I cleaned all day today.
We’re hosting a family birthday party tomorrow and I wanted the place to look presentable.
I folded laundry and washed dishes and picked up mismatched socks and stray LEGOs. I swept up scrambled eggs from breakfast and chicken nuggets from lunch.
I helped my oldest son organize the crayons in his art set and my youngest son put away the rubber food that goes to his play kitchen.
I barely sat down, and I’m pretty sure the afternoon cup of coffee I was looking forward to is still sitting on the Keurig tray.
But despite my efforts and the efforts of my kids (yes, I do require them to help), my house still looks like this.
No, this is not a “before” photo. It is a right now photo after the hours I spent cleaning—and I just want to say this about it:
If you walk into a home that looks like this, don’t assume someone hasn’t been working her (or his) tail off to keep the place inhabitable.
Don’t assume a cleaning schedule needs to be put in place, or that better habits need to be maintained.
Don’t assume no one cares.
Instead, you can safely assume someone probably feels defeated and a bit like she’s failing.
You can assume she’s overwhelmed. Frustrated. Hopeless to the point where she’s considered burning the place down and starting over somewhere new.
You can assume she’s tired. Soooo dang tired.
You can assume she has a ton on her plate. That between her marriage, children, friendships, career, and house, something will inevitably be neglected–and she’s not going to let that something be her family.
You can assume she’s trying really, really hard, but the force of life is more powerful than she is right now.
When you walk into a house that looks like this, comment on the sweetly scribbled artwork hanging on the refrigerator.
Tell her you love how her house feels full of life.
Tell her you’re grateful she welcomed you into her home.
Then offer to watch her kids for a day so she can clean without tiny tornadoes following closely behind (Kidding… Sort of.).
Mostly, just tell her she’s doing a good job.
Because truthfully? The fact is she’s probably been cleaning all day.