FILED IN: House & Home

Constant Vigilance!

"Constant Vigilance!" is a phrase uttered over and over again by Mad-Eye Moody in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Of course he was crazy, and not quite what he seemed to be, but lately, his catch phrase has become my personal mantra. My son is nearly six months old and becoming more mobile each day (much to the distress of my poor dogs). With this mobility comes a certain pressure on me to make sure there is nothing dirty in his path. Constant Vigilance!

By mid-July 2002, his room was clean and sparkling and waiting for his arrival. The rest of the house was not, but I thought I had plenty of time to clean it up before my bundle of joy arrived in late August. July 25th changed that, when I went into labor and gave birth to the tiniest sweetest little boy I’ve ever seen. At the hospital, I was worried about bringing my son home to a messy house (can’t have that in the photos!), so my husband worked flat out and cleaned it top to bottom. By the time we brought our tiny little bundle home, all was ready for that perfect homecoming photo (of which we took about 50). Two weeks of caring for a newborn and very little sleep dampened my cleaning enthusiasm and the house was once again a disaster. Fortunately, the queen of clean (AKA my mom) arrived, put me to bed (bless her), took care of the baby, cooked for my husband (he still talks about those meals) and cleaned my house. Seriously cleaned my house. She could work for NASA. No moon germs would make it past her. The house was beautiful for the entire month she visited. When she left, I wept for the beauty that my home would not see again.

Since those first tumultuous weeks, my son has slept better and so have I, so I’ve had plenty of energy to clean. What I lacked however was enthusiasm. Why would I want to clean when I had this perfect little person to play with and love? He was important, the house was not. The first time he rolled across the living room floor though, my heart plummeted, because I knew what I had to do: clean.

I suddenly became the princess of clean (I will never get the title of queen away from my mom). I swept, mopped, vacuumed, dusted, scrubbed, wiped, and polished until my house shone. It was a sight to behold. Clean enough to have the in-laws over! Magazine photo clean! My husband feared the mania that had overtaken me. My dogs cowered by their food bowls (which now sit atop place mats, in case they spill). I didn’t care. My home was clean! For about 15 minutes, anyway, then my baby threw up on the carpet, my husband dropped a glass of milk and one of my dogs shook water all over the entryway. I could have cried. In fact, I think I did.

Since this fatal day, I’ve taken a different stance. I no longer clean like a maniac until I’m too tired to do anything, I "maintain". Here comes the mantra: Constant Vigilance! When something gets dragged out, it gets put away immediately after we’re done with it. Constant Vigilance! The dishes are all put in the dishwasher before going to bed at night and unloaded in the morning. Constant Vigilance! I sweep every morning (a necessity with two dogs and hard wood floors), and mop at least once a week. Constant Vigilance! The dogs are bathed religiously and the beds made almost every day. Constant Vigilance! I’m like a clutter hawk, swooping down at the first sight of a stray piece of paper or dust bunny. Constant Vigilance! At the first sign of wet paw prints, I whip out my Clorox floor cleaner (with disposable pads and trigger spray action) and quickly remove them. Constant Vigilance! Junk mail on the coffee table? Dust under the sofa? Dog hair in the corners? Food crumbs on the counter? Not at my house! CONSTANT VIGILANCE!

Why do I do this? Why do I care? Because I’m a mom, I suppose, and the thought of allowing my precious little one to crawl through dirt sends chills down my spine. Do I like cleaning so much? Nope. Am I maybe just a little bit nuts? Quite possibly. Does my husband think I need therapy? Absolutely. The mom gene is strong though. Stronger than me sometimes, so I maintain a relatively clean house and try really hard not to freak out when my husband (quite possibly the worlds biggest slob) leaves dishes, clothes or shoes all over the house. I do it all for the sweet little angel I brought home from the hospital, who in the end will most likely be the messiest one of all and will one day happily make mud pies outside and bring them inside for me to admire and clean up after. Constant Vigilance!