This article originally appeared on Rachel Martin’s blog, Finding Joy. It has been reposted here with permission.
Before you get all panicked that this is another one of those articles that tells you to ignore the dishes until tomorrow because babies grow up to our sorrow let me reassure you: it’s not. It’s, instead, a breath for those who feel just a bit of guilt.
Do the dishes. Please.
Because even though babies grow up it’s best if they grow up when the dishes are done.
And don’t feel guilt about doing those dishes.
You’re teaching kids that dishes are a fact of life. You eat, you make a mess, you clean up.
Sometimes I think those articles that tell us to savor the moment miss that sometimes savoring the moment is WAY more enjoyable and easy to do when there isn’t a big pile of dishes staring us down as the food dries on it.
I’ve fought that part of me for a long time thinking that there was something wrong with me. I wanted to be the mom that ignored the dishes or the laundry or the to-do list, but truthfully, I wasn’t. And then, then because of all the poems and Pinterest pins and blog posts about how motherhood is short and we need to savor it filled my stream then I’d end up feeling guilt because there I was, scrubbing off dried macaroni and cheese that had turned to glue on the plate versus reading a book.
But friends, again, I really really struggle with reading that book when that pile of dishes is looming in the background. Like struggle. Like I’m the mom that will play with the kids but end up sorting the toys and making playing cleaning instead of playing. It’s about finding YOUR balance.
So I’m writing to you moms a word of permission.
Do the dishes.
You are not a bad mom if you’re not sitting there savoring every. single. moment.
Work must be done. We can’t live in disarray. Or, at least, my personality struggles there. And it, again, is teaching our kids the value of order, chores, responsibility and stewardship when we take care of things around us. And you know what? Doing the dishes might be important for you but not for someone else. But I feel like I just want there to be that permission, in a world screaming at us to savor every second, that doing the dishes or the laundry or all of that stuff is still good. It’s mothering. It’s life.
Do the babies grow up?
My oldest is in college on the other side of the country. So I’m not a writer giving mom advice whose oldest is five. It’s really, really easy to think that one has the answers then. But, I’m telling you, until you parent a teen you cannot advise on a teen. And let me tell you, I cannot advise on motherhood beyond the age 20 years 9 months. Because that’s my time.
But, listen. In those almost twenty-one years of motherhood, I fought myself and my need for order because I allowed the guilt of missing the moment sneak in.
Do you know what happened?
I became crabby. I became frustrated. I became overwhelmed.
So I decided—forget the guilt. And I started creating order and peace. And in that space, the real me began to emerge—the me who could laugh and enjoy the moments because I didn’t have a million things staring me down.
I am a better mom when the dishes are done.
Listen, real life is just this way. We don’t get the luxury of wrapping up life in two hours like a movie or 38 episodes of a sitcom where the staff and set crew clean up the mess. You and I do it.
No more guilt. Do the dishes. Be proud. Love your kids. Savor the moment when you can. Find the balance that works for YOU and your family.
But seriously, if you need order, no guilt. That happiness matters.
Because you know what? I want my kids to see me happy.
And my happiness?
It likes a clean counter.
PS: My daughter survived. And she, haha, likes a clean counter as well.