I spend a decent amount of time scouring the Internet in search of great content to share. Much of what I read is about motherhood, family life, and simplicity. It often looks so idyllic: beautifully decorated homes, neatly dressed children who are always smiling, clutter-free spaces, clean bedrooms, and healthy meals that look like they belong on the food network.
I don’t know about you, but that is not how my life looks.
As much as I crave simplicity, organization and white space, my life feels more like a whirlwind than a gentle breeze. There is a good deal of chaos at any given moment, especially when the kids are home.
There is always somebody yelling for my help because they can’t figure out how to do something. Honestly, I usually don’t know how to do it either. The days of Mom knowing everything are long gone, especially when there is calculus involved. I might be able to do Carson’s second-grade math, but even that is sketchy. I may have to pull out my calculator or my trusty fingers. I am definitely not smarter than a fifth grader. Try not to judge; nearly 18 years of motherhood has fried my brain just a bit.
At least two of my kids are usually fighting about everything under the sun. Most of the time there are tears involved, along with stubborn defensiveness on both sides. Apparently none of them are capable of doing any wrong. At least that is what they all think about themselves, even though they are quick to point out the shortcomings of their siblings (in a not-so-nice way).
There are usually piles of papers, backpacks, books, socks, shoes, and various other treasures lying around the house, despite my pleas for people to please pick up after themselves. I am beginning to think I have the gift of tongues because my kids stare at me with blank expressions and do not seem to understand what I am saying. Either that or they say, “I will get right on that, Mom,” and then conveniently take a nap instead.
I need a nap.
I often throw dinner together at 7:30 with whatever I can find in the fridge or pantry. I am resourceful in the kitchen, mind you. Pasta is very versatile, you know. And waffles and scrambled eggs are not only meant for breakfast; that is what cold cereal is for. If I actually plan ahead and get dinner on the table before 7:00, my kids ask me why we are eating so early. Because I am on the ball, that is why. Give me a little credit.
The kids’ bedrooms always look like a tornado blew through them, leaving nothing untouched, even though cleaning their bedrooms is always on the Saturday chore lineup. I am amazed at how messy they usually are by Saturday night, despite hours of cleaning. That is frequently not a battle that I feel like fighting (because I have to choose my battles carefully), so I generally close their doors to keep anxiety from rushing over me every time I walk down the hall.
Because I hate to fold laundry, there are usually baskets of clean clothes in my bedroom. Sometimes I don’t even fold them because it is like a scavenger hunt every morning to find my clothes, and who doesn’t like to wake up to a game like that? It is a party a minute; I tell you. At least I make my bed every morning. I have that going for me. (Insert pat on the back.)
Messiness makes me feel like I am going to explode, and sometimes I do. I can stand it for so long, but eventually (and without fail), I start stomping around the house while loudly mumbling about why I seem to be the only one in this family who is capable of putting things away. Why can’t cleanliness be an inborn trait for all children?
If I had the house to myself, I can promise you that it would be clean and clutter-free. But I share it with six other people and, let’s be honest, they are not all quite as committed to organized living as I. It is not my job to clean up after everybody because of this thing called personal responsibility, which is frequently elusive amongst my children. So messes are a permanent fixture in my life for the time being.
While sometimes (often) the disorder causes me stress, I would not trade the chaos of family life for a life of living in simple and organized solitude. Not in a million years.
Sometimes there is magic in the mess. If I look hard enough, I can see creativity in the piles of art supplies that Kate and Carson leave all over the house. I can see Carson standing with a big smile on his face while holding the latest project he made for his teacher or a friend, just because he loves them.
When I open my older boys’ bedroom door and feel like hyperventilating because of the piles of clothes all over the floor (Are they clean or dirty?), I can train myself to see their intense dedication to their studies instead. When Jordan leaves for seminary at 5:30 every morning and often doesn’t get home until early evening, only to spend hours studying for his six AP classes before finally going to bed at 11:00, maybe I can cut him a little slack.
When I see two kids making pizza in the kitchen, with flour on every flat surface and sauce spilled all over the counters, I can remind myself to see active children who are learning valuable skills.
When I see backpacks, papers, socks, shoes, toys and empty cups left in various locations around the house, I can teach myself to see evidence of life. Our home is meant to be comfortably lived in and enjoyed, not endlessly sterile and perfectly clean.
How boring would life be if there was never disarray? It would be a life without the energy and creativity of children; a life void of the excitement of teenagers; a life without the delight of a growing family.
While I will keep fighting the uphill battle of teaching my kids to clean up after themselves, I am also going to focus on looking beyond the obvious and wading through my initial feelings of frustration to see the magic behind the mess. It might not always be obvious to one like me who thrives in a quiet and orderly environment. Nevertheless, I am convinced it is always there, hiding below the surface like a treasure, waiting to be discovered and appreciated for the joyful perspective that it can bring to an otherwise stressful and chaotic scenario.
The treasure hunt starts now. Are you in?