A few weeks ago I had a “friend” come over. Actually, it was a family member. This person looked around my house and in midst of normal conversation said to me…
“How do you live like this? In such filth?”
After her comment, shocked- I’m pretty sure my face dropped in disbelief. How could she say such a thing to me? Her family. I made some quick comment about how cleaning is not my top priority and that I have a lot of other things going on. Which apparently was not a sufficient answer for her.
I used to be so hurt by these comments, because to tell you the truth, I can be pretty sensitive. But after years of this, and many people not understanding the amount of work that goes into my life each day, my husband finally was able to convince me that they will never understand, because they don’t live it. But he does– and he doesn’t care.
Now… to be fair, (Because, lets be real here) I had just cleaned my house the day before. In fact, I had just redone my kids bedrooms and they were repainted, with new bedspreads, about two days before this. They were in fact spotless 24 hours before this conversation happened. I was pretty proud of my achievements there. But lets also be real, my house is never going to be one hundred percent clean at any given time. I have children- I have SIX children. I also have a new baby, a toddler, AND a preschooler- as well as THREE school age children. Have you ever tried to nurse a baby while also watching a toddler and preschooler? Lets be real here: its Chaos. But its just stuff, its just a mess. Its not like, the plague or anything, and I’m okay with mess. Maybe to you all of these things are excuses, but they are the truth about life with kids.
I struggle with OCD, and for those of you who don’t know what that is, it is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. It manifests differently with different people but for me, its really about controlling situations, keeping things in order, and sometimes people are especially clean if they deal with OCD. For me, its the control thing, and one thing I cannot control is how clean my house stays. Not if I want to be a good mother. You see, I could essentially devout all my time to keeping a clean house. I could in fact live in a spotless house that looks like a magazine, but at what cost?
“But Zmom!” you say- “This persons house makes me so uncomfortable, I need to know what to tell them. After all, they are my daughter/sister/mother/best friend/leader of my such and such group… Should they keep a cleaner house than they do?”
And here is my answer for you:
There is no reason in the entire world, no matter who you are to this person, that should invite you to say something about their house*. No, I don’t care if you are their mom, sister, cousin, best friend, or pastor.
- A mom knows exactly how clean or messy her house is at any given time. You are not the clean police. You do not have permission to comment on her house.
- A mom already gives herself ENOUGH pressure to keep a clean house for HERSELF, her HUSBAND and her children. She doesn’t need additional pressure from YOU.
- A mom is trying her best. Come on- do you really think she’s just THAT LAZY that she wants any portion of her house dirty at any given time? No! Come on, really. Have you forgotten what its like to have little kids?
- Your words to another mother, even if she is your family- should be uplifting. “You are doing a great job!” Is ALL she needs to hear.
- If you can’t be at her house, then she probably doesn’t want you there either.
- Your RELATIONSHIP of LOVE AND MUTUAL RESPECT should not be determined by how clean she can make her house before you show up. Have you ever thought what if this is the best she can do right now? Have you stopped to love on her, help her with her children to give her a break? If someone can’t be friends with me because I have a messy house, then I don’t consider them a true friend anyway. Good-bye lady!
- Words can be hurtful. Say NOTHING negative. EVER. REALLY. I promise you- your words will NOT CHANGE how she keeps a house- because she is already doing the best she can at this time in her life. The only thing you will do, is hurt her self esteem, hurt her heart, and damage your relationship.
- *If you are really concerned about the health and safety of the people living in her house, okay then be concerned. There is still a way to go about this with tact and with empathy. But, I would like to remind you that YOU are not the official clean police. Your standard of clean, may not be the RIGHT standard of clean. So I’m going to lay it out for you here: “DIRTY HOME-Child’s welfare must not be at substantial risk of harm; handled by family, community agencies, and landlords.”**
- Put yourselves in that moms shoes. I know that might be difficult. Maybe in 1950 when you had children, you were able to keep a perfectly spotless house and that’s great, good for you! Do not compare yourself with this woman who you think has a dirty house. Your job is to show compassion for her. Matthew 7:1-2 Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.
- A mothers number one job is not to keep a clean house. It should not even be her TOP priority. A mothers number one job and priority is to raise her children in love and safety. If she is doing that, keep your comments to yourself.
Now that I’ve given you a few tips about this topic I want to let you into my heart a little bit.
My house is never going to be totally clean, nor should it. I once had a woman tell me how much she cleaned her house, and her grown children resented her for always putting cleaning before her relationship with them. That has always sat with me. I want my children to benefit from me being present in their lives, teaching them how to keep a house, teaching them about the love of Jesus, teaching them about school, and friendships, and the bible.
I pride myself on the fact that by the grace of God my house is as clean as it is. My children do NOT live in filth. Nope, they don’t. They live in a working, busy household with six kids and two parents, and two dogs, and we spend our time cleaning every single day. We do. But we also let things go and realize that life is so much more than cleaning. Life is love. Life is activities. Life is spending time at the pumpkin patch even though our rooms might be messy. Life is so much more than looking like a magazine cover. Personally, I’d rather have Life.
I hope that this inspires you to take a look at how you are living, but I hope it more importantly inspires you to take a look at how you might be judging someone in your life. Jesus teaches us to have empathy and judgement is not empathy. The next time you are in someone’s home and you are uncomfortable, just remember your relationship is not based on the way their house looks. Your relationship is based off of the time you have spent with her, and that is so much more important.