I went to college. I worked. I was a professional and people respected me. I had friends. I was fun and cute and friendly. Then I signed up for wife and mother and I was busy and happy and funny. Then, out of the blue things took a turn for the worst. I became Cinderella except instead of two mean step sisters and a bossy, cranky step mother I have three dogs shedding (and none of them know how to work the vacuum), a toddler that obviously got her training from a school based on the life and times of the Tasmanian Devil, and a husband who knocks over potted plants and leaves the dirt in a pile on the floor for three days until I clean it up. One day recently, I came in from the backyard (I had run outside to get something which required a 3 minute absence tops) and there, in the hallway were two dog bowls filled with dog food and one bowl that was empty. The contents of the empty bowl were all over the floor in multiple piles with pieces scattered in every direction. I almost just turned around, shut the door and drove off into the sunset. Instead, I marched into the house and complained that Tiny-Small was driving me crazy and needed to be kept away from the dog food at all times. Jim said nothing. It wasn’t until two days later that he finally confessed that he had, in fact, spilled the dog food all over the floor and left it for me to clean up. He actually said those words, “I left it for you to clean up.” I wasn’t sure what to do with that. It did make me insanely furious though. How did I allow this to happen? When did I become the maid?
I wonder if this happened to Cinderella too? Did she marry Prince Charming and ride off into the sunset only to find herself once again living the life of a scullery maid? I sat at the kitchen table this morning and looked down at my hands which are raw and chapped due to a ridiculous amount of hand washing, cleaning, gardening, and of course painting. My haircut has been overgrown for two months now and I am probably wearing clothes that are at least 10 years old. I don’t get enough exercise and I don’t get enough sleep and somehow deep down I know this is all my own doing. I am becoming some kind of living martyr or worse a beaten down, dumpy housewife. The kind of woman I so desperately did not want to become. These moment of clarity can be very stunning when they come to you in the quiet of the morning. Solutions to these problems are often elusive and impossible to formulate during the fog of fairly new motherhood. I don’t want the role of scullery maid. I want to have time for things that don’t involve cleaning. I want to have glossy hair, shiny eyes, and skin that doesn’t flake off in the wind. I look in the mirror and wonder how I became the person staring back at me?
Here I sit contemplating my present status of mom and maid to all, determined to make some changes. I’m not willing to accept this as my life sentence, but how do I navigate my way to a solution that can be satisfying to all involved? Do I just give up cleaning up after other people (especially adults) and live in squalor? Do I become a nag who is militant about structure and neatness? Do I hire someone to come in and clean the house once a week to lessen the burden? That might be the best and easiest solution. I cleaned houses to put myself through college and one of my customers told me that she and her husband were fighting all of the time about household chores. They finally went to counseling and the therapist said, “If this is what you fight about all the time why not hire someone to come in and clean your house?” So, she hired me. She said I saved her marriage! At the time I just thought she was nuts, but now that I am home struggling to keep everything running smoothly and living with two people who think I was born to be a personal butler I am reconsidering. It seems ridiculous to hire a cleaning crew when you are home all day and SHOULD be able to do it all yourself. I can’t do it all by myself though. I can’t be a mother, wife, maid, handyman, gardener, accountant, and cook simultaneously for 24 hours a day and still keep my sanity or feel even remotely healthy or look even slightly attractive. I need help. I am learning my limits. The saying, “If Mama ain’t happy ain’t nobody happy” wasn’t said on accident. Who ever said that really knew what they were talking about. On the other hand asking for help or paying for help makes me feel guilty because I truly believe I should be able to do it all, do it all by myself and do it all well. My thinking is obviously quite faulty because one quick look around provides enough evidence for any logical person to determine that I am not doing it all nor doing it all well.
It’s time for me to make some decisions and stop being afraid to ask for help. I need childcare, a cleaning crew, a yard maintenance worker or some combination of all three. At least until Tiny-Small is big enough to help or not get into mortal danger while I am pruning some shrubbery. Time and energy are finite. At some point I have to start putting my needs into the equation. I say better sooner than later and also better late than never! It’s time to set some boundaries and be a good role model to my daughter. I need to teach her that there are ways to take care of and love your family without having to give yourself up entirely in the process, but first I have to teach this to myself!