Disclaimer: I wrote this a few weeks ago. Since then, I have written something with a considerably less positive outlook, which I may share sometime. But today I need to remind myself of hope, so this is the post I choose to share and try to believe.
Everywhere I go in my house there is a project staring me in the face, taunting me with it’s mess, smug in the knowledge that I won’t be getting to it this week or this month or maybe even this year.
The photos on the wall are outdated and begging to include our most recent phases of life, the boxes and shelves in the basement aren’t unpacking and organizing themselves (WHY), the toys of the house are constantly encroaching on my space and risking themselves a fate of being banished to the shelves of Goodwill, the girls’ dresser is overflowing with clothes that need to be sorted and boxed, and let’s not even get started on my bedroom.
So I try to do it all, little by little, which leads to something that I call ‘motherhood ADD’. I think we all know what I’m talking about: you start working on something, but while you’re doing it you come across something else that needs to be done, which leads to something else, and you never finish what it is that you originally set out to do. You are busy all of the time but nobody can tell really what it is you’ve done all day. So, I might have watered plants, done laundry, cleaned out the fridge, swept every floor upstairs…but if you walked into to my house that is littered with toys that you need to step around to get yourself a beer from the fridge (I wouldn’t know about that), you would be like ‘dude, this mom is lazy.’
And maybe I am. Because like, so far today, I’ve eaten donuts and done a crossword. It’s one of those days. Sometimes the more you have to do, the harder it is to get started. It’s just so daunting when you think about it all at once.
So I make lists. And that helps, kind of. But there are things I’ve put on my list every week for weeks that have never gotten done.
So I tell myself, one thing at a time. This week you’re focusing on the basement. Don’t think about the other stuff. Do this thing now. And it works, for a little bit. I’m sorting! I’m putting stuff in the giveaway bag! I’m organizing! And then I have to go pick up my daughter from school and so I leave the boxes halfway sorted and never get back to them.
The truth is, my life will probably never look perfectly organized. As much as I’d like that to be me, that mom who washes her hair and doesn’t have to rummage through her
purse rucksack, diapers and receipts flying, just to find her keys (EVERY TIME), and who has cabinets that don’t avalanche on her when she opens them and keeps neatly folded clothes in the closets, that is not me. It just isn’t. At least not right now.
I remember one day that was particularly difficult for me, and when my husband got home, I told him that I felt like I could never get to the surface. That I was always just right below it. A little later, I was telling him about some of the things I had done that day, which included making zucchini bread and salsa and some other thing like tomato sauce,* and he said, “Well, you may feel like you can’t get to the surface, but at least you’re swimming.”
You know what? Yeah. YEAH. I’m swimming. I’m not organized but I’m doing it. With my daughters, I’m doing art projects, creating couch cushion worlds, having dance parties in the living room, letting them chase me through the unintentional obstacle course of toys. Without my daughters, I’m doing laundry, washing dishes, having solo dance parties to maintain my sanity. And I’m having wine. Wait is that what I’m swimming in? Whatever, I’m swimming.
Let’s give ourselves a little more credit. We are accomplishing things, even if it’s nothing more than keeping the kids fed and the dishes washed. I’m kidding. Even if it’s nothing more than keeping the kids fed. Because you’re actually doing A LOT more than that. You’re constantly juggling, planning, organizing, interacting, cleaning up, teaching lessons, raising humans. That’s no small feat. You’re swimming. You may not be winning races, but you’re swimming. Just ignore the Michael Phelps moms of the world. I’m not even sure such a person exists anyway.
What it boils down to is seven things. Alright, it boils down to maybe three things. And these are things I need to keep reminding myself of, every single day.
One: My most important “project” is my kids. Kids are constantly changing, house projects are not. Trying to be the best wife and mom I can be right now does include keeping things in order for everyone’s sanity, but it also includes a good bit of focus on the kids so they know they matter more than my other work.
Two: Accept that this is my life right now, and stop wishing I were in a different, neater phase of life. That phase will come, and it will probably bring with it it’s own set of anxieties. Shift the focus from how this mess is making ME crazy to the fact that I have these two energetic girls who can make messes and also can clean them up sometimes. (heyyy)
Three: Keep swimming. I’m still going to keep making lists, I’m still going to try to tackle one project at a time, I’m still going to keep fighting the constant mess. I’m not going to resign myself to it, but I’m going to try to see how far I’ve come in these waters of motherhood (sorry for that metaphor) and keep paddling along the best I can, even that means making it the surface only for a gasp of air every once in awhile.
*Looking back now, I think that sounds like a really good day compared to what I’ve been accomplishing lately.
P.S. If you want to feel better about yourself, just do a Google image search for “messy house.” I was going to post a picture of a messy house at the top of this post, but decided against it since that’s probably not a hopeful image or whatever.