housework

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The photos on the wall are outdated and begging to include our most recent phases of life, the boxes and shelves in the basement aren’t unpacking and organizing themselves (WHY), the toys of the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.

It’s overwhelming.

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.

childhood’s magic

This summer has been peppered with nostalgia. It’s one of my favorite things about being a mom: as my children experience things, I get to relive days that were simple, innocent, full of a special kind of awe and beauty.

Just today I caught a whiff of the humid summer air, in between rains on a very wet day, and was transported back (you know that whooshing style movie flashback) to my grandparents’ farm in the country, the air still and silent around me. I see Queen Anne’s lace dotting the borders of fields, and hear the gurgling creek, and remember the big backyard of the farmhouse that backed up to bins and sheds and simultaneously held both a sense of adventure and peace. I was reminded of my Grandma. And of being a kid, surrounded by siblings with not a care in the world.

Childhood is so vivid.

The sound of morning doves takes me back to our big green front porch on a hot summer morning, the day ahead full of potential. The glow of fireflies puts me back in my childhood bed, in front of the window on the second floor, counting the blinking bugs instead of going to sleep. The taste of sweet peas brings me back to our backyard garden, where we would just stand there in the dirt, bugs buzzing around us, and eat the peas straight from the plant.

I was thinking about why childhood tends to be so clear like this, and here’s what I concluded: the memories are sharp because the life is simple. When you don’t have to worry about bills to pay, meals to plan, deadlines to make, laundry to do, all you have to focus on is what’s in front of you. And what’s in front of you as a child is a world of wonder and a day full of play. All your needs are taken care of. There’s beauty in this. The complete trust a child has in his parents’ ability to look out for him enables him to truly enjoy his life.

The other afternoon I watched Simona sit at the dining room table as the afternoon sun streamed in through the windows. She was narrating an imaginary story, as she usually is, completely happy and oblivious to anything else but her game. I was struck by the thought that she is exactly where she is and nowhere else. She is not thinking about her to-do list and if she can somehow multi-task as she sits there. She’s not wishing she could be doing something else. She is perfectly happy to be a kid at home on a Thursday afternoon in the summer.

But somehow adulthood can get a bit cloudy. Maybe it doesn’t hold the vividness and clarity of childhood because we have become bogged down with duty, too busy to notice simple beauty, too jaded to be carefree. We have stuff to do. We don’t have time to just be.

The other day my mom came over to watch the girls, and as she came through the door, greeted by little footsteps and voices, she said, “Ah, it’s so nice to step into the world of a child.” And I had this moment where I felt kind of guilty because so often I just don’t think about it like that. I think about parenting, adulting, when I’m going to get my next break. I don’t put myself in my kids’ shoes very much. Selfish mom award, right over here. 

Being an adult is hard, and mothering is certainly no exception to that. I have lots of ‘bad’ days where I don’t think I have what it takes to do this intimidating, wonderful task that is raising a child. I try to balance it all—I do the dishes while listening to the story Simona is so intently trying to tell me, I squeeze in a load of laundry while the girls are playing in the basement, I play ‘tag’ with them in the house while actually picking up things to put away as I run by them. 

But lately I’ve found that my best times are the ones where i actually do step “into” childhood with my girls. I put down my phone. I get out of the “what’s next” mindset and banish the mental to-do list. I do nothing else but whatever simple thing they are doing. We watch two ants try to carry a dead beetle away. I wait as Helen bends down to play with the rubber in the sidewalk crack. I sit and watch Simona act out her “character movie” for the 37th time. This is a really hard thing to practice and I don’t it nearly as often as I should, because I’m a mom and therefore my brain is hardwired for multi-tasking, but I want to keep trying. 

Naturally there are always going to be essential things that need to get done for the health and happiness of your family (you can’t ignore laundry and grocery shopping and cleaning forever), and your children need you to do those things probably almost as much as they need you to spend time with them (though they may or may not realize it). I’m only here to remind myself (oh, and you too, if you’re reading) to try to see childhood again for what it is. To not forget it’s simplicity and how the small things are actually the big things. To once in awhile stop trying to avoid or clean up the mess and get right into it.