Expectations vs. Reality

At 21 I was newly engaged and dreaming of my life with my husband.
Like any bride-to-be,
I had high hopes of what life would be like as a wife.
With both my own mother, and my soon-to-be mother-in-law,
I had a fine example of domestic bliss.

In my mind's eye,
I saw myself happily working away in the kitchen.
Baking pies, learning new recipes and hosting fabulous dinner parties.
My house was always tidy.
The dishes were always done,
the laundry neatly folded in the correct drawers
and the bathrooms were spotless.
What I didn't see were the realities and the hardships behind it all.
That perfect recipes mean many burnt attempts along the way.
A clean house required time spent scrubbing.
Spotless bathrooms meant wiping someone else's pee on the toilet seat.
That once children come along,
keeping a house tidy for more than 10 minutes 
would be nearly impossible.
Hosting elegant dinner parties 
means money spent on beautiful glassware and linens.

Behind the beautiful scene of a perfect homemaker,
comes hours of work.

Within the first year of marriage
my dreams of being Holly Homemaker were dashed.
As Spencer and I learned how to co-exist
and learn a new way of doing things,
I realized my expectations were set too high.

The thing is,
they were expectations I had set on myself.
I was completely oblivious to the
hours of work my mom and put into our home.
That 'bliss' was actually the wrong word for it.
The next few years were hard for me because I could
not let go of my own expectations.

When two people move in together,
they each come in with their own set of realities
and expectations.
They way things were done in their family.
Which jobs each of their parents did,
which chores they would do,
and how time was spent.

The idea of domestic perfection,
of Holly Homemaker or June Cleaver,
is ridiculous.
My bathroom will be cleaned once a week.
If you come over that day, you will find a clean bathroom.
If you tell me you are coming over,
you will find a clean bathroom.
Same goes for my floors an the dusting.
If you come over unannounced,
you will most likely find water spots
dried on the faucets,
dishes in the sink and crumbs under the kitchen table.


In the past,
I would have a mini heart attack
when someone knocked on the door.
 I would rush quickly from room to room,
grabbing everything I could and throw it into a room
and shut the door.
Okay, sometimes I still do that.
But for the most part,
I am way better at opening the door with a big smile
and letting it all go.

After spending time living in Portland,
I learned how to embrace the truth
that having a clean house does not
equal happiness, peace in the home or
good hospitality.
There were times when we had overnight guests leaving
at the same time new ones were coming.
I had to learn to open the door to welcome them and say,
"Hi! I am just washing your sheets!"
All while the breakfast dishes from the previous guests had not yet been washed.

You know what made me happy?
People in my home.
They came to see my family,
not to see a perfectly clean house.
Nothing made me happier than having people in my home.
That is still true to this day.

It was such a unique community living there,
and I absolutely loved filling our table with people and feeding them.
Providing them with a meal and a break from studying.
Some of them lived alone, or had little time to make a home cooked meal,
and I was incredibly happy to do that for them.
Each week we would get together with two other families.
It was total chaos and I loved it.
It was a big lesson in what is truly important.

Once I changed my definition and idea of 'domestic bliss',
everything was seen in a different light.
I do not want my life to be measured by how many days my home went
without a mess.
But instead by the memories made inside my home.

My friend Rachel has a little wooden sign on her window sill that says,
Reading that gave me such freedom.
My babies are here for a short time,
my house can be tidy once they are gone.
And even then,
I will probably still choose
people over Pledge!

 Anne Taintor

"Oh, cleaning and scrubbing will wait till tomorrow.
But children grow up as I've learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down cobwebs. Dust go to sleep.
I'm rocking my baby. Babies don't keep."
- last  verse of Song For a Fifth Child, Ruth Hulburt Hamilton

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