Most of the (many, many) conversations that R and I had while we were up to visit centered around our children and home life. It's to be expected, I suppose. We talked about homeschooling. We talked about the differences between boys and girls and what drives us nuts about each. We talked about the things our kids do that seem funny to others but drive us crazy when we have to deal with it Every. Single. Day. And we talked about how we manage to, well, manage our households.
R and I come from similar mothers. You think I'm Type A, OCD, and in many ways a neatnik? You haven't seen my mother. She's not Martha Stewart or anything - I love her, but cooking isn't her forte and she's about as creative as I am - but her house is always, always immaculate. I remember being about 11 and dusting my bedroom. I had really worked to do a good job, because my mom always came in to inspect my room after I said I was done. I called her in, proud of myself, only to see her turn around and wipe a finger over the top of the doorway. "Who dusts that??" I thought. She did. And after that, I did. To this day, I have to dust the tops of doorways every time I break out the Endust. And that's just the start. R's mother is immaculate like mine. We know that compared to our mothers, we both fall way, way short. It bugs both of us. And yet we're very different in our approaches to housekeeping.
Many people who visit my house comment on how neat it is. I guess it can be considered an admirable trait, but sometimes I feel like I'm a harpy when it comes to the house and all that's in it because I feel like I constantly nag at the family to help me keep it clean. "Pick up your toys!!" is a nightly refrain, and I do go through the house to make sure everything is taken care of. Very rarely I will allow a project to be left out overnight, and sometimes there are the odd items that just don't get taken care of for a few days, but by and large, there is a place for everything and everything is in its place.
R's house is slightly more chaotic. It's definitely clean, and the important things get put away (no food on the counters overnight that belongs in the fridge, for example), but she has the magical ability to let her kids leave messes out. She doesn't have an internal panic attack if the laundry doesn't get done on precisely the right day each week. Her kids have a toy room (something I am insanely jealous of) that would make both our mothers' insides twist into knots upon sight.
Clearly we have different ways of doing things, different priorities. The funny thing is, we discovered that we admire these priorities in each other! As we were driving to Wal-Mart at 10:30 p.m. on February 13 to pick up little trinkets and goodies for our kids to have on Valentine's Day, we had a good laugh about it.
"I wish my kids would pick up when I tell them to, like yours do," she said. "Do you know how long it takes me to get them to do anything??"
"But your kids are so HAPPY!" I countered. "They still obey you on the important stuff, but you're able to prioritize and let them just... just be kids and make messes without worrying about it later!"
"But your kids are happy, too, and your house is clean!"
"But I feel like I have a stick up my backside about it and that I'm mean!"
"I feel like I'm not mean enough, and my house drives me crazy!"
I was glad we were able to laugh about it. It struck me as hilarious that here we were, two similar products of two similar mothers, and yet we admire the different approaches that we have taken as better traits than those we practice ourselves. She's jealous of my ability to have a constantly neat house; I'm jealous of her ability to NOT have one. Will we ever be able to modify our behaviors to more closely match what we say we want? Probably not. It would drive me absolutely bonkers to have stuff on the floor when I went to bed at night, and she would hate having to try to mold her kids into something new just to get them to cooperate with all the cleaning.
So we'll sit here, friends anyway, and just admire that lovely, equally green grass on the other side of the fence.
Human nature is definitely a funny thing.