Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The Sisyphean Housewife

Two months post-partum and I finally feel like I’m starting to get back in the swing of things. I think I might actually be getting ahead of the dirt and clutter that plague this house. For several days in a row, the house is cleaner or tidier at the end of the day than it was at the beginning. Doesn't sound like a big deal, but to me it kinda is.

I am good at many things. Housekeeping is not one of them. I am rarely motivated to clean, and when I am motivated I don’t really do a very good job. To me, it's boring, gross, and tedious; and I am amazed that there are people out there who really enjoy it. Most of the time, I frankly don’t care about a little mess (ok, a lot of mess) so my baseline for acceptable cleanliness is pretty low. I clean out of a sense of duty and a desire not to live in a house reminiscent of a Hoarders episode.

For the past however many months, this house has been in the red in terms of cleanliness. Between being extremely pregnant, being laid up for two weeks after a complicated birth, having houseguests, and getting accustomed to the schedules of two tiny humans instead of just one, and a toddler tornado tearing through the house daily, chores just weren’t happening, and messes were accumulating. Our plan to eat out much less frequently also fell by the wayside. Fortunately my darling husband does more than his fair share around the house so things never got too out of control, but even still…

After Kyle was born we had a professional cleaning service come in and deep clean the whole house. It was pretty much the best thing ever. This time around, we didn’t do that. So here I am digging us out of dirt debt, slowly but surely. You can actually see the countertops in the kitchen. I dusted the ledge of my vanity backsplash. Today I plan to even bathe the baby.

But at the end of the day, for each surface cleared of some project, each pile of mail sorted, each room swept, there is another chore looming on the horizon. I go to bed at night feeling like Sisyphus, but instead of a boulder, it is a dog hair tumbleweed that I am forever pushing up a hill. It gets to be overwhelming and mentally exhausting. 

No matter how many loads of laundry I do in a day (and laundry for four is exponentially more than laundry for three), at the end of the day we shed our clothes, meaning the laundry is never finished. No matter how much of an effort I make to keep dirty dishes out of the sink (which means keeping the clean dishes out of the dishwasher), there is always that one last ice cream bowl, bedside water glass or errant sippy cup that remains unwashed each evening. No matter how many times a day we pick up toddler toys, there is still shit everywhere (Not actual shit. Usually.). 

Even making the bed becomes an item on tomorrow’s looming to-do list the moment the covers are pulled back for the night (which is why I never bother making the bed in the first place.). It is impossible to go to sleep without undone chores weighing on my mind. Sometimes I spend more time thinking about a task than it would take to just do it. Thanks to that mental list, I can never shake the feeling that this woman’s work is quite literally never done.

I know, from the number of memes on the topic, that I am not alone in this sentiment. And I know it’s a first world problem – a problem of abundance, an abundance for which I should be grateful this Thanksgiving holiday. 

So I ask – how do you cope? What simple things have you done to awaken your inner Martha Stewart? I know this pack rat should purge. I should make a meal plan. A chore chart. Things I’ve tried that last a week or two. What else have you got, people of the internet?

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Bee Gone!

Well it's official. Our bees have flown the coop. Or the hive, as the case may be.
After seeing the bees being attacked by a foreign swarm, we knew it was only a matter of time. And sure enough, when Tom went out to check them late last month, the hive had nothing but bee corpses and the honey they'd worked so hard to accumulate was gone. It was heartbreaking, but we have chalked it up to another hard (and expensive) lesson learned on the farm.

We plan to try again next year, taking the lessons learned from this year, and will hope for greater success. It is not uncommon for beekeepers to lose their hives, so we knew this was a possibility, but we really hoped to succeed.

In other news, we were bees for Halloween - Daddy was the beekeeper, Mommy was the queen bee, and the kids were two cute honeybees!

Monday, November 9, 2015

Dadurday, or How to Save Your Marriage and Raise Awesome Kids

I want to share this idea with all you parents. My friend Satwik​ frequently posts pictures of himself hanging out with his two kids on what he has termed "Dadurday." Essentially, he takes the kids out to do something on Saturday, just dad and the kids. They go to eat, on bike rides, sightseeing, to farms, etc. This may not seem like a big deal, but I want to explain why it is, and why I think more dads should take the same initiative. Or why more wives should insist upon it.

Moms (working moms and stay-at-home moms alike) are generally their children's primary caregivers. When both parents are around, the care generally defaults to mom, and unless dad is expressly in charge, mom is on alert. As such, we often find ourselves with little time truly to ourselves, when nobody depends on us, we have no tasks to complete for the good of the household, we don't have to use the "eyes in the back of our heads," etc. Even when dad is watching the kids but mom is still in proximity, she will never be off duty. Physical separation is a critical component of Dadurday.

What's more, if moms want free time outside of the house, we often have to ask for it. As wonderful as my husband is, I still find us in a strange dynamic in which (for example) he'll tell me he's going for a haircut, then go get one. Or just up and go. Meanwhile, I ask "permission" and then have to make a plan to go out around his schedule. Tom​ doesn't demand this of me in any way, that's just kinda how it works. This loss of autonomy generally translates to a loss of self for many women, which can be one of the greatest challenges of motherhood.

There is a certain segment of dads who treat hanging out with their kids as if they are babysitting, like it is a burden, or like they are overwhelmed or confused with what to do with these tiny humans. It makes me so sad to hear from the wives of these men. It makes me think about a piece of advice my friend Kristen​ mentioned she'd learned about parenting: delight in your children. Ans so the hands-off dads, I say: delight in your children. Get down on their level. Get dirty (and that includes changing diapers). Get involved. Get snuggly. Get creative. Seeing the world through the eyes of a child is one of the greatest joys of parenthood.

There are other dads who love to hang out with their kids but don't necessarily appreciate their wives' perspectives and needs. Both classes of dad (and mom) can benefit from Dadurday, I think. Spending time with one parent without the other present is a very different experience, and that bonding is so important. I think these everyday encounters and simple conversations with young children set the groundwork for the big conversations that come later.

Make a plan - be it every Saturday, every other Saturday, or one Saturday a month - for Dad to take the kids somewhere for a substantial portion of the day, ideally including at least one meal. The plan is key so that Mom can anticipate her free time and make a lunch date with her non-parent friend she never sees,  make an appointment for a pedicure, or pick up a trashy novel at the library. And Dadurday doesn't have to cost money - Dad can pack a picnic lunch and take the kiddos to the park. Home Depot and Lowe's have free kid's projects one Saturday a month. Go for a hike or to the pool. I suggested this idea to one harried friend recently, and her husband ended up taking their daughter out for donuts, to the farmers' market, and to a trampoline play place. The possibilities are endless.

I know this doesn't describe everyone's situation, but in talking to moms I know, it's a common theme I hear over and over: "I just want time to myself!"  I guarantee you the rewards will come back to you tenfold in your marriage. As my husband espouses: happy wife, happy life!

#dadurday #teamDDW #daddydoinwork #womenirl #parenting #protip #happywifehappylife