Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Compulsion Cleaning

Moms agree: there are certain types of cleaning that qualify as compulsion. It can be a three-week-long Spring cleaning binge or weekly cleaning before the cleaning lady comes. I have a friend who used to clean like a fiend -- for the exterminator. As for me, my compulsion cleaning is the cleaning I do before my Mother comes to visit.

What am I afraid of?

Will she disown me if she looks under the love seat and finds the lonely remnant of the stinky sock fight my boys had last night?

Will she click her tongue in disapproval at the tiny hand prints of my three-year-old left from watching squirrels play outside our dining room window? Will she check for dust behind the refrigerator? Will she scowl at an unscoured bit of shower soap scum?

Does she walk through my home judging, running her glowing white gloves over every surface?

Of course not. But in case you're listening, SC Johnson, if you ran television ads with only the words


and the music from Psycho, I would buy every product in your product line.

What is funny is that my Mom and I have a good relationship, and I look forward to her coming. She is my friend and my children's treasured grandmother. But while she is here, I live in fear that she will notice something that needs doing around our home and utter those four fateful words no mother wants any other woman to say in her home.

"Let me do it."

When Mom comes to visit, I work myself ragged just trying to beat her to whatever job catches her attention. After supper, there is practically a race for the job I despise the most -- washing the dishes.

In any other circumstance, I would bring flowers to someone who washed the dishes for me. I have been known to pay my oldest son a whopping dollar to do a big load of dishes. Today's true confession of motherhood is this: our supper dishes usually wait until morning to be done. At the end of my day there are just a thousand places I would rather spend my last reserves of energy. So, dishes get rinsed or scraped and neatly stacked, but I do not load the dishwasher or wash the pans until morning. Need proof?

Voila. Last night's dishes. Martha Stewart perfection I am not.

Maybe that's what I'm worried my mother will suddenly "discover." It's my horrid truth of mothering, that I would rather have a tickle fight with my kids after supper or sit and watch the news with my husband than tackle a pile of dishes.

I guess that's why for the next five days there will be a race from the supper table to see which woman can get the fastest case of dishpan hands. It's a pride thing.

I suppose it's something I should work on. Maybe I should be more accepting of help or give my mother more credit for understanding the stresses of raising my brood. After all, she raised six of us, so she's no stranger to the cluttered life of a mother with young children -- right?


So, I'm resolving to do better during this visit, here, publicly, on Midwest Moms. (She arrives tomorrow... have I mentioned it?) I will try to let go of small details and stop this compulsive cleaning behavior.

Yep. I'll get started on that...

... right after I clean the grout in the front hallway. Anybody got a toothbrush?

- Midwest Mom


  1. You know I am exactly the same way.. I leave my dishes till the morning.. when I can.. otherwise I fear that my daycare parents will look down on me for not having a clean sink. But really at the end of the day from all the cleaning and cooking and cleaning, the LAST thing I want to do is MORE. SO I sometimes skip it! btw your plates look rather clean for having not been washed! :D

  2. Ha! Elaine, you crack me up. I guess my family just liked my cooking last night. :D

    - Julia

  3. I can relate! But my cleaning frenzy happens when my Mother-in-law comes - a bit of pride I guess. She's coming today and I still have major dust bunnies under the couch - and a marker, several legos, and someone's dirty sock. Heavy sigh...

  4. We spent Easter break going through the house top to bottom, purging and organizing. The house peaked Easter day, and my wife uttered those familiar words--"We need to keep the house this way from now on." But somehow, it never lasts.

  5. I share that disease--I'm cool with letting my room and bathroom go dirty because she'll never go in there (I hope)>

  6. My mom always says, show me a woman with a clean house, and I'll show you a woman with a female relative about to visit. :-)

    Have fun with your Mom.

  7. Luckily for me my mom was er, less than cleanly, so when she comes to visit and my house is a wreck I don't sweat it. Sadly though, it seems lately my house is always a wreck, ack!

  8. You are so right! There's no cleaning energy as pure as the deadline of guests coming, particularly of the parental variety!


  9. I'm so with you on that one. In fact, I really should be cleaning right now since my in-laws arrive in less than 7 hours. Later.


  10. Mom24 says "show me a clean woman with a clean house and I'll show you a woman with a female relative about to visit." I've always heard, "show me a woman's clean home and I'll show you a woman whose children are neglected." Now, that doesn't mean don't ever clean, but by all means, I think your giving your family what they need at this time in their life...their mother. Enjoy your visit and don't worry about the house.

  11. Your mom sounds a lot like mine. Dishes is also a chore I can't stand to do. We don't have a dishwasher so it is so time consuming that I can't stand it! I never thought about paying my kids to wash the dishes for me. I might have to give that a try. I hope you have a wonderful weekend!


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