Ashley's blog: Perfect Isn’t Welcoming
One sunny afternoon the kids were helping me tidy up the house in anticipation of some friends coming round. They were in charge of deconstructing their floor is lava obstacle course in the garden and I tackled the kitchen and the playroom. Once we got over the initial hump of “he’s not helping enough. He didn’t put the chairs in the right place, I can’t lift the bicycle” they really took pride in the job they were doing. (Note that parenting win for a less successful moment!)
The older one then decided to tidy up the playhouse. This is when things took a turn. He has a very commanding use of the English language for a 6-year-old. Sometimes this is impressive and adorable. Other times it is biting and a bit cruel. This time was one of the later. His poor 4-year-old brother was on the receiving end of some very well phrased insults. All because he was hindering the 6-year-old’s ability to remove every speck of dirt and woodchip from the floor of the playhouse. Which was never going to happen anyway.
This is when it dawned on me that perfect isn’t welcoming. It’s restrictive.
Let me explain…
When my father was married to his second wife, she kept a brilliant house. She mopped the floor twice a day, cleaned the whole house top to bottom 4 times a week, and dusted like her life depended on it. Which made the place feel like a museum. It was a terrible house to spend time in. Yes, the house was lovely and incredibly well presented but you never felt like you could do anything. You would sit on a chair in the tv room and not move a muscle for fear of making any sort of mess, let alone the bum imprint on the cushion.
There was never any artwork on the fridge, no mail sitting on the table, no blanket lying about to cuddle up in. It was neatly lined up crystal in the curio cabinet, perfectly quaffed throw pillows and white carpet as far as the eye could see.
This is not how I choose to keep my house. Yes, it’s tidy and the cobwebs are (mostly) kept away, but it is lived in. There are signs of children and a family and the wear and tear that comes from it. And that is more than okay with me. That is perfect for me. That is my choice. I love that my children know that it’s not an issue if they accidentally spill a drink or drop some food on the floor. If the sofa in the playroom happens to get some marker on it because they can’t contain their excitement while being a bit creative, it’s no big deal. They are comfortable and free to live and make mistakes and have accidents. (Granted we do have a grownup room with nicer furniture and some more strict rules around colouring and snacking, but they still feel comfortable being in it.)
If you are someone who keeps their house pristine, that is brilliant and admirable. It is fully to each there own. You get to choose. The point I’m trying to highlight here is that, if you’re not one of those people, you don’t need to be embarrassed by it.
Once I came to terms with my desire for a lived-in house, and stopped comparing myself to what is on social media or what I assumed other people would think of me, I began to appreciate my surroundings more. I see the open paint pots and scraps of paper as a sign that the kids are being entertained by something other than a screen. I see the dishes in the sink as an indication that we’ve had a nice meal as a family. I see the clothing strewn about as a success because the kids have dressed themselves without me having to shout at them.
And I’ve started inviting people over on a whim. Coffee chat at mine after drop off? Sure! Need someone to collect your kid from school and keep them occupied for a bit? Got it! Having a rough day and fancy a drink and a moan? Come over. And I’ll tell you what, no one has judged my house. No one has even flinched if they’ve needed to take a jumper off a chair to sit down. My home is inviting. And that’s the best kind of home I could have wished for.