“Well, is your house clean?”. The question pierced my heart and made my stomach knot up like a giant pit was inside of it. It was asked indirectly by an extended family member in Ontario who was recently invited to our home in British Columbia, after 2 years passing between our last visit.
Initially, my thoughts in response to the question focused on the more practical elements.
So, let me get this straight. Our beautiful home nestled in 3 acres on the South West Coast of British Columbia, in one of the most sought-after communities in Canada is not worth your trouble because it is messily inhabited by 6 people (your family btw…4 of which are under 8 years old) who do not keep up to your cleanliness standards? Well, I’m sorry to burden you!
What’s more, is that I literally picked up a hitchhiker the other day who after arriving at the airport in Vancouver from France (yes France), googled where he should spend his free time before a conference and guess where he found himself headed? Backpacking! Fifteen minutes from my house, because we live amongst gorgeous old growth rainforest along the Juan de Fuca Strait in the Pacific Ocean, surrounded by trails and beaches for days! I don’t think he worried much about the cleanliness of the trail he would be camping on. The heart captivating sites seemed to be sufficient for him. But, what does he know anyways, right?
Anywaysssss, after these knee jerk initial thoughts, I really got to thinking more deeply about how hurt and unsupported I felt, as a mother of 4 kids, wife, graduate student, parent volunteer, friend, sister, daughter….fellow WOMAN. You know, the many hats I wear feel heavy to bare at times, and now my “unclean” house is just one more thing to worry about.
To learn that another woman, mother, wife, sister professional, friend, etcetera , etcetera, did not wish to come to my home because it wasn’t “clean” enough for her, really cut to the core. I mean sure, I have dust bunnies, dishes and laundry piles at times, but I mean really??? Did she really not know how hard I try to keep up with the growing demands of being a woman today?? Was she truly unable to walk a day in my shoes? Ouch 💔
I recognize that perhaps our lives appear so different on the surface that it is difficult to empathise with the messy house that is my current situation most days, amidst the chaos of life with 4 small kiddos. But, the truth is, since both of us share an innate need for love, care and solidarity, we are not so different after all. Keeping this oneness in mind, I am inspired by this interaction to look inwards rather than in judgment towards the person who has hurt me with their words.
While it most certainly stung to hear, I remain filled with deep gratitude for this experience, because unlike every time before this, this time, I am choosing not to respond in anger or reactivity to the negative comment that was made about my home. Instead, I am going to take the opportunity to try to hear with my heart and respond compassionately.
It is obvious that this person values a “clean home” and though my house does not meet their standards, I do not take it personally. In fact, I am slowly learning that the opinions of others do not define my worth at all. I am kind, smart, ALIVE and making dreams happen, and for all of the above, I am perpetually humbled and grateful. None of which is defined by the dust bunnies and laundry piles.
Furthermore, I am equally grateful for the reflection on parts of my own shadow which have surfaced as a result of such a emotionally provoking question. To be honest, when I first heard what had been asked about my home, I had some silent thoughts of judgement towards the person in retaliation for the pain I felt at the time. Also, I can recall many other times in the not- so- distant past where I have judged other women for things, when it was just not my place to do so.
“That sure is a lot of sugar her kid is eating!”
“She should be better with her money!”
Though seemingly well meaning and coming from what I can assure is the most sincere place of concern, these judgements did not and will not serve a single person. Not me. Not her. Not ever.
I feel equal parts saddened and sorry to admit that rather than offering a helping hand or a kind word, I too at times, have been guilty of casting judgements based on my own assumptions about how other women (or anyone for that matter) ought to live.
Thankfully, the indirect comment that might have at one time, really dragged me down into a spiral of bitterness and disconnect, has now offered me healing and a chance to see that I do not want to be a woman who tears another woman down.
Because if we want to break the chains of judgement to heal our wounds, and to rise up together, rather than against one another, we must hold hands in sisterhood and in LOVE. We must no longer fuel the patriarchal bullshit that alienates us from deep connection and interdependence. By halting our judgement, we can begin to silence the insidious conditioning that encourages us to define our own or the worth of others by status, wealth or lifestyle. I mean doesn’t that happen to us women enough as it is?
So, sister, rather than tear you down in reaction to your judgement laden comment, I lovingly hold my hand out to you instead. And if you do happen to read this, and it touches your heart at all, I want you to know that you are still more than welcome in my messy, lived in home– anytime ❤