I have always been a great multi-tasker. But more than that – cleaning my home was a significant contribution to my own happiness. But since last summer, I became resentful that my family didn’t respect my time and maintain the cleanliness after my hard work. Nothing different had actually happened. It was the same that it had always been. I think it was just the fact that my children were no longer just rosy-cheeked cherubs. They are older children capable of handling more household responsibility but they weren’t helping. They just became more vocal about everything they didn’t want to do and argumentative about why they shouldn’t have to contribute more effort. So I basically adopted a new attitude to teach a lesson.
I stopped picking up after them. I stopped being the one to wash their dirty dishes or nag them to put away their belongings. I simply pushed back. I put them in charge of themselves. But it didn’t take long before I learned that the whole philosophy would backfire on me. They didn’t clean things well. They didn’t put things away. I basically had to follow people around and hound them about everything all of the time. It was taxing.
Then I lied to myself. I told myself that it was “freeing” to let go of maintaining a clean and tidy home every day. I even told myself that I felt relieved. That cleaning wasn’t important. That there were other things in my life more important than windexing and vacuuming. I stopped focusing on the belongings left out. The dirty bathroom sinks. The crusty food dishes in the sink.
I spent less time doing household chores and filled that time blogging or reading. Saying that I was giving back to me. Because I deserved it. That I would no longer be a slave to homemaking when the family was ungrateful and in return I would put that time and energy into things that made me feel good.
So I blogged.
I read books.
I blogged some more.
You would think that with all of that “me” time – I would have felt refreshed and ready to give back to my family.
But I didn’t.
I started to gain a lot of weight. I don’t mean physical weight. It was a heaviness that encompassed me and sat upon my shoulders anchoring me to my fanny. Blogging and reading. Waiting for my family to “appreciate” me. In the end, the more emotional weight I accumulated the more motivation left my being. It became a vicious cycle. The world chanted that I deserved more. That all mothers deserved more. I used the world’s voice as justification to continue my strike on homemaking.
The clutter worsened. More dirt collected. Tumbleweeds of dog hair rolled across my hardwood floors. My refrigerator shelves became dirty and sticky with gooey stuff on them. Laundry grew into larger piles. Grocery store trips were further apart.
The heaviness grew. I sank lower into my pit. Anchored to misleading ideals that dragged me to the bottom. Somewhere along the line I lost my way.
I even tweeted about it one day. I wondered why my grandmothers never complained. Why my mother never complained. They worked twice as hard as me. Their lives didn’t have the technological advances that we have. I remember not having a dishwasher as a kid. I remember clotheslines in the backyard. But no one complained. Someone tweeted that they would have complained if they had had an outlet like facebook or Twitter. But I don’t think so.
I began thinking about my mother. While raising me she didn’t work outside of the home. But she worked with such diligence in our home. Our home was immaculate. There was NEVER a day that anyone couldn’t set foot in our home at any moment and visit a perfectly manicured homestead. I never had to worry about whether it was acceptable or not to have a friend come home after school. No worries. My mother had it all under control. I thought about the fact that my children were living in a home that they could not bring kids into our home without my being embarrassed…or them being embarrassed for that matter. My daughter asks to have a friend over and my response is, “We need to get the house cleaned up first.”
There was never an evening that my mother didn’t have a plan for dinner. We did not eat out. I mean EVER. My father never had to stop and pick up anything. We were never “on our own” for dinner. We never had cereal or sandwiches. She cooked dinner every night – night after night – year after year. Then she did all of the dishes. I thought about the fact that I don’t do that anymore. My children were no longer asking, “Mom, what’s for dinner?” They were now asking, “Mom, are we on our own for dinner?”
Laundry? My mother did it alone. No one helped carry hampers to the laundry room. She was in charge of it. My mother washed my sheets religiously and never asked me one time to strip my bed or put the sheets back on. My mother not only did my laundry, she ironed it and put it away. She didn’t leave it on the chair in the family room and call for me to put it away like I do with all of my children every time I wash clothes.
Now – my scenario may be slightly different. My mother had only 2 children nearly 7 years apart and I had four children in 5 years. My mother did not home school so she did have her days free to accomplish many things, alone. Unlike myself who hasn’t been without children at home all day in nearly 17 years. But those were my choices. Why should my choices to overextend myself have such an impact on my kids?
My parents made great financial sacrifices in order for my mother to be a stay at home mother. It was not as if my parents were wealthy. Neither were college graduates and my father had enlisted in the Navy and worked hard to learn about the new computer advances paving a career path for himself. There was a time there was only one car. There were years of no vacations. They lived frugally. Mom made my clothes for years. In fact, my parents to this day have never exchanged Christmas presents between the two of them. Money was always saved to be spent on others. They lived within their means. Never a credit card bill that wasn’t paid off at the end of the month. Both of my parents believed that the value of my mother being home with us was far beyond what it would have been had she worked outside of the home to afford a more lavish lifestyle. It was a choice that they made because of their beliefs. A choice that I will be eternally grateful for.
However, more important than anything – my mother never complained. She never fussed that I wasn’t doing enough around the house. She never threatened to stop housekeeping or taking care of me because I wasn’t doing anything to help her or because I was becoming a mouthy teenager. Nope. She just kept doing her job. I never wanted for anything. My mother knew what was important to her and focused solely on that. When the other mothers were burning their bras and going to work – my mother just kept working at home. Our home ran like a perfectly oiled machine because she was willing to give of herself without asking anything in return.
I returned to the thoughts of what was happening to my home. I had taken on the “superwoman syndrome.” But when I could not handle everything that I had said ‘yes’ to, I took it out on my family. I blamed them for not helping me with what was my responsibility. It wasn’t my kids’ fault that I took a part-time job teaching more classes than I should have. I could have just as easily taught 2 classes - but what did I do? I taught 12. I wasn’t working because we financially needed it – I was working because it was something I felt made me something other than a homemaker. Then I chose to homeschool my children. I made that choice knowing that I wouldn’t have free daytimes…so why would I think it was okay to up the ante on their chore lists? If they were in school – would I do that? Nope. Not a chance. Yet, I penalized them for being homeschooled.
So last week I lost about 100 pounds in two days. I closed my lap top. I didn’t read or blog. I washed every sheet, towel, rug and comforter in my home. I reorganized closets, drawers and shelves. I vacuumed furniture and did 3 days of dirty clothes. I took my home back. I owned my choices. I owned up to my responsibility. I lost the 100 lb. pity party I had been carrying on my shoulders for the past 9 months.
I stopped whining.
I stopped blaming my family for a messy house.
My home was clean. Fresh. I planned meals and didn’t leave my husband wondering if he needed to make grilled cheese for dinner.
In other words, I grew up.
I stopped acting like the victim.
I am the mom. It is my responsibility to take care of my home and my children. I am the one who has chosen to take on all that I have. I decided to have four children. I decided to homeschool. I decided to work part time. I believed I could do it all. But when I failed – I blamed my family for not picking up my slack.
I was wrong.
After my home was clean, I had energy again. I felt happy again. I found myself willing to transport my kids to their activities and didn’t feel angry or resentful. I had more time. I had time to dye Easter eggs. I had time to watch a Saturday afternoon movie with my husband. I had time to go shopping. I had time to go to the driving range with my family.
Today I had time to take my kids to the yacht club and sit by the Chesapeake…
I took a book…
But I wasn’t interested in reading. I didn’t need to escape because I was no longer in the pit.
I sat in the sunshine. I watched my kids. I felt consumed with joy and truly relaxed.
All because I decided to stop complaining, procrastinating and blaming other people for my own inability to know my own limits.
When I said that having a clean home wasn’t important. I lied. To myself.
When I said that my husband should have to help out with dinner meals. I lied. To myself.
When I am taking care of my home and my children – I feel fulfilled because I am meeting my responsibility to the lives that I am responsible for.
I am happiest because I know that is the most important thing I should be doing. When I am not a successful mother – I am depressed.
Trying to be “superwoman” just makes me tired. It makes me do everything half-way and nothing well. It makes me blame other people for falling short of my responsibility. Then it made me fall into a deep dark place of denial.
That place told me to say “yes” to the world and “no” to my family. It told me that I deserved more than I did.
I accept the fact that I bit off more than I could chew.
The world isn’t going to like it when I have to say to no. The world isn’t going to like it when I can’t teach more classes, when I can’t volunteer, when I can’t run the athletic team, when I can’t tweet and retweet.
The world isn’t going to like it when I say that I have to clean my house. It will try to convince me that it’s not a big deal. The world will try to tell me that my husband should be doing more to help me. The world will try to tell me that my kids should be doing more household work. The world will try to tell me that I am not enough if I am only a stay at home mother. The world will try to tell me that I need to justify my existence by doing other things more worthy than just being a mother and wife. The world will try to tell me many things.
For a while I listened to the world…and I lost my own voice. I was weighed down with the clutter and disorganization of my home that openly signified the chaotic emotional turbulence bubbling within me. The confusion of a woman in her 40’s feeling that somehow she was inadequate as a human being unless she filled her life with all of the hobbies, activities and talents that the world would tell her she was nothing without.
But I’m back.
I am here to tell you that I made it out of the pit.
My priorities are intact again.
I took a first step.
I walked away from the computer…from my “cyber world” life…
So my readership may drop. I might lose followers. The working mothers of the world may declare war on me for tooting the stay at home mother horn. The mommy bloggers may shun me for turning off the computer screen.
But it’s all good because
…I found My Real Life Parenting again and that is the foundation of my own happiness.
I have decided to ride in the right lane for a while. Let the others go whizzing by me in the left lane. That’s fine. I’d rather be there enjoying the passing scenery than stressed out at the car riding my bumper pushing me to go much faster than the speed limit dictates worried about the safety of my children in the car at those high speeds.
My husband and I have a long time joke between us.
Years ago whenever my husband was driving and we were en route, he would always see groundhogs grazing on the side of the road and point them out to the family.
One day I said, “How come you always see the groundhogs and I never do?”
He answered, “Are you looking for them?”
I sat and quietly thought.
No. I do not. I am always in a hurry to get from Point A to Point B – usually rushed and stressed out.
So since then if I happen to see a groundhog - I shout it out - GROUNDOG! GROUNDHOG! As if it is a competition and we are playing a game of Punchbuggy.
But I want you to know that this week I saw groundhogs several times. I didn't shout it out. I quietly pointed to them. They are sitting right there – but you only see them if you are purposefully looking for them…
and just for your information, I also happen to notice that most groundhogs are on the right hand side of the road – they most clearly wouldn't survive near the left hand lane with all of those speeding cars whizzing by...