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Neighbors Growing Together | Jul 28, 2014

Mom’s coming — where’s the Windex?

By STEPH TAHTINEN | Nov 16, 2012

With the holidays approaching, there’s a certain kind of frenzied cleaning spree that occurs this time of year. The kind of cleaning that only occurs when your mother is coming to visit.

We all do it. Don’t try to deny it. This cleaning spree has been featured in countless movies, TV episodes and comic strips throughout the years. I’ve spoken to multiple friends who have all said the same thing: When their mother is coming to visit, they rush to make their home as spotless as possible.

Although I generally clean on a weekly basis, I know that my apartment has never looked cleaner than when my parents are about to pull into town.

When you think about it, though, this urge to clean for our mothers doesn’t make much sense. They watched us grow up. I’m sure they remember the state of our bedrooms. I doubt they’ve forgotten all the times they had to tell us to make our beds, put our toys away, pick up our dirty laundry or put our clean laundry away.

Do they really expect us to have different habits now just because they’re not around to make sure we clean?

I think this need to clean for our mothers is self-imposed, whether it’s to amaze our mothers with our impressive housekeeping skills or to assure them that they didn’t raise complete slobs.

Or maybe subconsciously we’re still stuck in the little kid mindset and we’re worried that our moms will walk in the door and make us clean our rooms and put all of our toys away before we’re allowed to go out to play.

I personally think that this subconscious parent-child relationship is the cause. When spending time with family, we innately revert to the roles we played so many years ago. You see it all the time at family gatherings. Full-grown adults with children of their own are delegated into the role of children themselves just because their parents are present.

I’m personally still trying to grasp the concept that I am an adult, so although I have a different relationship with my parents now than when I was a kid, I still find myself easily adopting the child role when they’re around. Therefore, it’s not surprising that I obsessively clean when they’re coming to visit.

It’s not that my parents expect my apartment to be spotless. Mom repeatedly tells me that I don’t need to clean for her. But I’m not sure that she’d really like to see what my apartment looks like if I don’t. I wouldn’t exactly classify myself as a slob, though I’m certainly not a neat freak. I like things to be clean, but real life often gets in the way of a spotless, organized apartment.

So, with less than a week until my parents make the trip down from Wisconsin, I’ve found myself making a to-do list and checking it twice, just to make sure I don’t forget to do anything vitally important, such as dust my ceiling fans or wash the windows.

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