May 11, 2009

An Explanation of Me

OK - This may be redundant...but I need to lay this out there because of some things that have been said, either to me IRL, or online in some form or another.

  1. I was raised in a house where everyone pitched in, and we all had to take personal responsibilty. The line of "it wasn't me" was never allowed to be used. Period.
  2. I was raised in a house with a perfectionist mother, and a procrastinator father. Made for interesting situations to say the least. It also helped me see early on that I could change my ways with self-discipline.
  3. Having 3 older brothers who got to do all sorts of things that I couldn't or wasn't allowed to do made me desperate to prove to my parents that I could handle said things.
  4. I started doing chores when I was old enough to carry things without dropping them, or getting distracted by something along the way to my destination.
Those things being said, let me tell you a little bit more in detail about myself and my upbringing.

My mother worked outside the home in some for or another for as long as I can remember. Whether it was part-time in the candle store at our shopping center (back before there were shopping malls), or in the School District I attended, to a doctor's office, to the Church in which I grew up, Mom was always working somewhere other than my house. My Daddy was also employed full-time except for a brief period in which he had taken the early retirement option, and was searching for something. As soon as we were old enough, we helped out neighbors by shoveling snow, mowing lawns, raking leaves, walking dogs, babysitting children and the like. Once we turned 16, we got "real" know, at the mall, waiting tables, McD.onalds...whatever. We were expected to get high marks in school, attend classes, go to Church and Youth Group, as well as keep up with our responsibilities at home and at our respective jobs.

From the earliest of my memories, my family worked together. The boys helped with the yard work...mowing, weeding, trimming, cleaning up after the well as stripping and re-making their beds weekly, taking turns cleaning the bathroom we shared, pitching in with meal preparation and clean-up, sorting laundry, hauling it to the basement, switching it from washer to dryer/clothesline, folding it, putting away their clothes, ironing their clothes...

Our house was always clean. Not just tidy, with toys picked up and things off counters. I mean clean, as in you could literally have eaten off our floors if you chose. Our home was something Mom took pride in...she was raised that take pride in that which you have, and take care of it.

She had a routine. Each day was a different household task to be done. Laundry was done one day, followed by ironing the next. A mid-week "break", then washing the floors. Cleaning the bathrooms, changing sheets, yardwork. Things like cleaning the kitchen sink and counters was done after each meal. The floors in the main portion of the house were swept/vacuumed daily.

We, as children, and then young adults, were taught this way of life simply by my parents' example to us in daily life.

We all learned how to cook, do laundry, clean a toilet, change and make a bed with hospital corners tight enough to bounce quarters on (I know, because I used to do it for the fun of it!), grow a vegetable garden, change oil in a vehicle, change a flat tire, balance a checkbook, manage our finances. It didn't matter that I was a girl, or that my brothers were boys...we all did the same things.

When I went off to college, I was apalled at how some of the girls in the dorms lived...and not by choice of "I'm away from my parents, I'm doing my own thing" but because they didn't know how to do things...I remember one night, teaching someone how to sort their clothes...

When I married, BB used to joke that when he said "I do" there were things that just got deleted from his how to do the laundry and cook...we made a deal that we'd split the household things down the middle as long as I was working outside the home, but if I was ever able to stay home, that I'd take care of all the household chores and he could do the outside things.

When we found out we were expecting Captain Chaos (affectionately known to us as Aluminum Copper until his birth), we prayed about my going back to work, or staying home to be "just the mom"...

And to this day, here is how I do all that I do during the day, with 2 little children running around:
  • I follow a routine. Each weekday is devoted to one "major" task like laundry, ironing, scrubbing toilets, baking, errands, yardwork. Within each day, I have daily tasks such as sweeping the floors, and vacuuming the main rooms of the house.
  • I write down the things I want to do and cross them off as I do them. I get a good sense of accomplishment making lists and crossing things off...I'm visual that way.
  • I do a little bit each day on a special task (removing wallpaper, washing windows, "detailing" my rooms)
  • I am not a helicopter mom, always hovering over the children. I do not leave them unattended, or use dangerous chemicals around them. However, I also do not sit and engage with them every second of their waking hours.
Inkling commented earlier on how she was impressed that I get all these things done...and I wanted to share with you how I do it...for reals! (as my 12 year old neice would say).

While I did not have nearly the physical recovery that Inkling is dealing with, when Captain Chaos was born, it took me the full 6-weeks my doctor told me it would take to feel physically normal again after the C-Section and other trauma to my body. Added to that was the normal adjustment to caring for this little person that could only cry and scream when he needed something was another dimension of healing that no one warned me about. Topping it all off, my beloved grandmother passed away when Captain was only 1 week old.

Now for the upside! My folks live only 2 miles from me. They are both retired. My mother was at the hospital with us for most of my labor, and most of the 3 days after Captain was born. She was there almost all day every day for the first 4 days at home. Then, she was suddenly gone to NY to be with Daddy as he dealt with the death of his mother, my Nana. For 2 weeks, BB and I were on our own, trying to figure this out...but he was at home because his company gave him 4 weeks of paid leave...I had someone there to carry the baby, fetch me water, food, change the baby's diapers, give him a bottle and rock him to sleep so I could shower...

After Mom and Daddy returned home, she was again at our house a lot. She was able to keep things going, such as throwing the laundry into the machine, or putting it in the dryer, or helping me fold it, carrying it upstairs to be put away by BB later on...she swept my floors, vacuumed my carpets...twice she even scrubbed my bathrooms.

While she was gone, I vowed I would never let my house get to that state of disarray again...and I try really hard not to.

I admit, there are times when the clutter on the counter, or the overflowing trash can behind BB's chair get way out of control (as in stuff falling onto the floor people!) and the dust bunnies do take over occasionally becuase I'm busy reading "Good Night Moon" for the 800th time...90% of the time there are homecooked meals on the table, clean clothes in the drawers and closets, shiny floors, counters, and sinks. Because I choose to get up and do it.

I've never been good at sitting still...I'm not one to just sit and watch a television show. I have to be ironing, folding clothes, knitting, embroidering, washing dishes...something with my hands.

I do sit and play with the children, read them stories, become the race track, horse, or whatever it is Captain's imagination desires at the time...but they also know that Mommy doesn't get to play all day long with them, that sometimes, we have to do things like pick up the toys and vacuum the carpet, or put the cars on the track to be driven by someone else so that we can have lunch on our plates. But I also make sure that Captain is involved in everything that I can! He sweeps the kitchen floors, helps to empty the dishwasher, carries his dirty dishes to the counter by the sink, pushes in his chair after meals, picks up his toys, helps to put away the tub toys, brushes his teeth, and will sit quietly with a book, or his paper and crayons while we chat as I make dinner.

He is engaged in a lot of aspects of living...more so than many of his peers from Church. I had one mom ask me last week how strict we were in our parenting, becuase from the sounds of it, we were running a boot camp, not a home.

I smiled, and said, come over for a playdate some day and see what it's like.

She surprised my by calling me a few days later, on a rough day with Captain, and as she loaded up her children, she remarked that we were definitely not running a boot camp, but she was impressed that Captain was so obedient at so young an age, and so helpful...and asked how we did it.

I told her "let them help you do things, let them see you do things" and she is now able to have her children (aged 8, 5, and3) help out...they are happier, her husband is amazed, and her other friends are jealous.

I know that each of us is in a different place physically, emotionally, and our children are of different ages.

I'd be lying if I said I was always an angel, never complaining or whining growing up...I just knew when to knock it off, and buckle down...I also know that my children are incredibly sensitive and giving...and I wish I could take responsibility for all of that...but I know that a lot of prayers are truly what did that for me...

I want to tear out my hair sometimes, I get so frustrated I just want to scream...but I decided, holding that fat little baby boy with his shocking blue eyes surrounded by tangled inky lashes in the hospital room that I would never let them see me lose control to a scary degree, but instead, use that emotion constructively. Yes, they know I get sad, mad, frustrated...they just see that instead of yelling, screaming, or shutting down, I can take that energy and use it for good.

I don't think its the perfect way...but it works for us.

I pray that your struggles will ease as you realize that God didn't intend for us to be chained to our houses and the responsibilities of caring for them anymore than He intended for us to lose ourselves in our children...I pray that you'll find balance in your life, through His guidance, to become the wife and mother that He would have you be.

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