Housework Blues

I don’t know how I could explain this to a “normal” person/a “full energy person”/a “neat freak”, or even to my husband, who you’d think would understand after fifteen years together but apparently does not. But I’ll let you in on a secret…I hate to clean. My house is a mess 85% of the time. To me it feels like some kind of condition rather than a conscious choice, although I know I am in charge of my own actions and decisions. But let me try to explain it.

I look around my house. I see the kids’ NERF guns they left out, NERF bullets scattered throughout the house, the couch pillows they messed up and didn’t put back in their rightful place. I see the last meal’s dishes in the sink waiting for me. I see the tub needs scrubbed again and that the kitchen floor needs mopping. The walls need repainted and the carpet is stained. I see the filth and I hate it. I want it to be clean. I want it to be uncluttered and organized. I want a perfect beautiful house ready for company to swing by without notice. But I know all the hard manual labor it will take to get it as clean as it needs to be, as clean as I want it to be, as clean as a clean freak’s house. And that is when I freeze. The pressure of it all starts to overwhelm me. Suddenly I have no energy to clean. Oh my favorite show it on. I want to read a book. I want to play with the kids or go to a movie, or anything but clean. But I know it needs done. I can’t live this way, I am not a slob. I am not this person whose house is embarrassing. I can’t be. I’m a smart, successful, thriving, social person – I can’t have a pig-sty house. But somehow I ended up with one. Because when other people would just clean up a mess as soon as they make it, I procrastinate. I rationalize it. I have hobbies to fit into my rare spare time. I need to workout. I need to write. I pay more attention to my kids than moms who clean all the time. I can clean when the kids are gone, they’re just going to mess it up again anyway. I keep telling myself after this show, or I’ll start after lunch, or I didn’t get it all done this weekend so I will do some each night after work. But after work I have to take the kid to baseball, and then cook dinner and make sure the kids’ camp shirts are clean for tomorrow and I am tired and have four more episodes of Orange Is The New Black to watch. I keep putting it off and the more time that goes by, the more pressure and guilt I feel and the harder the job seems as things stack up, until I give up and do nothing.

Then there’s nothing but shame. Shame that my toilets are still dirty, dishes are still in the sink and the weeds in my back flower bed didn’t pull themselves. My weekend was my only spare time to be productive and get things done around the house and I wasted it. I had time to do it but nothing to show for my time. I failed. Again. The shame of my wasted time later exceeds the joy I originally got from hanging out watching movies or reading books, because if anyone were to come by my house at that moment I would be humiliated for them to see it. This is not a relaxing feeling. This is an overwhelming drowning that feels like I lose either way. In my mind, a clean house means constant cleaning. Constant cleaning means no time for things I love to do. Doing the things I love, means no time for cleaning. Even when I get bursts of energy and get a bunch of stuff done around the house, it often still isn’t everything, and I know that “clean freaks” (which half of my friends are) wouldn’t see it as clean even though I am comfortable with it and actually proud that I got it done. So I can’t feel proud for long because it is never enough.

I want a nice home; the kind of home that is always clean enough for people to stop by anytime to say hi and its no big deal. The kind of clean to easily host a party. The kind of clean where someone can feed my cat while I’m on vacation without me worrying about them judging me for any messes I left. My house is the opposite. If someone calls and says they are coming over in twenty minutes, I am running around like a crazy person putting stuff away as fast as I can. My house might be clean enough for company once or twice a week for very brief periods of time, but sure enough by the time my mom or someone swings by, my son’s socks are in the floor, the dog tracked in leaves, and we just ate so there is a pan in the sink. If only we never ate. If only we never played with toys. If only we didn’t have pets. Or kids. Then the house could stay clean. And boring. And loveless.

The more I worry about the state of my home, the more desperate I feel that the work isn’t done, and the madder I get at my husband and kids for not helping. And the more I hate myself for being a lazy slob. Soon I am so overwhelmed, all that comes out is anger towards my husband. I yell at him that its his fault because he never helps, and why can’t he throw away his partial train set from his childhood instead of it cluttering up the garage? We both work full time, each bringing in 50% of the family income, so we should also split the household chores 50/50. Sometimes I daydream of divorcing him just so the garage is emptied out because that is the only way he’d ever do it. That is the only way I could ever be free of his hoarding tendencies and get the camping gear out of our bedroom closet. He’s the only one lazier than I am when it comes to chores. Even if I don’t do them often enough, at least I do them. When I’m not angrily cleaning, I slip into a depression where I don’t want to talk to anyone or see anyone. “No, you kids can’t have a friend over, the house is too messy.”  And then I feel isolated and more depressed and more guilty. All because my home is not worthy. I have failed in keeping it nice. I am not perfect. I am not successful.

I am not like this in other areas of my life. I have many great friends and go do fun things with them often. I have a great job that I am good at. I am not lazy at work. There I can get things done efficiently and on time. I have great follow-thru at work. At home I feel hopeless. And yet I am physically able to do it. I am not handicapped in any way. All I’d have to do is get up and DO IT! But getting up and doing it feels SO HARD sometimes. This is the vicious circle of every-other weekend of my life and the #1 thing that throws me into depression and makes me retreat from the rest of the world. Does anyone else out there feel like this? Do I put too much importance on what others think of my house? If I was a stay-at-home-mom would my house be better taken care of? Am I the most lazy person ever because I love to do everything else more than I love to clean? When my kids are adults are they going to think of their childhood home as messy or as loving and fun? Does it even matter if my house is clean or will people still love me anyway? These are things I ponder when I am NOT doing the dishes.

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