I have incredibly high expectations for myself. It’s not that I actually follow through on these high expectations, but I have them nonetheless.
Though I’ve been a mother for nearly 4 and a half years, I’ve only been at home full time with my children for about a year and a half. When I came to the clear realization that it was time to leave my job and stay home, I really thought I knew what I was taking on. After all, for three years prior, I’d worked full time outside the home and taken care of the kids and the house.
What I quickly learned was that mothering small children full time is just as exhausting as being on my feet all day long teaching or traveling around the city giving presentations. Even though I seemed to have endless hours before me each day, I never seemed to get anything accomplished.
It’s not as though taking care of little kids is challenging. Feed them, change them, play with them, feed them again, change them again, and so on. But the monotony of that routine IS overwhelming in a way I can’t totally explain. I know there are lots of mothers with small children who think I’m crazy when I admit that, but I hope there are a few who relate.
What finally dawned on me recently (I’m a slow learner) is that with this new gig of mine, I don’t have a boss or a schedule or any expectations, really, except my own. I have talked many times with my husband about what he “expects,” but he always waves me off, saying I’m doing fine.
I tell my sister all of this and she waves me off and says I’m doing fine.
But I don’t feel like I’m doing fine.
The house always seems to be a mess. I don’t feel like I’m “engaging” my kids the way I’m supposed to. I let them watch more T.V. than I probably should. The laundry pile is always overflowing and I always forget about that last load in the dryer.
I hate going to bed at night knowing the house is dirty, but I’m just too tired to do anything about it. And then I think, “How exactly am I tired? I didn’t DO anything all day!”
So, in the interest of full disclosure, I’m also lazy. Being home all day long actually makes me even lazier, which I couldn’t have predicted a year and a half ago, but seems crystal clear to me now.
I’ve recently made some minor changes in our routine, which has helped a little. And I’ve learned that I actually DO need a schedule, despite the naysayers out there. At first, I tried a detailed schedule that is organized and beautiful. It didn’t work.
Then, I realized that while I don’t need a minute by minute schedule, I DO need to tell myself that by 8:00 I WILL be dressed and so will the kids. I DO need to tell myself that sometime in the mornings I MUST do at least one “chore” around the house. And sometime during that day I NEED to do an activity with the kids.
With this mentality (and following through on it), I feel like I’m actually doing a decent job as mother and keeper of our home.
As for the house (aside from my daily chores), I targeted the kitchen as the biggest thorn in my side. With all the extra cooking I do these days, it seems like I’m always in there. Many times, I end up leaving the mess because I’m so tired from cooking. But a funny thing happens when you leave everything a mess after breakfast. Lunch rolls around and you’re cooking in a dirty kitchen. Suddenly, the dishes are piled sky high.
I have started making a very conscious effort to clean the entire kitchen up after each meal. This includes sweeping the floor because the crumbs only multiply if I don’t.
At night, I take great care to wipe down the countertops and clean out the sink. With my kitchen spotless, I feel a lot better about life.
I figured out that other than my kitchen disaster zone, everything else cleans up fairly quickly. But more than that, it’s okay if the house is a little messy each day. Usually, it’s toys in the playroom or books scattered across the floor.
I’ve been tempted to buy a sign that says, “Please excuse the mess, my children are making memories.” More for my own sake than any visitor we might have through the day.
While it is certainly important to keep up with the house, it’s also necessary to realize that there are more important things.
I don’t think it’s bad to have high expectations, but sometimes it’s equally important to cut ourselves some slack. At the end of the day, the only thing that really matters are the precious little lives sleeping sweetly in their rooms.
Life happens when we ease up!