Danger: Toxic levels of self-bashing

This post is a bit of an off-shoot for me but as I write it I will somehow figure out how to make a journaling prompt out of it. And I also know many of you will relate to what I am about to say.

I got rejected.

By a home-cleaning professional.

Let me explain. I don’t like chaos or clutter. My preferred living arrangement is tidy and beautifully decorated; OK, it’s more eclectic than beautiful, but everything has a place, everything in its place. That’s how it is supposed to be, however, I have two young kids: Clutter Happens. I am a Virgo: I don’t like doing the same things over and over.

I JUST vacuumed this rug, did you HAVE to bring a plate of rice crispies (a plate? of cereal? seriously?) in here and lick them up like you’re a dog? Seriously?!

And I hate, hate, hate to clean. I was absent the day they were giving out the cleaning gene. Consequence: My house is a mess! Yes, I go through when I can no longer see the floor daily and pick up the socks, toys, shoes, wrappers, escaped rabbits, backpacks, papers strewn around and get the house looking marginally like somewhere I might enjoy living. But to be honest, once the rabbit-trapping game is over I have no energy left to get out a dust rag. In fact, I don’t even have the energy to even see the layer of dust that is holding the piano together. In other words, if you come over you may be impressed by the cozy furniture arrangement, art on the walls, and homemade pillows on the couch, but please don’t look too closely at anything. Let’s put it this way, there might as well be a Spider Safe Zone sign on my front door. No arachnid need fear for their life here: my home is your home, Mr. and Mrs. Legs. Dust bunnies are also welcome to multiply to their dust bunny delight.

Most of the time I turn a blind eye to my greasy microwave and be-crumbed counter corners, but once in a while it all comes uncomfortably into focus and I tearfully bemoan my lack of housewifery skill. That’s when Hubby and I have the conversation we have had countless times before: Let’s get a cleaner. OK, OK, I’ll make some calls… but I never do. Why? That is a mystery only my therapist can help me unravel. But at last this week when I admitted it was crazy to be putting myself under so much pressure to do something I detest and frankly, suck at, I made a call.

So, she came over. I promised not to clean up before she came. The house wasn’t in too bad a shape to my eyes. Well, it was tidy, at least. Still it felt like she was peering into my unconscious and finding it to be a scary place. She looked around, we decided on a number of hours and what exactly she would be expected to do. Thanks for coming by, hear from you soon about starting date? Yes, nice to meet you too. Yes, goodbye.

Two days later I got The Call. She was going to have to pass on the job. The time slot she was planning to give to me didn’t open up as she was expecting and she had to be honest with herself about her own schedule and energy level. OK, no problem. I understand. Good for you for looking after yourself. Bye.

Suddenly I feel rejected. Was my house even too dirty for a house cleaner?? Seriously, do I suck that badly? I was taking it personally. Because I’m not very nice to myself.

As I scrubbed my kitchen counters and swept the floor this morning I realized there was a bash session going on in my head that I hadn’t been invited to:

You are a TERRIBLE housewife! You can’t even keep the counters clear? Look in that corner! And under there! And, oh, good job on cleaning the oven… I can still smell the smoke from the burnt piece of, what was that? Last week’s pizza? And what the hell is that mush in the back of the fridge? Ugh!

On and on it went as I wiped and de-crumbed. It was kind of like having a drill sergeant in my head: What is it, Young? Scared of a little cleaning? You wuss! You failure as a woman! Drop and give me 50 scrubs of that floor!

But then I stood up straight and fired back at that ugly, yelling fathead. I don’t HAVE to be good at this. So there!

Just because I’m a woman it doesn’t mean I was born knowing how, or liking to scrub toilets. It’s not required. No one expects me to know how – or want – to paint a picture, build a house, fill potholes, or solve global warming. But for some reason cleaning house (and cooking – don’t enjoy that either) is a requirement of my gender. I pay someone to do my taxes, fix my car, and cut my hair, why should I feel any different about cleaning my house? Worst of all, I put this expectation on myself.

Someone once said: Don’t get good at what you don’t want to be doing. Right then, I won’t! I want to be writing and studying. I want to be a happier, less stressed mom and wife. I want to live in a clean house that fills me with contentment not reminders of my “failure.” I want to be authentic! Do what you love and leave the rest to someone else. I’ll make another call. Someone out there is looking for work. I can be a happier failure as a housewife, get my own much-enjoyed work done, and help someone else. Score!

And here are your Prompts (told you I’d find something to journal about!): What are you getting good at but would rather not be? What’s your drill sergeant saying? Do you believe him/her?


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2 thoughts on “Danger: Toxic levels of self-bashing

  1. HILARIOUS!!! is that part of being a virgo the not liking to do the same thing over and over??? Cause that has ALWAYS been my issue with cleaning as well! “I just dusted that YESTERDAY,,,where did that layer of dust come from??” So funny as virgos are supposed to be obsessive, I guess just not about everything.
    coming from one non cleaning freak to another.. I LOVE this post!
    Being women we do bash ourselves over our “flaws” daily.. I love where you wrote “Don’t get good at what you don’t want to be doing”. How nice to have permission to focus our short time here on something we love!!

  2. Joanne, my house is a lot like yours. I have blinders on to most of it too, because I’m busy writing.

    I’m not fond of cleaning either, and I do have a tendency to let it get out of control, until I can’t stand it, but I’d like to change that. But the self-castigation is not very likely to change my behavior for the long run.

    I wanted to share something I recently came across from Nathaniel Branden’s Honoring the Self:

    “To honor the self is to be willing to know not only what we think but also what we feel, what we want, need, desire, suffer over, are frightened or angered by–and to accept our right to experience such feelings. The opposite of this attitude is denial, disowning, repression–self-repudiation….

    To honor the self is to preserve an attitude of self-acceptance, which means to accept what we are, without self-oppression or self-castigation, without any pretense about the truth of our own being, pretense aimed at deceiving ourselves or anyone else”.

    I think this goes with anything. If you are a writer first, then housewife second, be proud of that. But I think there are ways to making the household chores less of a nuisance.

    As writer/mothers, we might think of creative ways of making cleaning more, well, part of our creative process. Use good smelling cleaners (I’ve got a lavender scented floor cleaner, YUMMY!), play soothing or stimulating music. Even when I’m engaged in cleaning, my mind is constantly churning, sifting through my thoughts. I have kept a journal nearby so that I can write down really good thoughts before they disappear.

    I also tend to like cleaning in 15 minute chunks too, like Flylady. There’s a lot that can be done in 15 minutes. It takes more time to convince oneself to procrastinate than it does to actually work intensively for 15 minutes doing a boring but necessary chore.

    And, what’s more, I recently got to thinking, not every thought in my head needs to be written down RIGHT NOW, though often, it feels that way. The good thoughts do come back, sometimes ever better than originally created.

    I have a friend, a fellow writer, who had lived with his aging mother so he had to do his own chores. So part of his day has to include at least some basic housekeeping duties. He rather felt it was necessary to keep to a routine that included both time for the chores as well as time for his writing. If he delayed his chores, he felt guilty. So he spent time on it. Granted, he had no children to take care of, that made a mess afterward. But his process was to take some time letting thoughts come to the surface and when he had a common theme to his seemingly random thoughts, THEN he began to write about them.

    I’d rather be writing from sunup to sundown. Truly. But I’m so out of balance it’s not funny. Great swaths of time are spent on the computer, writing, living in my head, and I’m missing out on living life. Quite honestly, if you use good smelling cleaners, if you play music and dance while you clean, you can becoming one with the task and cleaning becomes a creative process too!

    And, I’m saying this for my benefit, too. Instead of listening to a drill sergeant that does not have my best interests in mind, I would rather try to cultivate a different voice, one that nurtures my creative process in whatever task I do.

    Take care,


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