I was the neighborhood babysitter when I was in middle and high school. I loved it. I had several families in our small little hood that I sat for regularly – the C’s had me over every Wednesday after school to watch their two little ones while the mom was taking classes at a local university, the Cr’s who had me over every Tuesday night so they could attend a couple’s church group, and the G’s with two very rambunctious boys who used me regularly for much-needed nights out and during the summers for what I can now only imagine were afternoons that the mom simply wanted some peace and quiet.
The G’s house always made me nervous. It was always so immaculate when I arrived, morning, noon or night. You could see the vacuum lines in the carpet, everything was always put in its place, the counters clutter free and the bathrooms sparkled. I was always terrified the boys would destroy it while I was there, convinced they must be neater when I wasn’t around and that my inability to maintain such a high bar of cleanliness would be reflected in my take home pay.
Before their parents would come home, I’d make sure every Lincoln log and car were safely stowed, the counters wiped down again (even if all I’d done was dish out some Goldfish), I was known to even vacuum occasionally to ensure a spotless home upon their return.
I somehow made the assumption that they must have just lived in a constant state of clean and I was in awe.
Now, as the mom of two boys, I often think of the Gs. I see their bouncing youngest son in my own never-sit-still-unless-I’m-sleeping younger one. I hear the know-it-all remarks from their oldest in mine when he feels compelled to correct my mistake(s). And I especially think of their mother on days like today – where I spent the better part of the afternoon hiding clutter, putting away toys, wiping down bathrooms and vacuuming in advance of the babysitter we have coming tonight.
There is no way that woman lived in a nirvana state of cleanliness. Not with the level of activity her boys could muster. I see now that she was probably like me – a gal raised to clean up a bit for company, who wants the world to think she’s got it together and doesn’t want to air her dirty laundry (quite literally) for the outside world to see.
I know I shouldn’t care. I know my home is well taken care of, although far from eat off the floor clean. I know my boys are typically (fairly) well behaved for our sitters, but I still worry that these girls will come into my home and judge my mothering on the state of my refrigerator organization or a layer of dust on the DVD player or the papers exploding off the desk in want of signatures, file folders and a trash can.
All I can do is remind myself of my moments with the G family. Sure, I remember their clean house, but I also remember consoling a distraught toddler through a bit of separation anxiety. I remember giggles after building and, of course, destroying many a block tower. I remember two tow headed boys that, although they did in fact try my patience with a streak of Dennis the Menace mischief, were funny and fun to be around.
I hope that these various girls we have that watch our boys take away similar memories of my boys. Moments of fun, silliness and sweetness.
No matter what they think of the state of our kitchen floors, which are filthy, by the way.