The other day I was taking a mental break while Little O spread his crayons all over the living room floor. Not to worry, I said to myself, we’ll clean them up later. Later came and I was faced with a defiant two-year-old and a short temper. I recall thinking to myself, “are you really losing it over a few crayons on the floor?” I think I really lost it for a couple of reasons. The first was that I felt Little O was purposefully ignoring me. Since he is only two, this wasn’t what was going on. He was merely continuing to explore his world and have fun. He couldn’t understand why mom was getting upset. The second reason that contributed to my ire was that I had an agenda to meet that wasn’t being met. I wanted a clean house. I crave a clean house. I NEVER get a clean house. Maybe never is too strong a word. My sweet husband helps me clean the house from top to bottom when I have come to the end of my tolerance with dirt, and he is generally very helpful doing routine things like laundry and dishes.
However, the cleanliness and order in my house is usually below the standard that will keep me stress-free. I contribute to a large part of the chaos: I’m not the most organized person, I find it very difficult to complete any task when I have to constantly switch from task to task (something which has become a constant state of being since becoming a mother), and I simply would rather do other things than housework. So I do contribute to my own irritation, but I have found that this has exponentially increased since I now live with two other people, one of them a toddler.
Anyway, after apologizing to Little O for losing my temper, I called my older sister for some mom-to-mom chat and mostly for advice. I was wondering if I’d ever be able to patiently put aside my needs while caring for my little one. She gave me two great pieces of advice. She said the thing that helped her the most was that her kids grew up. This wasn’t the advice I was expecting; I was really hoping for a great piece of wisdom that would give me the ability to snap my fingers and grow all the patience in the world. What I learned was that we all have our buttons that get pushed sometimes, and you just have to anticipate that they’ll be pushed, find a way to gracefully navigate through the rough spots and look forward to a time when they won’t be constantly pushed. Little O will be on to other buttons, I’m sure.
The second thing that she said was this:
“Cleaning the house when the kids are growin’ is like shoveling the walk while it’s still snowin’.”
I laughed. and laughed. and laughed. I got the hint. I need to realize that while I DO need to clean the house while my kids are small, the effort spent will be undone almost as soon as it gets accomplished. I think the reasons for cleaning the house while the kids are young is to teach them to be clean, not necessarily to have a clean house. Point taken. So Emilie, grab some serenity and let go of having a spotless house. That will come eventually. Right now it’s still snowing, and it won’t stop for another 16 years or so.