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Kitchen Floor: Out, Out, Damn Spot!

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One of my more neurotic obsessions is my fixation on my kitchen floor.

woman scrubbing floor

Jennifer Ginsberg: The second it looks acceptably clean, it gets filthy again, with three kids who seem to be in a constant rotation of eating meals and snacks and making art projects and Play Doh constructions -- which all occur at my kitchen table. At any given moment, the kitchen floor is a smorgasbord of milk droplets, paper clippings, and regurgitated strawberries.

"I can't live this way," I rant, usually to my husband. "It's like living in a pigsty."

"It's not that bad," he replies, eating barbecue potato chips out of the bag, typing away on his BlackBerry. I watch barbecue dust and chip crumbles gathering on the floor.

"Ridiculous!" I snap, grabbing the dustpan and broom. "Can you please be more mindful? I really don't want to spend my day sweeping up after you."

"Then don't!" he says, still crunching and typing away. "Isn't Aldegunda coming tomorrow?"

Aldegunda, my beloved housekeeper, is the only person who can clean my kitchen floor to perfection. It actually sparkles after she cleans it. I have tried to replicate her work, but I always end up with a streaky film, even when I follow her method exactly (and believe me, I have spied on her technique many times over the years).

"So you are suggesting that we live with a floor in this condition until tomorrow?" I ask, frantically sweeping and spritzing away.

He finally looks up from his BlackBerry. "Jen, you're doing it again. It's not that bad. This isn't about the kitchen floor. There's nothing you can say that can convince me that we live in a pigsty. You're spinning and you need to chill out." He licks the barbecue grease off his fingers and retreats to his office, where he can crunch and type in peace.

I know he is right, but I will never admit it. The kitchen floor has become a metaphor for the relentless futility of all the tasks of motherhood. It is always when I am on my hands and knees attempting to get my kitchen floor "Aldegunda clean" that my mental tape of victimhood is activated: "Did I get two master's degrees to spend my days doing this? Why can't I get this spot out? Damn Home Depot for selling me this crap tile! Damn it all! Is this all there is?"

Is this all there is? I look at my daughter playing quietly with her Legos in the living room, studying me. I know that she understands my words, feels my frustration, and is learning how to live in this world based on my example. What kind of mom do I want to be? Do I want to be the angry, bitter, resentful mom who plays the role of Drill Sergeant in the home, making everyone's lives miserable? Or do I want to be the type of mom who can ignore the clutter and chaos and turn up Gwen Stefani and dance like a fool with my giggling baby?

Most days, I am a hybrid of the two. However, my goal is to be more and more like the latter. Perhaps I will never be the sort of mom who can calmly walk over a spilled blueberry smoothie puddle on the floor, and wait for Aldegunda to come clean it tomorrow. However, the intensity with which I go about accomplishing the relentless tasks of motherhood can lessen. I can get some perspective, and even "get Zen" about it. There is something soothing about organization and cleaning, and the process does not have to send me down the spiral of existential angst.

And there is nothing like rocking out with my baby to "Excuse Me Mr."!



next: My Kid's a Game-Playing Broken Record
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