On routines, life and strange epiphanies

It’s the Victoria Day long weekend in Canada. We’ve spent it doing mostly nothing. There have been a few activities here and there, a trip to the airport to pick up my returning parents, a birthday dinner for my mom, and of course a family trip to Starbucks. Beyond that, we’ve really done nothing beyond play, eat, sit and read. I know that many of you are probably thinking how great it must be. And, of course, it is very nice to spend the weekend just recharging and being together as a family, but at the same time it’s left me reminiscing and thinking about how much life has changed. Long weekends use to be an event. There were plans to be had, adventures to take, people to see. Now they are all about staying close to home, catching a few extra zzz’s, and keeping the kids on routine.

Not too long ago I read an interview in The Globe and Mail with Lisa Quinn, author of Life’s Too Short to Fold Fitted Sheets. The piece was titled From one slacker mom to another: Lower your standards and take shortcuts. With words like slacker, lower your standards, take shortcuts, well I was attracted immediately. I’m always looking for tips and tricks to help me cope with the madness that can be my life. Lisa Quinn is a self-described “recovering Marthaholic,” who one day realized she needed to change her whole approach to domesticity. She talked about realizing that clean enough is good enough, and how she managed to chill out and release herself from ridiculous expectations.

I get that, and in looking back, realize that I did this with better ease than I would have thought possible following the birth of my first son almost 4 years ago. I was just like her. I expected my house to be immaculate, I baked, I cooked every night and tried new and interesting recipes often, and entertained frequently. Before kids, I enjoyed, actually revelled in the life of ‘suzy-homemaker,’ even as I worked full-time. I remember cleaning used to be relaxing. Who was that person?

With the advent of parenthood I became much better at turning a blind eye and letting my domestic responsibilities lag. I learned to let thing slide in favour of quality time with my children. What I’ve realized though, is that I let this part of me go because I had to, but not necessarily because I wanted to. I miss that part of me, the part that took pleasure in caring for my home and entertaining friends.

I took Friday off work so that I could spend the day cleaning my house without interruption. I mean really cleaning my house. I sent my children to daycare. I was productive, and it felt great. These few simple hours to myself focused on getting things done lifted a huge pressure that had been weighing on my shoulders. They helped me to relax. It really feels good to me to know that things are clean and in order, that the groceries are done for the week, but not because of racing to the store. They were done with a meal plan and a careful list that I took time to write before I left. I was organized.

And so I`ve been contemplating this all weekend. Because I`m feeling a sense of calm and peace that I haven`t in a while. It lead me down the path of how things have changed since I became a mother. About the fact this was the first weekend that I actually made my bed two days in a row since the birth of my second son. He’s 15 months! I know, it’s just a bed, but it’s a big deal for me. I used to always make it, no matter how early I had to be out in the morning. And if by chance I was up and gone before my husband and he didn’t make it, well you better believe I was making it before we got in at night. Yes. Really.

And I also thought about a time when our Saturdays were filled with dinner party preparations. We’d clean the house from top to bottom, I`d start cooking at noon and we’d greet our friends with a well thought-out and planned menu of food and beverages that would last well into the evening. Now when I’m expecting company, I’m usually racing to hide whatever I can in the last hour before they arrive, I’m doing a quick surface clean of the washroom and I’m throwing whatever I’ve got in the house into the oven. To be honest, I prefer to avoid it, so even this doesn`t happen as often as it probably should.

Are you asking yourself where I`m going with this? We all know it. It’s part of parenthood. Things change, priorities and needs change. Of course they do. But our floors still need to get cleaned. They aren’t going away and will only get more and more dirty if left to the hands of the three men in my life. So as much as I moan and complain about my inability to say no, in fact the real issue is that when it comes to all matters domestic I have been saying no and but have not been feeling comfortable with it.

But it’s more than that. And I realized it when I read Gretchen Rubin’s post about routines this weekend. And it became even more obvious to me as I was thinking somewhat ridiculously about how relaxing and yet disappointing my long weekend had been so far. Yes I’m feeling rested, a much-needed sense of rest, but at the same time I feel nauseatingly bored. What is it about me that I require my life to always be about racing in the fast lane, busy with some activity or task?

In her post Gretchen asked: Have you recognized patterns or routines in a way that’s helped you find ways to make your life happier? Oddly enough, as I write this and really think about it, I think I have.

The routine of caring for my home, of being domestic. It makes me happy.

And I’ve been denying it to myself because it is so often labelled as unnecessary. That our children won’t remember a clean house, but they will remember the time we spent reading, colouring and playing together. I absolutely agree. But I also they think they will remember and be influenced on a different level by a happy, peaceful mother. And if a happy, peaceful mother comes from a different place than where some think she should, well perhaps it doesn’t matter. Because I’m learning that a happy, peaceful mother is more of an example to her children than a distracted, harried mother who can’t think beyond the pile of dishes, the dusty cabinetry or the yellowing toilet bowl. Because indeed, once she’s tended to these things, she will be only too delighted to sit and play and be content together, without reservation.

However odd you might find this epiphany, however foreign, it’s actually quite important to me. It’s a step closer to understanding and finding the pieces that I have felt were missing. To moving beyond a false guilt and embracing the person I really am. I like to entertain, I like to keep a clean house, I like to prepare a delicious menu of food. I don’t have all the time I’d like to do it, but some of that comes from not allowing myself too because I believed the energy to be misguided. But the only misguided thing was ignoring this part of me in favour of a different me. That’s why it’s never felt like it quite fit.

Since becoming a parent have you ever had a light bulb moment when you unlocked an awareness of yourself that you otherwise seemed to have lost in the shuffle? What would you change about how you live your life now if you could? What habit or routine from pre-parenthood would you like to get back, but that you deny yourself in favour of your children?

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