September 1, 2011

Saints have clean houses!

I’ve seen a lot of posts on the internet lately that look something like this: 

When I see things like this, I’m immediately hit by two contradictory thoughts. The first, and briefest, is this: “Yeah! That’s right! I must be a GREAT mom…because my house is disgusting....” 

But the second, the one that comes from a place of deeper recollection is this: “Why can’t a good mom have both?” Or maybe…shouldn’t we have both? 

Believe me, I understand. It is hard to keep a clean house when there are kids in it. Mine is often--very often-- in complete disarray. In fact, I think almost every night this week I have gone to bed with a sink full of dishes…and a floor full of rice. And by no means do I think our children’s well-being should suffer for the sake of sanitization. However, when I think of sainthood, I think of order. Order in all things--in our spiritual life, in our relationships, and within our homes. 

Kids are fun. They’re wild. They’re spontaneous and messy. These things are good. I love love looooove spontaneity. But spontaneous-and-messy doesn’t necessarily mean chaos. Our kids are going to learn about God--about what it means to live a saintly life--from us. God is not about chaos. He is about fulfilling promises and responsibilities. He is about self sacrifice and unconditional love. Obviously, this goes beyond just having a clean house.Way beyond. But our kids will come to know God through all of our actions and relationships, even the tiny ones. Though it may seem insignificant, the way we keep a house is part of that. 

I know what some of you are thinking. “Can having a messy house actually be a detriment to our spiritual lives?” 

I submit that it can. 

I admit. I say it all the time. “My house is a mess because…blah blah blah…something about having a toddler…blah…Sophia did this…blah.” But as I sit here, honest with myself, I know that the ONLY reason my house gets to the state of “disgusting” is because I have been lazy. Maybe it was too much facebook. Maybe I felt like I’d rather write song lyrics. Maybe I wanted to flat iron my hair. Whatever the reason, I put off cleaning up long enough to allow chaos to set in. And the funny thing is, if I would have just been faithful to my responsibilities, I probably would have had more than enough time to do all of those things and more. But once I’ve let it go too long, getting it back in order takes an entire day…or two. It’s like this in the spiritual life. If we’ve been keeping ourselves "clean" (frequent confession, prayer, Eucharist, etc.), maintenance is stress-free. But when we let ourselves tumble all the way down to the bottom of the valley, the climb back to the summit is quite a chore. (pun intended). 

I am called to be a wife and mother. Part of that responsibility, that vocation, includes keeping the house in order. Are the floors always going to be immaculate? No. Are all of the toys always going to be put away before bed? Probably not. But I do believe that I have a duty to keep a clean house, an ordered environment, for my family. And that duty is shared by my husband and my children. 

I might add that there have been times that I have been successful in keeping a clean house for a while, and by no means did my children’s happiness suffer. There was plenty of time for play. More time, actually. If things were kept up, morning chores only took…the morning. The little things that needed to get done during the day were accomplished easily, and I even had some help from my toddler! 

I guess the point I’m trying to make here is this: I think that sign, though well intended, is a cop out. I think that mentality is an excuse, and one that I myself have used too many times before. And I don’t say this because I’m a “clean freak” (My husband can attest to the fact that I am anything but). It’s not about keeping a clean house for the sake of having a clean house. It’s about a deeper value, a value in order and in maintaining our responsibilities.

So I say this: Good moms have clean floors…and happy kids. 

Now. Time for me to go and walk the walk. 


Happy sweeping!

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