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November 8, 2005 / allyo

Balancing Act

Back before Jamie was born, or actually, before I was pregnant, I used to spend a half hour every weeknight doing something around the house. I’d vacuum, or dust, or clean the kitchen, or do laundry. Some sort of task that didn’t take too long, but the accumulative effect was the house stayed fairly neat and clean, and the weekend wasn’t spent doing chores.

I slowed down as my pregnancy progressed, but we managed to keep abreast of things on the weekends. We both knew after Jamie was born, we’d want to spend the weekends having fun as a family and not doing chores. The solution was going to be that Jim would be home in the evenings. I now realize that while his desire to do so is sincere, the best he can do is be home twice a week, and usually, he can only be home one evening.

I’m really angry about that. I’m angry because not only do I do all the middle-of-the-night parenting, I also do all of the after work and evening parenting. It’s not that I don’t love being with Jamie. Most nights, the minute I leave work I’m eagerly looking forward to seeing him. It’s the other stuff I resent. The making dinner, or eating cereal because Jamie’s cranky and I can’t manage to make dinner for both of us. Doing bedtime every night, day in and day out, alone. Dealing with the dogs, cleaning the kitchen. It wears me down. Then, on the weekend, Jim’s exhausted from working long hours, I’m exhausted from working long hours and we both want a break. What happens is either we both take that break and the house is in worse shape than it was on Friday, or we run around like maniacs trying to get everything done and we’re in worse shape than we were on Friday. It’s not working.

For awhile I tried to go back to my nightly 1/2 hour routine. The nights that Jamie goes down easily and sleeps through, it’s not difficult. The nights and weeks where he’s sick, or teething, or just plain ornery, I come downstairs at 8:30, collapse on the couch, eat something fattening, and watch tv until I drag myself to bed. And all around me, the mess sits and festers.

I decided I would take everyone’s advice and lower my standards. "What can go undone?" I asked myself. The floors, well, we’d long since stop mopping them every week and actually, now that we have CHILD that lays around on them, they should be at least wet-swiffered 2-3 times a week, so add that to the list, rather than subtract. Plus, they need to be vacuumed every week, and could stand to be vacuumed twice a week (thanks dogs!). The kitchen needs twice-daily cleanings. The bathrom at minimum needs to be cleaned once a week.

What we let slide was the dusting, the folding and putting away of laundry, the sorting of mail, the general picking up of stuff. I’ve come to the conclusion that this doesn’t work. The bills get paid late, the laundry stacks up to the point that I don’t know where my clothes are, which makes me late in the morning, weeks go by without us really seeing our kitchen or coffee tables. As the house gets messier, my mind gets more cluttered, and my general mood turns more sour. I just can’t abide a messy house.

Now, I think I may have finally found my solution. Once I started weaning from the pump, I found my self with about 30 extra minutes every morning after MD and Jamie leave. I’ve been using this time to drink my coffee and read blogs and forums (on good days), or dry my hair and eat my breakfast (on bad ones). I’ve jealously guarded it as "my time," but it’s not really productive "my time." I end up being late because I just had to read the comments on that one post, or that one debate thread that heated up overnight. And I don’t feel any more relaxed.

So this morning, I vacuumed the kitchen and Jamie’s room, picked up the kitchen, and did some prep work for dinner tonight. It felt pretty good too, to leave for the day with a sizeable dent made in the chaos, knowing we’d have a tasty dinner to eat tonight. Tomorrow, hmm, I could clean the bathroom. And maybe, tonight, just having some semblance of order will give me the energy to fold the laundry. Who knows. A girl can dream


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