Yesterday, I wrote about my battle of the bulge. Today I am writing a confession.
A few weeks ago I met a mother who has 4 kids like me. Her youngest will start kindergarten next fall and she asked me a question that sort of threw me for a loop -- "What do you do all day now that they are all in school? I just cannot imagine what it will be like to not have them at home, under foot, needing something every 5 minutes." I stood there, looking like I had been caught in a lie.
What do I do all day? The honest answer is "As little as possible."
I know that as a stay-at-home mom, I am supposed to argue that my job is just as hard as someone who works full-time. I am supposed to talk about how I cook and clean and run errands and how incredibly busy my life is running a house full of 6 people -- and it is, sometimes. But many days, I sit on my couch in my yoga pants and drink coffee and write or watch TV until noon. I might put a load of laundry in to wash or dry, I might fold some clothes or load the dishwasher, but I relax a lot. At first, I felt incredibly guilty about this. This woman was asking me a sincere question about how I occupy my time, and I stood there like a deer in headlights trying not to blurt out the only answer that popped into my head, which was "Nothing. I'm really lazy."
I should feel ashamed or at least a little guilty, right?
But I don't really feel guilty.
I feel wonderful.
For 12 years, I wiped noses and butts, and breast fed, and fixed breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, and dinner for 4 kids. I was an on-demand chef, driver, snuggler, referee, etc. every minute of every day and night until last fall when my youngest started kindergarten. I was about to my breaking point. I was seriously on the edge of losing it and not being a "good mom" because I was a little burnt out. The cracks in my armor were showing. I would fly off the handle and yell about spilt cereal and I might start crying at the thought of a wet bed. So for the past 6 months I have spent a lot of time doing whatever I want to do (which isn't much) while the kids are at school.
There have been moments of mayhem amid my new found oasis -- there was the dreaded lice and there have been numerous illnesses that required me to do extra cleaning and make extra runs to the doctor and pharmacist, but for the most part, I have been enjoying all of this downtime. I still manage to accomplish everything that I did when the house was full of little mini-me's running around causing trouble, but instead of spending all of that time corralling the chaos, I spend it reveling in the quiet and enjoying the peace. I've read books, watched movies, napped, and I write whenever I want.
Sometimes the mood will hit me and I want to clean -- like, REALLY clean. Scrub baseboards and such. And if that is what I want to do, great! But I don't want to very often. And that is great too.
I love being a mom. I love my kids more than anything in the world. Our house is rarely spotless, but it isn't embarrassing (most of the time). The kids' rooms are cluttered....okay, that's an understatement, they look like a tornado hit, but I try to get them to do their own cleaning of their own stuff, so I rarely feel like it's bad enough to intervene while they are away. In fact, I tend to get more done when dad is home and the kids are here and we all work on an assigned task for a set time (like "We have 2 hours until company is coming, everybody 'panic clean!' Go!") And it isn't like I NEVER do anything domestic. Clothes get washed, but they may or may not get folded right away. Bathrooms are clean, kitchen is sanitary, but we live here and the evidence of that is everywhere.
I think that years of being pulled in different directions while trying to maintain things has caused me to develop a sort of cleaning ADD. Years of being unable to finish a task uninterrupted has left me without the skills needed to stay focused. before kids, I struggled with OCD, so the result is this weird hybrid where I cannot finish a task because I get distracted by the details of a much smaller, insignificant task. When I DO try to get something done, it goes a lot like this: I will go upstairs to collect laundry and notice that there is toothpaste on the counter, so I'll take one of the wet washcloths I just retrieved from the tub and wipe it up. And end up cleaning the whole bathroom. Then I will go downstairs and start the laundry. On the way out of the laundry room, I will pick up a jacket, go to hang it up, and end up reorganizing the entire coat closet. I will go to boil an egg and end up cleaning the kitchen when I only needed to wash the one pot to boil the egg in. I'll walk out to the garage to grab a water bottle and start making a pile of stuff to take to the Goodwill. On my way in from the garage, I'll stop in the laundry room and fold a load of clothes, and when I go to put away the clothes I folded I'll end up cleaning out a drawer...or two...or the entire dresser. Then I have to go get a trash bag from the kitchen to put all of the stuff I pulled out of the dresser in and take it to the garage to add to the pile for Goodwill that I started earlier and when I do, I realize that all of the water has boiled away from my egg that I completely forgot about. So I rescue the now very chewy egg and make a salad in my now clean kitchen and go sit down in front of the TV to eat. (There is still a pile of clothes to be bagged upstairs, the clean laundry is sitting on top of the dresser, the wet clothes are in the washer, and the dryer is buzzing, but now I am sitting down...)
SOME stuff gets done, but it may not have been the most important stuff and it may not be completely done.
So my mommy confession is this: No, I do not utilize my time wisely. Staying at home now that the kids are back in school is not as hard as a full time job. It could be (I'll even go as far to say it probably should be) -- but I have made the fairly conscious decision to take it easy (at least for now and for most of the time). Anyone who has pictured me as Donna Reed or June Cleaver running around in heels making beds and vacuuming has grossly misunderstood who I am. I do not live in a 1950's television show nor do I reside in the pages of Southern Living magazine.
Our family is real and we are messy. If you happen to drop by unannounced, you will most likely find toys on the floor, piles of sorted laundry waiting to be put washed, floors that need vacuuming, dust on the ceiling fans, and a well-caffeinated friend who has plenty of time to sit and talk for awhile.
Just move that pile of miscellaneous stuff on the sofa over and have a seat. I'll go get you a cup of coffee.