Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Embrace the Chaos...

First, in regards to my last post, C does not have chicken pox, just an annoying skin rash that will eventually go away on its own. Finding this out used up the whole day yesterday, though, so all day today I have been doing dishes and laundry to catch up what I did not do yesterday because I was so busy worrying.

Today brought some smiles, most notably this morning. N was sleeping well, so I got C started on some finger paints at his request (*side note: I LOVE finger painting -- the stuff is the consistency of the lemon goo in lemon meringue pie and it is really fun to play in). Then N woke up to eat, and while I was stationed on the couch feeding her, the finger painting station in the kitchen grew suspiciously quiet. Then came the announcement dreaded by mothers everywhere: "I painting with my FEET!" He was delighted; I was horrified. I went to the kitchen and found my budding artist amid a modest scattering of red, blue, and purple footprints.

Luckily finger paint is very washable.

So I stifled the creative genius today, forcing him to wash hands and taking the paints away until I have time to fully supervise him. Still, I have to laugh. And he gets points for creativity! :)

Aside from this specific event, I am being led to a different kind of understanding of domestic life. It goes something like this: I have an ideal vision of what my domestic life should look like -- something like a cross between a clean idyllic pioneer homestead and a Martha Stewart photo shoot. Completely ridiculous, and yet how do I let go of it? With two kids -- a newborn and a very... uh... creative toddler, an ideal of complete neatness is ridiculous, not even taking into account my own housekeeping challenges. One thing I learned as soon as C was born is that your effort shows differently with housekeeping after you have kids. As an example, let's say I spend an hour straightening the living room. If I were just me, everything I cleaned would pretty much stay clean until I messed it up. However, with one kid, you only retain about a 75% to 80% cleanliness rate -- if you pick up 100 toys, about 20 to 25 of them will be brought out again before you are done cleaning. So you lose some of your efficiency right there. Add a nursing newborn to the mix, and between stopping and starting every 20 to 30 minutes to feed (with some longer breaks here and there) and you are lucky to even remember what you were doing, much less actually complete a task. Add your own meals and meals for the toddler, bathing yourself, answering the phone and (of course) blogging, and you are lucky to end up just getting back to zero by the end of the day, meaning, you will work all day and the house will look exactly the same as it did when you woke up. (But it won't look worse! That is your victory for the day.)

It can sound terrible if you look at it that way, judging yourself by the same standards that you used before you had a family. But the challenge is to redefine success. For me, success used to be straight A's, clean house, tons of friends, and a dinner and a movie date with B. Now, it is a little less tangible -- bills paid, babies fed and healthy (if they are happy that's a plus, but sometimes they just aren't, and that has to sometimes be okay), time for conversation and relaxing with B, even if there is a nursing baby there with us during the late night hours. No huge messes, and domestic life progressing forward one step at a time. Maybe there is a load of wet laundry that won't get dried until morning; maybe the dinner dishes are just soaking and won't be washed until morning (or afternoon) either.

But I am holding out hope that the rewards of our labor will come later, when we have established a happy, healthy family. And how could we ever manage to do that without a little bit of mess?

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