Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Housorexia

Some women obsess over their weight. They weigh themselves daily, count calories, and starve themselves because they hold themselves up to the magazine models and think their lives are meaningless if they don't look exactly like the airbrushed, photoshopped, rake-skinny ladies they see everyday. I don't mean to make fun of people who have this problem. It is a serious affliction. But I am lucky in that respect.

Fortunately, I have never had a huge body image problem. I also have never had an eating disorder. I don't hate my reflection or waste time despairing about how many calories I've eaten that day. I have a different disease you may not have heard of. It's called housorexia.

This is what I do: I look at the staged clean countertops, the perfectly coordinated couch cushions, and the unstained carpets in the glossy ads and think "Why doesn't my house look like that?" The children in the ads never have poopy diapers or holes in their clothes. The mommies are always smiling. And their freakin' kitchens are always immaculate! And instead of thinking something intelligent like "Those pictures were taken on a photo set where no children live," I think, "My house could look like that if I cleaned it up every night at midnight."

And how is that any better? We teach teenage girls that they don't measure up if their waists are more than twenty inches wide, and we teach grown women that they don't measure up if there are more than two crumbs on the floor. And the silly thing is that we fall for it.

Instead of thinking that I'm great for what I've done that day (kissed the kids, got them dressed and fed), I think I'm deficient for what I haven't done that day (didn't have dinner ready, didn't clean the toilets, didn't dust the picture frames). That's what makes it so pathological, just like the anorexics who are never skinny enough. The house will never be clean enough, no matter how clean it is. The distorted lens we see it through keeps telling us we can stop cleaning after we dust just one more shelf or scour just one more bathtub. But we never get to rest even then, do we?

The next thing on my to-do list is to change my thinking about my house. I'm sure I will post more about it in the future. My body is not starving, but my house is starving for some serious sanity. Next time I think something like "I'll never get all this housework done", I'll make sure to mentally add, "So what?"

That's a good question, by the way. So what? My house won't make the cover of this month's Better Homes and Gardens? My son's friends will go home and tell their mommies that Liam's mom has a messy house? Or (gasp) someone might come over and see the squalor? I'm not going to be a slave to anyone else's (imagined) judgment of my housekeeping skills.

I've got other things to do. Like feed and dress my kids.

4 comments:

Nat and Kari said...

Very true. I have that disease too. Although I keep trying to tell myself "Who cares?" I keep answering myself "I do!" So I guess the real question is "Why do I care?" So, I'm trying to relax and get over it.

Becca and Brian said...

AMEN!! I do the same thing, I just have to do what I can and forget about the rest or else I'm a very unhappy mom. I'm glad I'm not the only mom feeling this way.

Heather said...

I think that's a common disease, I'm so glad now I have a name for it! Now we need to form a support group or something!

Tara said...

wow, Kaylie!! you've made me feel SO much better. like I'm not the only one. :) HEAR HEAR!!