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Anxiety at it's finest.

I have come to the conclusion that every time I host a play-date, I get ridden with anxiety. Sometimes the anxiety is so intense, it takes every part of my essence not to cancel it.  I am a social person by nature and want to have play-dates and time with other moms, but the anxiety I have from the time they confirm to the time they leave my house is immense. I am afraid that no matter how hard I try, they will judge me in a negative way. I have paranoia about my house not being clean or organized enough. I feel the judgement and it burns through me.

My anxiety isn't unfounded, it is the residual affects of being the child of a hoarder. My mother is a hoarder. (Not the extreme type you see on the TV shows, but a lesser version.) I grew up in a house that you had to make paths through the newspapers and other things to get through rooms. My mother was a child of the depression. She grew up watching how that affected everyone. She learned the value of things, how to re-purpose things and not to take things for granted. Many of the attributes she learned from this period in her life are wonderful qualities, however, the desire not to throw away soup cans or newspapers is one quality I wish she didn't have.

My parent's divorced when I was four years old. They used to fight about lots of things, but the status of the house was always one of them. When I was a kid, my brothers and I couldn't have friends over. We couldn't have anyone over. Our house was a mess, an unbearable mess, but that was all I knew. When I reached the age that I had friends and went to their houses, I learned that people didn't live that way. It was confusing and I carried the shame but didn't know how to fix it.  My father would pressure us to clean the house, "there are three of you, you should be able to clean the house."  But how do children blatantly disobey one parent to appease the other? It was an unfair and precarious situation that we were put in. There were times that my brothers and I worked together to clean the house and made some progress, but it wasn't long before it deteriorated back to what it was.

Years later,  I am in charge of my own household and find myself at a disadvantage. I was never taught how to maintain a home, I was never taught to clean. I wasn't aware that you had to clean baseboards, dust anything, bleach stuff,  or routinely clean anything beside laundry.  What do you mean dust bunnies aren't  supposed to be there? They got there on their own.  You would think that people instinctively know how to do those things, but we do learn from our parents. We all have seen how mothers influence daughters and teach them to clean. It is something children emulate their mothers from a very young age. I see the twins try to help me when I am cleaning. They want to vacuum, they want to spray and wipe. I  didn't have that model and although I have learned to clean, I feel that every time I have someone in my home, I am subjecting myself to potential criticism.

When we were planning our move to MD, one of my closest friends told me offhandedly, "You know I could never visit and stay with you because of your house, right?" Well, I know now, that you value esthetics more than my company. When she stopped by one day and had her mom with her, I sat in disbelief as her mother started pulling stuff up from between my couch cushions. After the first item, she just kept digging until she got everything. I sat in horror with a handful of miscellaneous items in my hand. She just did it as a matter of fact; like she was doing her civic duty.  At that point, I realized where my friend got it from. She got the standard of clean from her mother. I never had a standard of clean presented to me other than the occasional visit to my step-mom's, which was so clean, I was uncomfortable. In fact, pristine houses or minimalistic houses make me antsy because they look like unlived spaces, void of any human imperfections.  I always have to suppress the urge to leave a rogue candy wrapper somewhere or move something slightly off-center in those type of environments.

When I moved to MD, I felt so isolated that I was desperate to have a human connection. I pushed the anxiety aside and hosted play-dates because the amount of energy it took to prep the kids to leave; get their coats and shoes on, into the car and strapped in, was exhausting. At my house, I know the parameters of my kids' destructive tendencies. I also know that a couple more kids aren't really going to tip the scales into utter destruction, though it has happened. If we are in someone's house, I don't get to relax because I feel like I have to keep track and monitor the kids.  So, I am really between a rock and a hard place, because it takes massive amounts of energy to leave and copious amounts of beer to host.

Because I have ADHD, I try to keep things organized. I have a place for things and can find most things in my house quite easily because I put them in an organized fashion. (It may not look organized, but it is to me.) I have five kids, and with five kids, comes lots of stuff. I am aware that as they age, the big stuff becomes small stuff and the primary plastic slowly leaves. So, I am not bothered by the stuff, because it's quasi-organized and it's temporary. Sure, there are rooms and spaces that aren't ideal;  my garage was the dumping ground from the move and gradually became a mess when we had to dig through boxes to find things. It will all be dealt with eventually. I am one person and I can only do so much.

My dad and step mom visited us this past fall. Throughout their visit, they made comments about all the kids books we should donate, and all the stuff we should give away. My dad commented about the amount of toilet paper in our garage, which was really a dig about my messy garage, and it was all very hurtful. When they commented on the status of my house, "the health department would shut you down", it was hurtful.  And when my step mom told me in a drunken attempt to introduce me to my reality, "You are becoming your mother", well, it felt like she hit me with a baseball bat.(Not that they offered to help in any way.) You can walk through my house. I don't have piles of newspapers or recyclables laying about. I don't have piles of clothes everywhere and I vacuum every day. The kids are demanding and require a lot of attention and help. I will gladly give them the time they need, when they need it. I will never send away a child if they are trying to engage me. Never. That's what the teenage years are for; to clean because they want nothing to do with you.

I am grateful for many of the things my mom taught me about recycling and re-purposing. I am able to see the beauty and potential in things that others don't. Most of the furniture in my house is from free-cycle or second hand stores. I taught myself how to reupholster and refinish furniture. I taught the kids how to make stuff out cereal boxes or empty jars. If you were to ask me if I would prefer to be OCD or a clutter-hound, I would prefer the latter. Both conditions have their downsides, but with five kids, things are going to get trashed and it is an exercise in futility to try to fight that. It is much easier to let the chaos happen and clean it once.  Though, sometimes, I think it would be easier to set it all on fire and just start over. 

As long as there is a clear path to the beer fridge, I'll be fine.  Maybe I'll have #2 research Xanax for me.

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