Thursday, June 3, 2010

This post has little to do with the pictures.


In my last post I made the observation that "I don't know how anybody handles more than two children" but said that was a post for another day. I've been mulling over it ever since and now it is another day, so I'll just dive right in.I can get myself very worked up--into a pitch black pit of inferiority. (I have to give a shout out to Dr. Dobson's Preparing for Adolescence because I'm sure that's where I got the term "pit of inferiority".) Before I had children, I was a closet Bree VanDeKamp/Hodge wannabe. I attempted to keep the house spotlessly neat and clean basically all the time--in fits and starts. There were times when I would let things go a bit, but most of the time I was a perfectionist when it came to the house. I worried over statements I heard, such as, "A clean house is a sign of a dull woman." I agreed in the times when the house was messy, but most of the time I hoped the ubiquitous "they" were wrong. I realize that my perspective may be skewed. Things are often perfect, or at least better, when you look back on them. So maybe the house wasn't as clean then as I like to think. And absolutely, without a doubt, every time you ask me, I will take the current chaos over my idealized notion of the pristine environment we used to have. But that's not what this post is about.

Really, it's about comparisons. I only have two children. I assume that other mothers, with three or four or five small children, successfully keep their homes neat and clean, prepare healthy meals, make their own baby food (granola, yogurt, bread, whatever), cloth diaper, garden, spend quality time with each child, work full time, blog, write, paint, have coffee with friends, minister at church, work out five times a week, date their spouses, read and pursue higher education--all with the greatest of ease. Okay, I know that's not realistic. I'm sure they don't do all of that gracefully. But, if I look at myself compared to other mothers, I honestly start to feel that there is something seriously wrong with me. I must be disabled in some way. If it weren't for Todd coming home and pitching in every night, we would live in absolute squalor. I shudder to think of myself married to a more demanding man. Thank God he doesn't mind eating leftovers and giving baths, running the vacuum and washing dishes. He'll even scrub the bathrooms on a Saturday. Last week I hit rock bottom. I had spent the better part of the day waiting in a doctor's office to see a doctor for five minutes and end up deciding that we didn't need to see the doctor in the first place. When I got home, I ferociously attacked the kitchen, scrubbing it from ceiling to floor. (It hadn't been seriously cleaned since before Easter. Easy now, that took guts to tell you!) When Todd got home, we packed the kids off to Grammy and Grampy's and hit the gym for an hour or so. By the time we got the kids to bed and various laundry folded, it was 10 pm. Todd was catching a flight early in the morning for a work-related trip, so he hit the sack as soon as he could. And when I got to the bedroom, I collapsed on the floor in utter frustration. Our bedroom was a disaster. I sank into the deep pit of inferiority.


Since Todd was already gone when I got up the next morning, it took me some time to climb out of the pit. My friend, Suzie, talked me off the ledge that afternoon. (Thank you!) Am I mixing my metaphors with the pits and the ledges? Sorry! The problem is, I can hear this a hundred times and it just takes forever to truly sink in. The state of the house is not the most important thing in the world. And it's mostly pretty selfish on my part. Todd doesn't demand a clean house. The kids don't care. It's just my own idea of what a home should look like. If the house is clean, it doesn't mean everybody is healthy and happy. I may like it that way, and certainly some level of cleanliness is necessary, but in the long run it's going to happen, just not all at the same time. I try to remind myself that one day the house will be clean and I will wish Adrian still fit in my lap.
Yet . . . I still had a nagging feeling that there must be something wrong with me. Other people seem to manage just fine. While I was walking with the kids that afternoon, it suddenly became very clear to me. And I believe it was a God trying to get through, saying something to this effect, "Stop comparing yourself to other mothers, Alison. I created you to be you. You have two children right now, not three or four, and I will equip you to be the mom they need. You don't have to keep your house clean, you don't have to cook a gourmet meal tonight, all you have to do is love on your kids." Did you ever have one of those moments where something suddenly seems so obvious? No offense at all to her because I actually love her, but I am not MckMama. Who cares? Actually, even if you do care and you think I should be able to give more than I do, I don't care. If Adrian eats more Earth's Best Baby Food jars than Camilla did, it's because I would rather be sane and cuddle him. I'll make his baby food from scratch as much as I can because I like to, but I'm not going to drive myself crazy over it. And I'm not going to take on anything else I don't need to. I'll do what I can while being a good mama. Maybe you can do more. Maybe you can't. It doesn't make you or me a better person. We're all broken anyway. Why do I so easily forget, trying to live up to a manmade standard of perfection? Maybe I'll have to read my own blog from time to time to remind myself. Everybody should, because it's awesome.

6 comments:

  1. maybe I should send you some pics of my house right now. lol. It would make you feel like the queen of clean:) Great post! All us moms struggle with the balance. Yeah, mckmama seems to do it all doesn't she?! Crazy.
    Beth

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  2. I knew there was a reason you've been on my mind lately! Thank you for sharing such an honest post! So many people (myself included) mostly post about the happy times and never admit to any struggle. Raising little kids is very hard work. We don't need to make it harder by beating ourselves up. So happy you were able to feel God's presence in that moment and know the truth - that you are doing the very best you can and it is more than enough. And besides your kids won't remember if the carpets were dirty growing up, they'll remember the love you gave!

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  3. Great post Alison!! I think this is an issue every mama struggles with. You are so right though, once they're grown and gone you will never regret spending time with them instead of cleaning! :)

    Oh and if you ever want to see the "other" side to the Mckmama phenom, check out http://mckmamawithoutpity.blogspot.com/
    They have some links posted that made me reconsider her status as a mommy-great. Have a great summer!!!

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  4. Thanks for you comments, friends! I'm glad for the encouragement. Sarah, I'm not sure what links you read at that site. Everything I saw was super nit-picky! I don't read MckMama a lot, though. Just from time to time and I've enjoyed what I've seen. BTW, it's so exciting to follow your adoptions story!

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  5. For what it's worth, I think you are one of the best mom's I know! But here is a little something my mom used to love. The wisdom is true. I'm sure you've heard it before, you just need a reminder--Pauline
    It is the last refrain from "Song for a 5th Child" by Ruth Hamilton.

    "Mother, oh Mother, come shake out your cloth, Empty the dustpan, poison the moth,
    Hang out the washing and butter the bread,
    Sew on a button and make up a bed.
    Where is the mother whose house is so shocking?
    She's up in the nursery, blissfully rocking.
    Oh, I've grown shiftless as Little Boy Blue
    (Lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo).
    Dishes are waiting and bills are past due
    (Pat-a-cake, darling, and peek, peekaboo).
    The shopping's not done and there's nothing for stew
    And out in the yard there's a hullabaloo
    But I'm playing Kanga and this is my Roo.
    Look! Aren't her eyes the most wonderful hue?
    (Lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo).

    The cleaning and scrubbing will wait till tomorrow,
    For children grow up, as I've learned to my sorrow.
    So quiet down, cobwebs. Dust go to sleep.
    I'm rocking my baby and babies don't keep."

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  6. I feel all your words in my soul and fight those same internal battles with myself.

    Let me admit right now that it has been almost a month since I vaccumed our dining room (gasp!). And I can't tell you when I scrubbed my kitchen floor last. Swept, yes, scrubbed, not so much. And we actually had a pile of unfolded (clean, but unfolded) laundry on a chair in the living room for more than two weeks once!

    We do what we can when we can get to it. And if we've chosen to spend those precious moments laughing with our loved ones, then we've spent our time well.

    :)

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