When Hannah was little and I was working as her full time paparazzi I started to notice that my pictures of her every adorable milestone were capturing a lot of my junk in the background. That bothered me. I was worried people would notice that maybe my house wasn’t tidy, that I had too much stuff and it was piling up around us. I’d try and frame shots without as much junk in them, change the angle or crop them afterwards, but I still had this nagging concern that my seedy underbelly was showing.
Recently my mom kindly asked me why it might be that I care so much about a tidy house. She pointed out that I didn’t grow up in an overly tidy house. I don’t have memories of any filth, but I also don’t have memories of my mom cleaning instead of playing, or of being concerned about making a mess. In fact, I remember the delightful messes we made, volcanoes, home squeezing tomato sauce, such messy fun! A big part of it is that I’ve got some OCD tendencies, and I would honestly love it everything had a place. I’m SOO happy when things are tidy.
I knew that my house was atypically messy because I saw everyone else’s houses on pinterest and facebook, and their houses were tidy. They didn’t even appear to be neglecting their kids just to clean, so I wasn’t sure what my issue was. I even went to their houses for play dates and other gatherings, I saw in person that they really didn’t have piles on every surface. In fact, not only did they not have piles, they had decorations, even seasonal ones! AHHHHHH. What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I get it together? I even admitted one day to Adam that I secretly wished for just a second that our house would burn down when we were gone and the stuff would all disappear and maybe we could just start fresh. But a moment later I realized how much I love our stuff, and what a terrible thought that was, and I took it back.
Then a friend came over and mentioned the clutter, it was an off hand comment, something along the lines of “oh, are you rearranging?”. It broke my heart. It also broke my ability to host. I couldn’t handle the judgement, so I stopped having people over. It wasn’t safe. I didn’t know who might say something, or what people might think. I couldn’t keep Sam and Hannah happy and manage the mess. So I did what was easiest, I stopped letting people in.
I could just get rid of the stuff. Seems simple enough. Though, what if we have another baby, I don’t want to buy all new clothes just because I didn’t want to look at them in storage for 3 years. That seems wasteful. It would also rob me of the joy it gives me to loan stuff out. “You need an exersaucer? borrow mine!” “Potty training? Please borrow our potty!” It brings me such joy to help others out with stuff. It also brings me joy to be able to sit and troll facebook because my kids are happily playing with 2 of their 11 million toys. Though that one is easy, because the minute I get sick or a toy it promptly makes its way to the church nursery.
The thing is, my primary love language is words of affirmation. I like verbal praise. When I worked in higher education I got tons. Quarterly reviews, notes from co-workers, supervisors, parents, students, etc. I was constantly bathed in “good job!” and “We appreciate you!”. Not that there wasn’t the occasional irate parent who was bent on making sure I felt like a failure as a human being, but even in those moments my peers rallied around me and the affirmations flowed even more freely.
It turns out that babies aren’t so great at the verbal affirmation. I mean, I’ve been keeping Sam alive for almost 15 months and the kid hasn’t even managed a single “good job”. Sweet husband knows my language and makes a big deal of all my small efforts, and I get compliments at church that are so much deeper and more sincere than I ever got at the Universities. My tiny primary employers just aren’t so generous with the praise. I can fill my day, feeling like I don’t ever stop, and then when I look around it appears nothing has been accomplished.
This is where Facebook came in. I post pictures, and people like them. BINGO. Coins in the affirmation bank. I post more pictures, and friends comment. Hooray! More affirmation! But then I surf, and I start to notice how much more the other mommas are accomplishing. How there isn’t junk surrounding their kids in every picture, and how developmentally appropriate they apear to be at every single moment.
So do I keep using Facebook as a way to meet some of my affirmation needs, or is the constant reminder of my inadequacy make it worth quitting? Does anyone else feel this way?
It made me think of a Mark Driscoll sermon where he talks about how we can either “Receive, Reject or Redeem”.
“Receive. We just accept it as it is… It is good to consume “as is,” it probably won’t affect us spiritually either way. Reject. This is a clearly anti-Biblical issue. Something that goes against a specific command. Redeem. This is something that could have been in the reject category, but can be redeemed to proclaim the Gospel. As a result, there are some that are saved.”
Is Facebook drawing me closer to God? No, probably not. Is it helping me serve Him? Maybe? It’s not something that is clearly anti-Biblical. Facebook can be used for good, as evidenced by the many prayer groups, moms groups and other opportunities for people to get support and know they’re not alone.
Then I thought, maybe there are other people out there who have this same love hate relationship with Facebook. Who feel inadequate after catching up on their newsfeed. Maybe I’m not alone. Maybe they could use someone saying, “Hey, I’m terrible at housekeeping too! Wanna be friends?”
So here’s my solution. Instead of quitting Facebook, I’m going to buck the system and use it as a way to normalize real life. During nap I didn’t handmake alphabet bean bags for the kids to play a letter recognition game later. I got in bed and watched West Wing on Netflix until my eyelids gave up on staying open.
I think I can still appreciate those who make phenomenal efforts and being great parents/spouses/housekeepers/etc, and revel in their moments of success with them. While still realizing maybe that isn’t my strong suit. Maybe if I’m more honest I can find my strong suit. My gifting. Maybe along the way I’ll encourage someone else.
So here goes……………………
It’s a constant game at our house to try and have a bathroom accessible for H who isn’t all that great at using them when needed, and for the dogs who have their water in the bathroom, all while keeping Sam out of the bathroom. That kid has been caught up to his elbows in toilet water more than once. EW. Today I realized I hadn’t seen him in 30 seconds and flew back to the bathroom expecting some form of water play. Instead I just found him brushing his teeth with my toothbrush. Significantly less disgusting, hahaha.
Instead of following house rules and filing a “cleaning request form” about the current carseat filth situation, H took matters into her own hands and peed her carseat as means of getting it washed. Uncool H, uncool. After removing S’s carseat this is what I found. Seriously, how does this much filth even get under there?
Gross. On the upside, this job has the perk of being quickly rewarding, 5 minutes of vacuuming and my car looks vastly different. New car in 5 minutes? Win!
This always makes me feel pretty unclassy, when our trash bin is overflowing. Like a big neon sign to our neighbors “hey, we’re consuming too much stuff!”. Awkward. Stupid pizza boxes with too much grease to recycle, grr. Stupid giant un-recyclable dog food bags. (I should just start taking those back to petsmart, hahaha)
On the other hand, part of the bulk in this weeks bin is pet waste that I actually managed to remove from our premises. I scooped the dog spot and the litter box. Where’s my trophy?!?