I recently read a post from a blogger explaining why she no longer cleans up her house when friends visit. It bothered me and I want to take some time to address it, and to explain why I will always clean my house when you visit.
Something needs to be established from the beginning. I’m not a great homemaker. I have joked about this before, but it bears repeating.
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Housework does not come naturally to me.
Dirty dishes in my sink do not dismay me.
A pile of clean but unfolded laundry sitting in a corner doesn’t make my heart stop.
I know it should, but it doesn’t.
Like Erma Bombeck, I have a rule that the floor must be mopped when it becomes adhesive. (And, like Erma, I know that there are no known navy blue foods. Any navy blue food must be discarded carefully.)
and yet ….
Somewhere in the past twenty-five years since I’ve left my parents’ home, I’ve learned that there are many very important reasons to keep house and the only magical cleaning fairy around here is me.
Things are pretty gender-defined around here. The Mister works hard at his job, builds things and lifts heavy stuff that I can’t. I take care of the house and children and the daily care of garden and animals. Sometimes I help him, sometimes he helps me, but mostly we deal with our own sphere of work.
It works for us, and that’s what matters.
So that means that the cleaning fairy is me, the homeschooling mother of four young children who runs a blog and sells a cookbook from her kitchen table. The one who is home all day …. the one who really hates to clean house.
If you like this, by the way, you’re going to love my cookbook A Cabin Full of Food. Containing nearly a thousand recipes and tips, interwoven with personal stories, nothing requires a freezer, fridge (although a cool or cold place, depending on the season, is useful!), microwave or food processor. Simple, classic, no frills – food that your grandmother would have recognized.
Except if I know you are coming to visit.
Not the Queen or Prime Minister or some other fancy schmuck, but you.
Then I’m going to be up at 5 am 7 am (let’s be honest, I could be a morning person if mornings started at noon), issuing orders to the children, sweeping, getting all of the dishes cleaned up and the floor swept and getting a cake or brownies or something equally yummy into the oven.
Or, as I have done in the past, perhaps I’ll casually invite you to stay for dinner and you’ll arrive to a chicken dinner with all the trimmings. (I may not be a great housekeeper, but I’m a fabulous cook.)
And a clean floor, of course.
My motivation is not to show you that I’m an immaculate homemaker because …. I’m not. That’s hardly a secret.
If you drop in unannounced, you are going to see toys strewn from one end of the house to another, dirty diapers where they should not be, dishes piled in the sink, and – we can stop there, right? You get the picture.
|No, that’s not a stock photo. That’s my kitchen sink.|
Unannounced guests get what they get, and I’ve stopped apologizing.
But expected guests? I’ll do everything in my power to make the house and children look good, if only for that brief time when you’re visiting.
Although you’ll find the house a mess,
It doesn’t always look this way.
Some days, it’s even worse.
So why do I do it? Why is it important to me that my house be clean look as clean as possible when guests are expected?
I do it to show you respect.
It is the same reason why I make sure that I’m clean and properly put together before I leave the house. It has nothing to do with me, and it took me a long time to realize that.
It’s all about showing respect to the people around me.
When you come to my home, if I know you’re coming and can prepare, I want you to feel special, respected and welcomed. (I would like you to feel that if you’re unexpected, but the truth is you’ll be walking into the chaos that is our normal life!)
When a young parent says that they stop cleaning in order to not make their friends feel bad about their own homes, it makes me wonder at the message today’s young people are receiving about why we clean up for visitors, why we put on proper clothing in public, why we do many of the things we do.
Somehow they got the idea that it was all about shaming other people. “See, I am perfect, with a spotless house, and you’re not. Na-nana-na-na.” If that were the case, of course it needs to be stopped.
But I promise you that most people who clean up before company are not thinking about how to make the visitor feel bad!
Seriously, someone dropped the ball on that one when it came to teaching our 20-somethings, because acts of respect and consideration are being tossed aside in favour of “keeping it real”.
Let’s look at it in another way.
Would you invite friends over for dinner and then serve them Kraft Dinner and hot dogs “because I know you don’t cook real food and I didn’t want to make you feel bad”?
How about meeting a friend for coffee and showing up with dirty, unwashed hair and pyjama pants, letting them know that “I didn’t wash up or put on clean clothes because I didn’t want to make you feel bad about how you look.”
Of course not, because we all recognize how insulting that would be.
Instead of lifting each other up, encouraging each other and helping everyone to achieve more, we are busily stepping down the ladder, each trying to be a step lower so that we’re not shaming anyone.
And so let me say it again. If you come and visit me, at least if I know you’re coming, I’m going to clean up. I will cook you a nice meal and we’re going to visit in a clean kitchen.
Because I respect you enough to give you my best.