Why I Clean Instead of Sleep


While I wave goodbye to the babysitter backing out of our driveway and lock the front door, I hear the shower turn on upstairs. My husband’s shoes lay haphazardly on the foyer tile while his sports coat, wallet, and car keys are sharing kitchen counter space with the toaster oven. My feet hurt, and a hot shower after a family wedding sounds amazing; nevertheless, I know myself far too well now to simply go upstairs and not clean.

I choose a corner and begin what I’ve deemed “The Sweep,” always leaving the kitchen for last since there’s nothing worse than finding a sippy cup still half full with milk AFTER the dishwasher is humming. Sometimes, depending on the babysitter and the length of awake time she had with the kids, “The Sweep” only takes about 20 minutes; other nights, however, my husband has dried off and is sound asleep with clean teeth before I even begin tackling the pizza sauce now crusted on and around the high chair tray.

I have requested that my sitters (and kids) spend more time cleaning up.

But, I have learned over the years that no one even the best and most anal retentive of sitters cares about the trivial details of my home as much as I do, and why would they? (Plus, I am fully aware I have trust issues and will totally double-check and, if needed, redo everything anyway).

I’ve tried to “just worry about it in the morning.”

But here’s what happens every single time: I wake up mad. Instead of snuggling my daughter in her bed and playing peak-a-boo through the crib bars with my son like I always do first thing in the morning, I am angrily chucking dirty socks into the hamper and lecturing my half-awake four-year-old, who is just trying to pee, on the importance of hearing the toothpaste top “click” before putting it back into the bathroom drawer. And even though he had nothing to do with the mess (or the fact that I highly prioritize cleanliness), I don’t make eye contact with my husband until everything is back in order.

I realize I may need counseling. Or meds.

But I’ve been this way since I remember. My car, my classroom when I was a teacher, and even my dorm room at college was always neat and orderly; it’s how I function best. And frankly, I need to be my best self in order to be my best version of a wife and mother.

Yes, I do sometimes need to just let things go.

And trust me, I have; I’ve had no choice. I mean, there is no longer a point in neatly folding my 19-month-old’s pants when he’s at the stage where “fun” is opening the dresser drawers and throwing all items on the wood floor. In order to smoothly move on with my day though, I simply ensure that the pants are placed back in their drawer and are not mixed up with the shirts or socks. Blasphemy!

I’m just a better me when my house is clean.

And I’ve never once woken up to regret staying up late to clean my house. Yeah, I’m tired sometimes, but I wouldn’t, shouldn’t, and couldn’t trade in my peaceful cup of morning coffee and all-day presence with my family.  

Do you need your house to be clean?
If not, what allows you to be more present with your children and spouse?


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