Thursday, October 11, 2007

Needing Grace, part 1

Have you ever had an experience wherein you find yourself having a very similar conversation with several different people, and you begin to wonder if God is trying to tell you something? That's been happening to me over the past several days and it has led me to want to write about it here. At this point I am thinking this will be a two-part post, but I will leave it up to God to decide when it ends!

This first installment is prompted by an email I received yesterday from a mom who has just started reading my blog, a conversation I had recently with a mom who just had her fifth (!) baby, talk which was going around the table at the MOPS group I spoke for this morning, and countless other conversations I've had with mom friends throughout the years. Survey says, We are tired of our messy houses. We don't want anyone to just "pop in" because we will be humiliated at the condition of our abode. We don't know how we can have both kids and a clean house, and we are frustrated! Are you in agreement here?
I have struggled with this issue for years. Before kids I had a strict weekly cleaning regimen and, due in part to the fact my husband and I were the only ones "making messes," my little apartment was so clean and tidy. I took pride in my home. It was orderly and I felt in control.
Three kids later, I still have a strict cleaning regimen. I am constantly picking things up and feeling like I need to be more strict.

Brian, install a shower in the garage.

Kids, you must shower before entering this house.

No playing in the dirt - you might bring some of it in the house!

If you have to eat, do it outside. I don't want any crumbs in my house! So what if it's 30 degrees out there. If you're hungry enough, you'll eat!

Toys? Why do you need toys? They'll just get left on the floor and I'll trip over them. No more toys in my house!

Do you see where I'm going with this line of thinking? Kids are kids, and even the best ones get messy. We can train them to be careful and take care of their things (and, oh, am I trying to get that done!) but the bottom line is, if we have kids in our house we aren't going to be able to escape that "lived-in" look.
I think each one of us mothers would agree with that statement, yet so many of us still seem to battle with feelings of inadequacy when it comes to the condition and cleanliness of our homes. Why??? When you go over to another mom's house, do you scoff at the basket of unfolded, or worse yet - unwashed, laundry? Do you count how many dirty glasses are sitting on the counter? Are you bothered by the books lying on the floor, rather than neatly stowed on the bookshelf?
No? Why not? Oh, because she's a mom and you realize she is taking care of her kids in addition to trying to maintain a household? I see. You're extending grace to her. That's nice. And that's what we do, right?
I remember picking Matthew up from a friend's house once. His mother apologized to me for the mess as we went to the basement to get the boys. Honestly, I didn't know what she was apologizing for. It just looked to me like boys had been playing. Everything seemed as it should be.
And this woman who just had her fifth baby? I took a meal over to her and as I stepped over a few toys to get into the kitchen, she also apologized for the mess. Are you kidding? Although I was aware of the mess, I really didn't notice it. Or at least I didn't care. She'd just had a baby for goodness sake! I couldn't imagine having five kids, let alone an orderly home with a newborn.
So I wonder, if we can be so reasonable in what we expect of other mothers, if we can give them all amounts of grace, why can't we extend grace to ourselves? Why must we have unrealistic standards for our own homes?
I am not advocating throwing in the towel on trying to maintain a nice home, or giving up on teaching our children responsibility for taking care of themselves and their things. What I am desiring is for each of us uptight moms to adopt realistic expectations for our homes, and to love our kids in the midst of the messes.
Do you think that's possible? Can you come to the place where you will be OK with someone dropping in unexpectedly? I love the saying a friend shared with me several years ago: If you're coming to see me, stop by anytime. If you're coming to see my house, please call ahead. I would like to think my friends are more interested in me than in my house. I know that's the way I feel about them! And I bet your friends are more interested in you than the condition of your house, as well.
I remember when I went to Florida to speak for some MOPS groups last year. The woman with whom I was spending the night told me in an email that, although she had two boys and a small house, she would do her best to make me comfortable. I responded to her by reminding her I'm a mom, too, and if she had a basket of laundry in the hallway, if she didn't dust before I came, and if she left drops of dried milk on the table I would feel right at home and would be very comfortable. It was so easy for me to give her that grace. But I knew if the roles were reversed, if she were coming to stay at my house, I would be working like a mad woman to get everything cleaned up.
(That reminds me of one day when I was dusting - just because it needed to be done - and Elizabeth asked me quite excitedly, "Are we having company???" She's very observant! LOL)
So, moms, what do you say? Can we agree to give ourselves grace when it comes to our homes? In the end I think this attitude will benefit not just ourselves, but our kids, too. I don't want my kids to think a clean house is more important to me than they are. How about you?

Having said all that, I want to share a resource which has been very helpful to so many women when it comes to keeping the house under control. Lots of great ideas and encouragement there! I especially love the concept of doing a little bit at a time. Baby steps. I can do that!

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Qtpies7 said...

So very true. I think I need to come back and keep reading! I am struggling trying to keep the house just this side disgusting right now as we have sort of flung ourselves into host parenting a foreign exchange student when his host family backed out. I don't want him to think we are slobs, but I have SEVEN KIDS in my house without him! He comes from a very large German family, with 3 whole kids, and his siblings are a lot older.
Anyways, I love flylady! I need to get back in her program, I think.

Oh, and I find contests by being on newsletters and also knowing blogs who search out contests, and eventually I find a ton of them! I still missed some, and usually I only report on momblog contests.

StaceyStace said...

Before school started this year, my husband hung a cabinet for each of the kids, a row of hooks under each one, and we put a big basket for shoes in our "one day when the kids are grown will be a formal dining room, but right now it is a study" room. Additionally, we bought a set of towels, one color for each child, and hooks for the bathroom door. (We know by the color of the towel who left it in the floor.)Well, you know what? Today they walked in, dropped everything in the living room floor - backpacks, shoes, etc. Then I looked in the closet - yep!- towels in the floor. Ggrrr!!!

LoveMyStarr said...

Have you been inside my head? I dwell on this area a lot. I wrote out a pretty lengthy comment, so I decided to email you instead. Great post!

Jenileigh said...

I come from the other end. I left home at 14. I was a slob and I was rebellious. I didn't know how to keep house. I had my first at 18 and for years our home looked like a typical 15 year olds bedroom. It was horrid and thats all I'm saying. We went from living in a 4 room appartment with 2 children to a nice brick home with 4 bedrooms and 3 kids. I have a good friend who told me once that I just needed to give everything a home and then keeping things tidy would be easier and deep cleaning could come after. That was several years ago. So now I have a clean home! But a straight home, I struggle with. I am learning to delegate the work load and teach the girls. When everyone is doing their chores as they should the house looks pretty good. :) But that doesn't always happen! Heehee, so I agree there must be some balance. When company walks through the doors unannounced, we must choose to give ourselves grace and give them hospitality. :)

I enjoyed this, thanks Karen!

Heather @ Desperately Seeking Sanity said...

I have many many friends. I have TWO that I don't freak out if they see my house.

I'm always battling. Constantly. I think the house is disgusting. Others, say the same thing you just did.

I tell people, don't ever come by without calling first. I'm ashamed and embarrassed about my house. ANd I feel like all I do is make excuses. The fact of the matter remains, the excuses are true.

This weekend the kids and I are cleaning. All day. I've got to get caught up and somewhat ahead.

But perhaps, I should chill just a little bit.

And I always chuckle when my best friend says "I'm coming over" and I say... "Well, my house is a mess."

She always replies with, "I promise, I won't look."

Ironically, the only two people that can come without warning? Two other single moms. Because I know that they know what I'm going through.

Thanks for this today.

Coach J said...

Great stuff!
I do not stress over my house being clean. That being said, I do try to keep it up. But if company pops in, they pop in. I'm too busy living life too keep all the dust bunnies away.
I have freedom in this area. And, I do extend grace in this area. Because the truth is: I'm not coming to see your house. I'm coming to see YOU! People are so much more valuable than things could ever be!
The media does such a good job at making us feel inadequate if we are perfect. If our homes aren't perfect. We'd all be much happier and stress free if we'd allow our true imperfections to shine through. :)

Dakota's Mom said...

I think the lived in look is more homey anyways! You reminded me of the new Point of Grace song that KLOVE is playing a lot goes something like "In the end it's not who you knew, it's not what you did, but how you lived." I've got to check out flylady!

Ang said...

Great points. I especially like the quote about coming to visit me versus my house.

I think part of the problem for me is the fact that being a sahm, I feel my home is a direct reflection of who I am and what I do. Sort of like when our children misbehave in public...heaven forbid! I know the line of thinking is flawed. My worth is not in the condition of my home, but in who I am in Christ. I know theory anyway.


Misty said...

First of all, huge sigh of relief knowing that I am not the only nut job who has this major internal battle going on!
Second: this is a great post! And although, the part about a shower in the garage made me stop and think (*smile, more for the husband than the kid*) i get the point... this really challenged my issues...

Ann said...

Wow, thanks for this very timely post. I was just looking around my house thinking, gosh I need to do some cleaning, cuz its quiet and the house is a mess....but I think I need to give myself some grace and mercy, since I am still recovering from being sick....

Melissa said...

I grew up in a very, very cluttered home. My husband grew up in a home that was always neat and tidy.

Lots of conflict ensued after we got married.

Yes, I am ashamed of the condition of my house many times. My daughter, an only child, asked once if we could get a bigger house so she could have a "play room." I pointed out to her that she has toys in EVERY ROOM OF THE HOUSE so the whole house is her play room!

If I could just get out of the habit of putting everything on the dining room table when I walk in the door, and leaving it there, I think that would solve a lot of the problem.

Sweet Mummy said...

I wrote about this a little the other day in my post about organizing my Master Bedroom. I constantly struggle with this, but it's HUGE when my mom-in-love is here because she totally IS a born-organized person and I am not. I don't ever stress about someone else's home - in fact I usually help with a little something when I do visit another mom if I can.

But I had to ask forgiveness from one of my best friends here because I was letting the condition of my house get in between our relationship. She's a totally organized lady even with 3 kids. I was afriad that my home would make her uncomfortable so I never had she and her kids over for a play date... not good for a relationship...

I love the saying you shared: "If you're coming to see me, stop by anytime. If you're coming to see my house, please call ahead." PERFECT attitude I need to have. I even had a friend tell me once that she was aware of my piles but that she didn't come to see them so she didn't really see my stuff at all. I always try to remember that.

I love FlyLady, too. Baby Steps!