Oh, Oprah. Did she coin the phrase “aha moment”? Because, dang her, I use it a lot, and I don’t like to owe Oprah anything, other than thanks for introducing me to a dozen very good books that are depressing as crap. (Map of the World? I Know This Much is True? Are you kidding me?)
Well, put it on my tab, b/c I do use it. And I had one the other day. It was a random situation where Sydney had been invited to a friend’s house after preschool, and Asher was having a stellar day of happiness and contentment with actual toys like cars, dolls, and play kitchens, rather than his preferred type of toy, which is chap stick, dust buster parts, food from the garbage and painting the wall with deodorant.
And at the end of my day when all the kids were back home and daddy was on his way, I had a skip in my step that is often missing around 5pm. And I tried to figure out why that was. And I did. And I had an aha moment.
I realized I felt good because I had been productive. Like, productive even in the eyes of an outside, childless observer who has no idea how that term changes drastically once you have small people in the house undoing your every attempt at order. Not productive as I currently have to think about it, which means that if I’ve made dinner and showered IN THE SAME DAY: I’ve been productive. I mean, I had kicked this house’s butt! I had rocked my domestic goddess hat and even done some long-term-to-do-list things that had been mocking me for weeks. And people? IT FELT GOOD. I was happy with myself and my life.
And that’s when I had my you-know-what moment. I remembered back to when a friend told me that she and I had something in common. We begin each day fresh at zero, not allowing credit for what has been accomplished the day before, and whether or not we write it down, we have a list in our heads and our personal success is kind of based on that list and what is crossed off during the waking hours. This was pre-family, when I was a working gal, and there was no emotional value placed on that observation. I think it was actually a compliment.
However, even though my life has drastically changed, I realized my measure of internal success has not caught up. My current occupation is Director of Development and Maintenance at casa de T, and my mental to-do list STILL is full of tasks that are quantifiable and observable, when much of my day is filled with tasks that are the opposite of measurable. When I break up 10 fights, my floors do not reflect my exhaustion. When I read books, snuggle on couches, remove children from precarious ledges, make 3 squares a day, drive to and from and to and from– my closets are still a mess. When I calm tantrums, put band-aids on owies, write grocery lists, wipe noses, hands, faces and bottoms all the livelong day, my dear husband walks in at 6pm and the house isn’t just the same as when he left, it is usually WORSE. Ugh. And sometimes it feels like failure. (Not to him. To me.) I love, love, love a clean and organized house. LOVE. IT. Don’t remember the feeling well, but well-enough to know it is my happy place.
But in order for that to happen, I basically have to farm my kids out. And that feels horrible! I KNOW in my heart that my work with my children is important. It is arguably the most important occupation of my lifetime. And it may not seem measurable right now, but these investments are going to pay off. Maybe not today, but in the years to come. One of my favorite scriptures is Galations 6:9 “Let us not grow weary in doing good, for in the proper time, we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” I have this verse at eye-level in my kitchen, and I keep reminding myself: harvest = godly, respectful, well-adjusted children. Proper time = not necessarily now. Do not give up = DO NOT GIVE UP!
Yet despite daily reminders and head knowledge, my human nature just really longs to walk on my floors and not have crumbs stick to my socks. I would just really, really like to be able to walk into my bathroom and not smell little boy urine. Could we just have ONE MEAL that doesn’t require 15 wet wipes, a mop and a hazmat suit? I read somewhere that trying to clean while your children are home is like brushing your teeth WHILE eating oreos. Oh my word YES that is so true. And it won’t stop being true for several years.
And I love my life. And I don’t want to wish it away or miss the sloppy days of toddlers and preschoolers pining away for less messy older children, who will certainly come with their own unique challenges. (Although I’m hoping there will be fewer goldfish crumbs stuck to my toes.)
So I’m afraid my aha moment has still left me back to the conflict of knowing what is true and yet FEELING something different. It will probably be an ongoing internal battle. I will always have to tell myself that spending time with my children is MORE important than doing the dishes and laundry, and I will have to learn to find internal success and reward in that investment, whether or not any visible progress has been made. Even when I ignore the house duties and throw myself into quality time with my kids, they still may be stinkers later that day. They may still crave junk food and cop an attitude and jump on my bed with their muddy shoes on. I cannot measure my moments by the observable daily productivity.
That is, until my kids are old enough to clean the house for me. Then I think we’ve stumbled on a win/win situation. I’ll keep you posted.