This I Believe

Barbara - Tucson, Arizona
Entered on September 19, 2007
Age Group: 50 - 65
Themes: family, pleasure

When I grew old enough to talk to my mother adult-to-adult, she revealed a regret that I have learned to understand and appreciate. She was a stay-at-home mom for most of my childhood and she spent her days watching us three kids, making meals and keeping an immaculately clean house. Being the oldest child and a girl, it was my job to help out by vacuuming and dusting the living room. We had a big crocheted rug with fringe all around it, which I would have to straighten by getting on my hands and knees and combing with my fingers. It was a thankless task since it would be messed up as soon as anyone crossed the rug.

As I grew up and got my own place, I tried to emulate my mother’s housewife perfection. I did pretty well on my own with my cat as the only mess maker, but after I got married and had children in the house, my ideal clean house drifted away from me. I will never forget a friend who came over and remarked that it seemed that I had relaxed in my cleaning skills. I did not take it as a compliment and was horrified that she would consider my home less than clean.

When I next saw my mother, I expressed my disillusionment with my house cleaning skills. What she told me completely took me by surprise. She said, “I don’t know why I thought I had to keep the house clean. It really didn’t matter that much and now I wish I had spent the time having fun instead.” It took me some time to process this concept, so alien to my upbringing, but after another child and a few more years I gave in. There really were more important things to do.

Now I am involved in so many things I can hardly keep them straight. I help out in my boys’ Scout troop, at the church youth program and anything else that my family pursues. Sometimes it is too much but I never considered quitting. Life is too short and especially, life with my sons is even shorter. There will be no looking back and saying that I wish I had done something. And my house, well, it is not so clean, but no one really seems to care. Especially my kids.