This was the scene last week in the foyer of our house, as my five and three-year-old ripped and roared through the hallways as I held the baby in the other room, enjoying some much-needed time with a friend, oblivious to the mess as I caught up with a friend.
(I should’ve probably known that the squeals and laughter coming from the other room weren’t because they were telling each other knock knock jokes.)
So I did what any mom would do – I threatened to take away their toys and/or dessert if they didn’t clean it up. Back to the other room I went, hoping that they got the message.
Did they listen? I’ll give you one guess.
This scene repeated itself several more times before they got the hint that yeah, Mom’s actually being serious about this one.
I realized it wasn’t a huge deal, but I found it hard to tamp down my frustration until I realized that mess in my entryway was just part of the new reality we all face as mothers.
It’s one of those moments where you realize what parenthood is all about – living with the mess.
Because you know what? If it’s not a giant pile of toilet paper in my front entryway, it’s probably a giant pile of unfolded laundry in my bedroom. Or toys scattered from one end of the family room to the other. Or an entire Day’s worth of plastic kid plates puked up on my counter. Or about a thousand grimy little handprint stains all over my windows.
Very little of motherhood, and parenthood general, will go exactly to plan. I think that’s what is actually the hardest about this gig. It’s not the diaper changing, or complete a upending of your social life, or even the lack of sleep, necessarily.
The hardest part is that there is no handbook.
The hardest part is that we learn a new paradigm—one where the mess is the norm.
And for any adult who’s been careening through life, scheduling and tidying, neatly checking off an endless series of To-Do’s from her list, the mess of motherhood can feel like the smack of a little syrup-smeared hand on a perfectly made-up cheek.
What we want matters a little less.
Our schedules change, to fit around the needs of another person.
We learned to let go of all of those small things that we once thought absolute necessities, like order and quiet and, in this case, a perfectly clean house.
We live in the mess. The mess becomes the norm. And now that I’ve been here a few years, I’m starting to believe that when we embrace the mess, we thrive in it.
So here’s to all the moms who have learned to embrace it.
Clean up the entryway, side. But brace for the next mess, because it’s coming.
We may be a mess, but we are all messy together.
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