Thursday, April 12, 2012

Housework and Toddlers

I've been thinking about Dante's Inferno. It's an interesting read but a tad incomplete. Dante omitted the circle of Hell specially designed for teachers. In it resides a roomful of students all crinkling wrappers. They don bland, innocent expressions and mumble, "Cough drop, Mrs. Dolin."

Then there's the eternal resting place for the mother who snapped the gazillionth time she tripped over a Lego in the dead of night or crushed cornflakes on what was just a spotlessly clean floor. In this circle resides a roomful of pre-schoolers who cavort in a sea of Easter grass while off-handedly mentioning that the baby is in the next room playing with glitter.

The day after any major event -- Boy Scout camp, a family vacation, Christmas, Easter -- will typically find me shovelling out from under the remnants of the event. The aftermath of Easter was surprising heavy, surprising because a) I didn't host the events and b) we don't do over-the-top Easter celebrations. Somehow, some way, Monday morning found me climbing Mount Washmore big time and tackling a few other household messes that seemed to spin out of control in no time flat.

Dwija from House Unseen, Life Unscripted has a great post over at Finding Great Joy. Dwija is talking about that combustible combo of housework and toddlers. For me the take away point was a simple one: Forget about finishing.

Dwija writes:

Let go of "Finished"
This was probably the hardest one for me to learn, and might be the hardest for many moms to get used to. See, before toddlers, if you wanted to accomplish a task, you would start at the beginning and keep going on through the middle and when you got to the end, you'd be finished and then you'd stop.

It's time to let go of finished, you guys. It's just not gonna happen. Not only will there always be something else to do somewhere in the house, but even individual tasks might not be completed before you have to move on to the next thing. An example, shall we?

Let's say I'm in the middle of a Crazy Time chore like vacuuming. But then I look at the clock and see that it's time to get people ready for nap. At that instant I turn off the vacuum and commence the nap time routine. Yes, leave the vacuum RIGHT THERE. It's not hurting anyone and it'll remind you to finish later.

So you do the nap time routine and you lay them down, and then what? Sleepy Time Stuff! Yes, with the half vacuumed floor. Yes with the clothes waiting to be folded (unless those are on your Sleep Time list, in which case, have at 'em). Let go of the idea that one task must be completed before you move on to the next one and your frustration level will decrease 79.3% Yes, I've done formal research.

Read the rest here.

Just this morning John heard the rumbling of the garbage truck and said, "Man! I missed it!" Watching the big truck stop, lower its mechanical arm, and dump our debris is big stuff for a four-year-old boy. I have sometimes watched the garbage truck rambling through our neighborhood and wondered what goes through the minds of the garbage men. Do they swing by on Tuesday morning and say, "You people have trash again this week? Really?" Although I've never asked them, I doubt this is the case. They are in the maintenance business and expect trash every Tuesday, every Friday.

I, too, am in the maintenance business. Yes, I'm in other businesses, too, but I dedicate a significant chunk of my day to maintenance. The messes shouldn't surprise me quite the way they sometimes manage to do. There are, of course, exceptions to this basic premise. While not exactly a mess, I was surprised to pick up an uneaten banana this morning and find that John had written his name on it.

Where messes are concerned, size matters. I am all too used to finding our white, porcelain sink splattered with toothpaste, but I nearly pulled out the camera to capture the glob of Crest for Kids I discovered the other day. This was one impressive specimen. I'm talking the size of small tangerine.

Then there are things that simply startle me -- finding a live lizard in the Tupperware I'm rinsing, spotting a battery in the milk jug, finding a toy car floating in the orange juice. Early, early this morning I made my way to the bathroom only to find a four foot frog occupying the toilet.

Most messes are of the mundane variety. I walked to the fridge late last night and my bare feet stuck to some sticky, icky substance that had not been there during kitchen clean-up just a few hours earlier. Bathrooms and boys? We all know the score there. They require a quick wipe down about twice per day. And tomorrow will be no different.

I am in the maintenance business.

I love reading blogs and books on household organization. I recently started reading Like Mother, Like Daughter which is chock-full of practical advice. When I stumbled on a post about managing to get a shower, I thought, "This woman is speaking my language!"  She has a whole series of posts on "Reasonably Clean," as in "The Reasonably Clean Kitchen" and "The Reasonably Clean Bathroom." When I get a minute, I'll link to a few of her posts.

One of my favorite books is Confessions of an Organized Homemaker by Deniece Schofield. This offers specific, doable ideas that have made a difference in my house. Deniece speaks to the mother who wrestles with the fact that it's never finished, who laments the fact that she's in the maintenance business. Her advice? Regularly set aside time for a project that you enjoy and that will last longer than that newly washed floor.

So important. So true. The fresh coat of paint in my hallway lifts my spirits as I step over a pile of Little People on the way to have another go at Mount Washmore.

At the end of day, mothering these children, making this house a home, is the ultimate long-term investment. When the Little People are in storage awaiting the arrival of my grandchildren, when Easter grass no longer litters my living room floor, when the four-foot frog has taken up residence elsewhere, I'll have four young adults into whom I've poured my time, talent, and treasure. I look forward to watching it all unfold.

1 comment:

Becky said...

Thank you.