Parenthood is not a gig for the faint of heart; it's as overwhelming as it is rewarding. Maybe that's why we inevitably end up lowering our standards in almost every area. "My kid will never eat processed foods" morphs into "My kid will never eat processed foods more than twice a week" morphs into "Here, eat these chicken nuggets." Screen time goes from extremely limited to Paw Patrol on a loop. And when it comes to cleaning? Forget about it.
Even the neatest of neat freaks find themselves walking barefoot across crumbs without blinking an eye. It's because having kids takes basic household tidiness to a whole other level. Kids are gross, and they don't care about cleanliness — a bad combination when it comes to keeping things sparkling.
I'm not even talking about all the stuff you normally need to clean, like the floors and the windows. I'm talking about the extra stuff that kids mess up, things that childless households never have to think about. Children leave a bazillion dirty things in their wake, such as . . .
Who needs tissues when a booger receptacle is as near as the closest wall? Certainly not kids. They'll dive knuckle-deep into a nostril and then wipe the freshly mined nuggets anywhere they can reach. Headboards, baseboards, you name it. Oh, and if you think you can simply sponge 'em away, think again — you're gonna need a chisel and a ton of patience to rid your wall of the snot-spackle. Try not to cry when the paint chips off along with the boogers.
Trash cans are a concept they seem to have a hard time understanding. Therefore, you'll find the wrappings of string cheeses and yogurt packages and fruit snacks pretty much everywhere except the trash. You'll run them through the laundry, and discover them buried in the depths of toy boxes, stuffed in between the couch cushions, and crumpled into that crack between the wall and the bed.
Before kids, you take all your gloriously not smudged surfaces for granted. You never even considered that someday you'd find yourself wiping grubby prints off the front of the refrigerator, or lamenting about how grungy your walls look (starting about waist-level). Windows, appliances, computer screens — if your kids can reach it, it'll be gross, guaranteed.
There was a time when I confined my kids' snacking strictly to the kitchen. But then I had more kids, and they got older and sneakier, and I got tired, and that's why my house has enough random sticky patches to rival a freshly asphalted road. You've got kids, you've got sticky messes. Which, if left undiscovered long enough, become dirty and crusty. I mean . . . at least they're not sticky any more after that point. Look on the bright side, right?
An adults-only restroom isn't usually a urine-soaked disaster (unless it's a gas station or something, then all bets are off), but a bathroom shared with kids requires much more cleaning than the average. I'm not sure why they have such difficulty with targeted tinkling, but they spray more than a teenage boy with a can of Axe. I'm gonna chalk it up to their lack of aiming experience, but whatever the reason, parents buy approximately 8000 percent more bathroom cleaner. It's a fact.
Everybody's house gets dirty. But "dirty" to someone without kids might mean a thin layer of dust that you can only see on the fingertip of a white glove, whereas "dirty" with kids takes on a whole new meaning. Because I'm talking about literal dirt. You'll find it tracked across floors, making a ring in the bathtub, caked on the bottoms of shoes, and sometimes even filling pockets (better hope you find it before you wash). Remember the Pigpen character from Peanuts? Yeah — it's like that. All over your entire house.
I have been saying "Please put away your dishes," (or less-friendly variations thereof) after every single meal for the better part of a decade. You would think that by now, putting their dishes in the dishwasher or sink would come as naturally to my kids as breathing . . . but you'd be wrong. I find cups and plates and bowls everywhere besides the places where dirty dishes need to go. Kitchen sinks, like trash cans and tissues, are another receptacle that kids seem to find completely unnecessary.
See: dishes. The same goes for clothes hampers.
Yes, all houses — childless or not — are subject to getting dusty and crusty every now and then. But kids make your surroundings exponentially more disgusting, and it never stops; turn around and something new is tarnished, blink and there's another booger. You either go insane, or you sigh and hope that maybe when they go to college, your stuff will stay clean for more than two seconds.
They say I'll miss the mess someday. But I'll believe that when I see it.