Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Monday, July 16, 2007

Playing to a Private Audience

by Sariah S. Wilson

I apologize for my tardiness in posting - this weekend we blessed our baby at church and we had a lot of out-of-town relatives come in to participate in/witness the blessing. I've only been home basically long enough to sleep and haven't had the time to post.

But I noticed something about myself this weekend, which was brought even more into focus by my mom's lesson in Relief Society (who pointed out that we tend to judge men by what they do/how successful they are and we judge women by their homes and their families even if they're successful business women) - I am way, way paranoid about people seeing the inside of my house.

Now, I know those women who say "Oh, my house is such a mess," and by that they mean that three toys have been left on the floor. When I say my house is a mess, what I'm really saying is, "Please don't call the Board of Health on me." I am an inherently lazy person and cleaning the house (to my husband's eternal chagrin) is so way down on the priority list for me.

But when I have company coming, I clean. And clean. And clean. And since I don't do it so often, it obviously takes forever. It's so bad that when I do clean any other time my kids ask, "Who's coming over?"

I blame this on my grandmother. My father's stepmother (his own mother died when he was a toddler) was, how shall I say this, not the nicest of people. She liked to come over to my mother's home at 7:00 in the morning and open drawers to check for dust. One time, while my mother was caring for three children under the age of four (and one of them handicapped) my grandmother decided that my mother's home was not up to her standards came over to clean it herself, Pine-Sol in hand, yelling at my mother the whole time.

This went on for most of my childhood. So you can imagine what holidays and such were like for our family. One giant cleaning frenzy so that Grandma wouldn't freak out. (Grandma usually found something else to complain about though, even if the house was spotless.)

I found myself at 12:15 a.m. Friday night/Saturday morning mopping my kitchen floor. My husband told me to go to bed and that we'd work on it together the next day. I couldn't do it. I couldn't stop mopping. I had to get it all cleaned. He told me to stop playing to my own private audience - that no one would care if the house wasn't perfect.

I realized he was right. I was putting on a show for an audience that didn't exist. In my eleven years of marriage, no one has ever made any comments to me about my house. Now, they might be saying them behind my back, but no one has ever directly attacked me as my grandmother had my mother.

I then tried to imagine what was the worst thing that could happen if my house wasn't perfect. Would my private audience throw vegetables at me? Or in reality, would they *GASP* think I was a terrible housekeeper?

I am a terrible housekeeper.

But even telling myself that, even reasoning with myself over the worst case scenario, I couldn't stop mopping. That panic from my youth is, I'm afraid, too well ingrained.

Since I have a small one who insists on being held, well, all the time, I didn't get to do as much on the house as I would have liked. It wasn't spotless.

And you know what? It truly didn't matter. No one pulled out the Pine-Sol to fix my mess. No one eyeballed the dust on top of the TV. Nobody commented on the state of the blinds.

It made me wonder how often we allow our own irrational fears or insecurities to rule our lives.


At 7/16/2007 1:06 PM, Blogger Marsha Ward said...

Sariah, you're so a kindred spirit. I think a lot of writers are terrible housekeepers. Some make herculean efforts to improve, or beguile the kidlets to help. Me, I just live with it. I have too many other intriguing things to do.

At 7/16/2007 1:49 PM, Blogger Stephanie said...

I keep my house clean enough to keep us healthy, but that is about it. Who has time to do something that just needs to be redone 10 minutes later. I have trained the kids to do a really good Saturday clean though. I don't know what I'll do when they grow up and leave home.

At 7/16/2007 5:01 PM, Blogger Josi said...

And I really like a clean house. I can write better when I know things are orderly. I'm not a freak about it, and other people's homes don't bug me if they aren't perfect, but I have set chores I do every day and I try and keep on top of other things or it just eats at me.

but I do it for me and my husband, and you're exactly right that it shouldn't be because people will judge us--it's our own comfort level.

At 7/16/2007 6:52 PM, Anonymous Marlene said...

I find that when someone wants to see good in me and what I do, they like the things I do, and likewise, if they don't want to approve of me, they'll find a reason not to. It doesn't matter if my dishes are stacked on the counter, if I have spelling errors in my writing or even if I've put on makeup. Even more interesting is that most of the time when I forget about those things, I'm able to pay more attention to THEM which they do enjoy so they do want to see the good in me.

As for my house... I tell people I keep it the way it is so everyone can feel good about how clean their's is in comparision.


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