My husband and friends affectionately like to tell me that I have OCD. Perhaps it has to do with the fact that I can’t seem to sit still long enough to let my child spread all her toys throughout the house, or because I feel a need to vacuum two to three times per week in order to feel comfortable in my living space. I’m not a total clean freak; I just enjoy knowing my home is tidy. I have a cat that sheds enough fur to knit a sweater, and a toddler who naturally leaves her share of food crumbs, play-doh crumbles and squirts of juice behind. One can’t blame me for wanting to steam the stickiness out of the floor, and eliminate any semblance of litter box particles can they? Over the years I’ve come to realize that I truly feel comfortable and relaxed when my house is in order. I’m not saying ever piece of furniture is polished, the shower is spotless, or that there aren’t some dust bunnies under the bed. My house doesn’t look like a museum by any means, but it’s clean.
When I was a child I didn’t really care about cleaning. I mean, what child really cares deeply about cleaning? My father was a carpenter, and therefore was always trudging sawdust and dirt into the house when he came home from work, which my mom lovingly vacuumed up with a persistence I learned to admire. I never thought he cared about cleanliness the way my mom did until he came home after dropping my brother off at a friend’s house. He came into my room and said, “Why didn’t you tell me about that kid’s house?” Not understanding his upset I asked what he meant. He replied, “That house looked like the freaking tree people lived there!” I didn’t get why he was so upset, and in fact, I didn’t think about that moment again until recently. Recently I realized why my father was so upset, and I’m sorry to say that I agree.
As a new mom I’ve met a few new mommy acquaintances out and about. I’m good at keeping myself busy so I’m not typically in other people’s homes, but when one woman invited us over for a soiree we happily agreed to visit. With my daughter dressed up I knocked on the door, entered the house, and immediately thought, “Oh no. Don’t touch anything”. You know those horror movies when something terrifying happens and the loud screeching violins go off? I heard those screeching violins on full blast as my eyes wandered around. It wasn’t just toys. Toys are not the issue. As a mom I can completely understand why toys would be all over the place, because they definitely get out of hand at my house too. The toys were stacked and strewn everywhere, dust and crust on some of them. The rugs looked like they’d never been cleaned and appeared to be covered in dark streaks of grime or dirt; I couldn’t tell what it was. The couches looked terrifyingly unclean, and I perched myself on the corner of an old coffee table to avoid having to sit on whatever could have been hiding in between the musty, dingy looking threads.
I know, I sound like a total A-hole right now, and honestly, I felt guilty. I felt guilty about feeling the way I did, questioning whether I was simply just a mean and nasty woman, but I couldn’t shake the feeling of horror. I politely stayed for an hour, thanking our host as graciously as I could for the invite before taking my daughter home, tossing her clothing in the laundry and running a nice sudsy bath. Perhaps I do suffer from some degree of OCD, or perhaps how I felt was entirely valid, I don’t really know. All I do know is at that moment I understood my father’s frustration that day he’d come home upset from dropping my brother off at that friend’s house. I am not perfect, but I cannot pretend to be comfortable in a situation where feel ill at ease.
Not wanting to be a total jerk I did invite the woman in question over to my home in an attempt to remain friendly, but it was in vain. When her child spilled a leaking bottle of milk in various little puddles on my floor she made no attempt to clean it, and I got up to wipe the obvious white droplets away. I sheepishly said, “Sorry! I’m kinda OCD,” feeling the need to apologize for cleaning up after her child to which she said, “Ah. Well we have carpeting, it just sucks it right up and it’s gone,” that was the end for me. Though I felt horrible judging another mom, I couldn’t help myself. I couldn’t force myself to feel ok about it. As parents it’s important to be open minded, and welcoming toward other people, but it’s also important to realize when something or someone isn’t a great fit. It was a tough lesson to learn about myself, but I had to be honest. Sometimes we just have to be real about the things we don’t like. This doesn’t mean one has to hurt someone’s feelings. It just means it’s time to move along. I want to be a good mom, and a kind person, but one shouldn’t have to feel entirely uneasy to accomplish this.