her that Iyyar had stopped nursing, and she was commiserating. "I can't wait to start nursing again," she said. (She's expecting a new baby IY"H in a couple of weeks.) "It makes me pay attention to them. If I did formula, I'd never pay attention to my kids."
I said something about not paying as much attention to my kids as I wish I did. She was driving, but looked at me sideways like I was crazy. "You pay so much attention to your kids!" she said. "You pay much more attention than I do. You talk to them all the time. I'm always running around doing things. As soon as they're self-sufficient, they just go off and do their own thing, and I'm off doing whatever. I never pay attention to my kids."
This last, by the way, is totally untrue; I'm just relaying the conversation. "Well, then that's why my house is always a disaster!" I said. "I'm too busy paying attention to my kids!"
"Well, which is more important, your kids or your house?!"
True enough. It's not a license to let everything fall apart, because when it does I'm miserable; but I have to admit it did make me feel better about my kitchen floor.