Kids Motherhood

Parenting With OCD: One Mom’s Struggle With The Mess

Parenting With OCD: One Mom's Struggle With The Mess www.herviewfromhome.com
Written by Kathleen Sullivan

“Mommy, do you want to play blocks with me?”

I cringed, but I couldn’t possibly say no to this kid. He was just too damn cute.

I was in the middle of picking up toys. Prior to motherhood, I figured I would be doing a lot of that on a daily basis. However, I never realized just how much time and energy went into keeping a home clean.

I wouldn’t consider myself a neat freak per se. My home is far from immaculate. Even so, I am OCD about certain things. For example, whenever we go out somewhere I prefer to leave a tidy living area. Translation: We are almost always late, no matter where we go.

The fictional mothers that I admired on television didn’t help my way of thinking. It didn’t matter whether they worked or stayed home. The houses that I saw on TV were, for the most part, kept in good order.  My own mom worked and even though she kept our home neat, it was nowhere as pristine as the house on “The Brady Bunch.” We also didn’t have an “Alice” to pick up after us. Most families didn’t. Early on, expectations were very unrealistic.

I have heard the numerous clichés and witty phrases: “A good mom has happy children and dirty floors” remains one of my favorites. I have also read many articles urging moms such as myself to calm down. They say my focus should instead be on enjoying time with my kids. After all, they are not going to remember how shiny the house looked in twenty years. Instead, they will remember the times I ignored them.

The truth is, my preference in keeping a kept home has much to do with my mental health. As a mom dealing with anxiety disorder, I can be very obsessive/compulsive. Disorganization is one factor that contributes to an already high stress level. As many of us moms are aware, keeping order in a home is an exhausting process. When expectations are not met, this can lead to feelings of being overwhelmed.

I know I am not alone. Last year, in a conversation with friends, I learned that many of us feel happier and lighter when the home is clean. Some of us feel more energetic too; thus increasing the productivity level.

Unfortunately, this state of bliss is not one that comes without a lot of work and frustration. It can be a long road to get where we want to be.

There is also this thing called time, and it goes by very fast. Perfection is very hard to achieve as a parent. For me, I have learned to be okay with “good enough,” just as long as my kids are happy and healthy.

I also think of my mommy friends. Do I ever judge them for the mess? Of course not. In fact, I am grateful for them. They help me debunk the silly theory that all moms are perfect. We are not. And that is okay.

I am making small strides. I try and relax when I see the mess now. I have to, as I am faced with chaos on a daily basis. I also try and involve the kids, rather than placing the entire burden on myself. It is fine if they put the toy cars in the box where the trains belong. It is not the end of the world. In a lot of ways, I know now that it is my own issue. I seek to control everything. The unfortunate reality is that I can’t.

The good news is that it is not a forever thing. When the kids are gone I will be missing it. As for now, I take a breath.

About the author

Kathleen Sullivan

I am a freelance writer and full-time mom. My work has appeared on: The Huffington Post, Scary Mommy, Brain, Child Magazine, Mamalode
xoJane, Parentco., Mommyish and Your Tango.

I can also be found blogging at: http://www.threekidsonehusbandandabottleofwine.com/

1 Comment

  • OCD is a serious, formal medical diagnosis. So many times the term is used loosely and incorrectly. Have you actually been diagnosed with true OCD? Have you researched the symptoms of OCD and the different types of obsessions and compulsions that can manifest in true OCD patients? Have you researched the difference between OCD and OCPD (Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder?) Your situation may be far more complex than what you’ve written here, so I hesitate in passing judgement. However, knowing someone who suffers greatly from true OCD, this blog post which, in my opinion, tries to relate OCD to preferring a tidy living area, seems reckless at best and possibly dangerous to your readers who might be in a real struggle with this disorder. OCD is far more than desiring perfection in your home due to anxiety. I implore you to do some research and if you have not already, speak to your physician or therapist about your symptoms before ever again throwing the term around quite so loosely. I can’t help but think that if you truly suffer from OCD, your blog post about mothering with the disorder would read so differently. Throwing around mental diagnoses without accuracy is such a disservice both to those who truly suffer the diagnosis, and to those being falsely labeled.