One day last summer, I mentioned to a friend and a fellow mother of young children that my son would soon start kindergarten, and my daughter would be in preschool for a couple of mornings a week. I let out an audible sigh, I'm sure.My friend's genuine and automatic response was, “Now you can have a clean house!” She grinned, clearly excited for me, expecting me to share in all her clean-house glee. I was tongue-tied, not sure how to proceed. Is having a clean home what I miss most as a mother, and what I hope to achieve in the few hours to myself for the first time in over five years? No. Not at all. I chuckled politely and nodded my head, not wanting to make her feel bad, but her initial knee-jerk reaction caused my brain and heart to kind of malfunction. Because, no, an immaculate house is not why I was looking forward to a bit of alone time. A spotless house is not my biggest goal or desire. It's certainly not what I miss most about my pre-child life. To me, a clean house is something like a home-cooked meal (prepared by someone else) or a shiny new car with a working CD player-- sure, it would be nice, but I don't need it. What I miss about my pre-motherhood days is more global, harder to pinpoint. I miss being able to walk into a quiet house with no one needing me the second I enter the door. I miss being able to sleep in guilt-free on Saturday morning and sip my first mug of coffee in bed. I even miss not having to worry about other people so much and so wholeheartedly. There's nothing wrong with a clean house. If anyone wants to help me out with that situation, I would gladly say have at it. The kids bathroom could especially use some TLC. And a bit of bleach. But no, I refuse to let the never-ending chore of cleaning take center-stage in my life this year, or any year. A perfect house is impossible, unattainable. While I wouldn't mind a crumb-free microwave, I think when the day arrives that a pile of stuffed animals hasn't been tossed next to dozens of scattered Hot Wheels in the center of our family room, I'll miss it a little. Maybe a lot. Last fall, when the first day of simultaneous school and preschool finally arrived, I had my two hours of uninterrupted alone time. If you had peeked inside a (kind of dirty) window, you would have seen me with a large cup of coffee, feet up on the couch, with my beloved laptop. Toys were surely strewn across the floor, and breakfast dishes were stacked in the sink; I was typing, reading, snacking, and enjoying every second of it.