Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Let go of the wheel

While it is impossible for me to put a finger on the most difficult part of being a mother, I will say that surrendering control is near the very top of the list. Before I had a baby, I was a methodical, routine-driven neat freak whose behavior teetered on obsessive-compulsive. If I had left the house one morning and come home blind that night, I would have known exactly where everything was because everything was in its place. The sheets on the bed were perfectly symmetrical, the mustard was in its spot (label facing forward, of course) and any dishes that were used were promptly washed and, in most cases, put away. After years of peeling myself off the bathroom floor the morning after a ruckus night, that bathroom floor was so clean you could eat off it, though no one ever took me up on that challenge.

Things are different now. The bathroom floor is still clean, but the refrigerator is not as organized. The milk stays in the same spot, but everything else is somewhat transient. The laundry is not always taken immediately from the dryer, folded, and put away while its still warm. The living room is an obstacle course of books, squeaky toys, and sharp little blocks that, when I step on them, test my resolve not to swear in front of the baby. I do my very best to make the bed every day.

This is not an easy shift for me to swallow. I do not like relinquishing control. I do not like to apologize for the state of my home when someone stops by. I feel like, since I am a stay-at-home mom, I should be able to stay on top of the housework. I watched my friends' homes dissolve into a slightly chaotic state when they had kids and I swore I would never let that happen. And I didn't let it happen. For months, I worked myself into the ground, compromising my health and emotional well-being while struggling to uphold an ideal that required at least two of me to accomplish. With no employee reviews, no pay raises based on performance, no promotions to speak of, I became the worst boss I've ever had. I cried over wrinkled t-shirts. I barked at my husband when the pillows on the couch weren't properly fluffed. Keeping house, after all, is my job and I want so badly to excel at everything I do. I stayed up too late and got up too early because I thought it was important.

It's not.

What's important (for me, anyway) is having a happy baby and a husband who will help me make the bed without fear of being chastised. Dishes can wait, laundry can wait, even showers can wait. It genuinely pains me to say that, but it's true. Letting go of my lofty expectations is so difficult, but so necessary if I want to remain sane. A shrieking baby in a clean house does me no good. A happy baby in a cluttered house is much more bearable.

And it's all a work in progress. I still get wound up about not being totally settled in here at our new house. I freak out about it and feel like a total asshole afterward. Today, though, I showered and made the bed. As far as I'm concerned, anything else I accomplish is gravy.


  1. i needed to read this today. it's 2:23 pm, i'm still in my pj's, bed is unmade, dishes aren't done, my teeth aren't brushed....and BWB is sleeping in my arms. i'm doing my best to let it go :)

  2. It's so hard to let it go. The dishes will wait patiently, though, and do not cry about not being washed. The shower is the toughest part for me. I'm not even considered human until I get a shower.



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