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Evil Mother Lady: Battling ‘Bedroom-as-Dumpster’ Syndrome

This week's Evil Mother Lady confession: Apparently I make really bad battlefield decisions.

So, now it is time for the next confession—apparently I make really bad battlefield decisions. A recent New York Times article regaled many readers with tales of old-fashioned, ineffective mothers fighting the battle against that teenage wasteland: their bedroom. It offered a 10-point guide to détente to help those obsessed with their children having clean rooms. I personally did not find it humorous, for I recognized myself in the story; I am that mom losing the battle to maintain standards in her home. And according to the NY Times, it is a battle I should not be fighting.

The reasons given for parents fighting the battle seemed rather lame and I really don’t feel they apply to me. I am not embarrassed at my kid’s mess; no one sees it but those who reside in the same house. I am more worried about how in the world they would ever escape their room if they had to evacuate in a hurry. I don’t have guilt. I know my children have been prepared to live on their own and know how to keep a clean room. They just choose not to do so. I don’t have fear that they can’t make it on their own as an adult—again, they have the skills and will either use them or starve. Obviously I can’t make them do anything. I listen; when they say they need this gadget/storage bin/shoe rack with more slots than any one person should own, I make it happen. I trust their judgment in finding solutions to the problems they see. I don’t cater to my children to the point they feel it is my job to clean behind them. Yes, I am willing to help. Yes, I enforce the “must start the school year with a clean room” mentality. Yes, I insist on spring cleaning to work through the clothes that don’t fit anymore and the debris that litters their floors.

And the wonderful advice given by the resident expert—let it go so you don’t prolong the battle—let’s just say I have never seen it work yet. I will let the wasteland go for weeks and months and it does not improve on its own. Even when I am not throwing up a boundary to "rebel" against, the mess remains. “Bedroom-as-dumpster” seems to be a permanent state of mind, fueled more by inertia, fatigue, obliviousness, and a desire for mom’s help in those circumstances where it really does need to be cleaned (like when they can’t find an important paper for school the next day:) And if it does get cleaned up, either due to a mom hissy fit, a friend coming over to spend the night, or the rare, I don’t like how it looks in my cave, the clean and hygienic room doesn’t last long. About two days seems to be the max in my house that a room will stay tidy and organized…sounds about right, a ratio of two days clean to two months messy.

So, now that I know how old school I am, do I give up the battle and succumb to the persuasive forces of children with too much homework, too many activities, and far too many shoes/clothes/stuff? I don’t think so. Really, if I don’t try to instill values and standards in my children, what is the point? With the overwhelming overload of life in today’s world, having the skills to make order out of chaos, to keep your own life and schedule and paperwork in order is a key point of success, in my book. Maybe I will not be successful now, but who knows what the future will hold. Maybe one day I will walk into my daughters’ homes and find a clear path to any path I choose to walk. I can hope, right? So, how about you?

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