This is Not My Beautiful House

by Samantha on December 1, 2012

How clean is your house? Could it withstand a visit from an unexpected guest?

How clean is your house? Could it pass the test that we all dread: unexpected guests?

I pose the question because a friend of mine relayed an irritating scenario to me that I just had to write about.

A friend of hers had been surprised by the friend’s mother-in-law (MIL) at her home. Apparently the MIL was horrified by the state of the house because the kids had (surprise, surprise) made a mess. The mother-in-law expected the house to be perfectly clean and in good shape at all times. Now here’s the kicker: the MIL insists that other people with kids have perfect houses that don’t look like a bomb went off in every room.

For the record, I think this MIL is insane.

On any given day, my house looks like both a tornado and tsunami have simultaneously crossed the threshold with a force that only Mother Nature could create. Toys abound, laundry baskets (full, of course) are plentiful and there may even be some scribbles and various “art” pieces that adorn my walls, courtesy of my twin boys. So??

I HAVE KIDS! Small kids at that! And like the mom who was berated by her oh-so-perfect mother-in-law, my house is not perfect. It is, however, in perfect disarray. As it should be. Kids, by definition, mean chaos. We love them, sure, but let’s face it: raising them on any given day, is chaotic, to say the least. There are soccer games to shepherd them to, and of course there’s the requisite soiled laundry pile that never seems to get done. There are playdates and birthday parties, homework assignments yet to be completed and class projects that require the full use of the dining room table. There are dishes in the sink, the dishwasher and, sometimes, in the kids rooms. Yes, the kids’ rooms (I may or may not have agreed to this, but it’s irrelevant). Regardless of where these dishes are found, they all need to be cleaned. My point is that some level of “mess” is part and parcel of having children. It’s a package deal, folks.

Perhaps this MIL is “old school,” and perhaps she ran her house like an army barracks when her kids were young. Everything had it’s place, I’m sure, and she may very well have raised her kids (and spouse, no doubt) with an iron fist. I know the type. Nothing less than perfection in housekeeping is acceptable. While this may work on the surface of things (the house is always clean when folks come over, unannounced or not), the reality that belies this type of scenario is less-than-perfect. Because, let’s face it: keeping a house in order at all times takes work, even if you don’t have kids. Add even one little rug rat to the equation and you will gain more than a few grey hairs and your blood pressure will likely skyrocket. It’s just the way things go. Add two or more to the mix and…well, I don’t have to go on. As far as I’m concerned, we parents need a break and a pass from the prying eyes and subsequent criticism of those who feel holier-than-thou. Mother-in-law or not, unless you’re also dealing with the perpetual laundry hell borne of a family of active children, you have no right to comment.

Judge lest not ye be judged. Remember?

So back to this friend of a friend and her prying mother-in-law. Here’s what I would suggest to her:

1) Tell the mother-in-law to back off and mind her own business. Difficult to do, I know, but oh, so cathartic when done.

2) Refuse to answer the door when MIL (or anyone else) drops in unannounced. It’s your house, after all, and you should be the one who dictates when someone crosses the threshold to your comfortably messy house.

3) Enlist the support of her spouse (MIL’s son) in getting the message across that insults and criticisms are not welcome. It is his mother so he should take the lead in speaking to her and supporting his wife. He’s wise to remember that old but  very truthful expression: “When mom’s not happy, NO ONE is happy!

So let me pose this question to you: Is your home ready for unexpected guests? How would you deal with this mother-in-law in this situation?


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