I Have A Dream
Pristine, swept floors – floors which seem to go for miles as your eyes trace the interlocking wood planks down to the bay windows on the other side of the house. The smell of baking. A garden, pruned and detailed. Weeded meticulously. Counter tops that serve their intended purpose – beyond mail, homework and neglected dishes. Pencils that sit neatly in their cup, waiting to be found predictably when needed. A crumbless kitchen. This is not my house.
When we lived in our little ’58 bungalow in the old part of the city, I was sure that our inability to maintain order for longer than 3 days (okay, 2) at a time, came down to a disproportionate ratio of belongings to space (1 456 491:1).
As I write this from my bigger, brighter open concept home, dishes sit, unwashed since last night’s dinner. Laundry cries out, spilling from hampers, garbage bins try to hold their own while we overwhelm them and my kitchen counter stares arrogantly at me. I think it’s saying: “Your Grandmother would never have let this happen despite her four kids”. My counters would be right.
Master of Her Domain
You see, I come from a family where neither the men, nor the women, sit down. They are productive from the time their feet hit the cold ground in the morning to the time they fall, presumably from exhaustion, into bed at night. I’d love to have had the genetics of these people. Instead, I was born with a love of cooking (not cleaning), more creative (less order) and a cynicism that suggests to me that to keep cleaning this house while my family lives here might just be paving my own road to crazy.
Other indicators of genetic difference can be seen when, for example, Grandma gets into a near-miss situation in her Lincoln and yells with passionate anger at the other guy: “TURKEY!” I’m not sure how I react to those situations. I can only assume I black out from rage. I digress.
Much as I’ve tried, nearly seven years in, I have never mastered the art of ‘staying home’. I have begun to wonder what it means to stay at home, exactly. I think the true definition lies somewhere between existential intellectual boredom, and doing everything you normally do, but from within the home while a 3-year-old dictator trades catastrophic mess for brief allowances of productive writing moments (unless there are bathrooms to be cleaned).
Whenever I have slept enough, and feel physically and mentally available to take on the disorder in my home, I have found my efforts thwarted by commitments, interruptions, or a general sense of the futility of the cleaning itself. When all things remain equal, the recommendations make sense: dishes daily, and laundry, too. Maintain, maintain, maintain. But that’s the thing about things. They’re variable.
The only evidence of balance I see here is in kids who take turns with dramatic illness, returning to their devilish selves (Tasmanian, I mean) just in time for whatever ails them to be sneezed onto me. Or, my tired slowness from the seeming perpetual darkness that is Canadian winter is finally overcome, and then – cramps. You get the idea.
I sometimes question whether my frequent failure to keep up is an indication of a laziness or immaturity on my part. Like somehow, other moms know something that I don’t. Maybe, I need to try harder for my family, find more time in the day and more energy to make everything happen at once. I’m slowly making peace with this notion, having analyzed my situation to death in the absence of the magic wand I so desperately require. Besides, my husband didn’t marry ‘lazy’ and my parents didn’t raise it. So here I am, left with the understanding that unless I stop writing altogether, the expectation of order will remain a hallucinogenic construct, bred of someone’s delusional mind – until the little kid years are over.
Aiming for Sanity
Since not writing is out of the question, these will be the times when I learn who my friends are. These will be the years that I look back on, when things are easier, and, with perspective offered from the vantage point of hindsight, give myself a break. When kids are sick, and hair’s a mess and scarcely surviving is all that can be done – it’s okay.
Parenthood is an uphill battle for most of us, save a few saints who were put on earth solely to make other mothers feel like they didn’t get the memo. Amidst gauntlets of toys, shoes and washed but unfolded laundry that my husband tries to clothe himself from at 5 in the morning, we do the best we can. Some days we do okay, some days we might as well not have gotten out of bed at all. But if you accept the fact that, for now, you can’t win at this game, you get comfortable with participation points and the oft underappreciated consolation prize called Sanity.
On days like this I lean into this thought: that these are the years, and they won’t be here forever.