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It’s a mountain most people don’t want to climb.
I have never liked laundry. You may judge me (and I’m not too proud to admit this), but in an effort to avoid doing laundry, I wear items two or three times before washing them. That is as long as they don’t smell or I didn’t spill food or kid yuck on them.
In college I used to take all my dirty clothes to the laundry mat once a month, load the washers, drink a beer and read a book until I needed to switch them to the dryer. I would then return home to happily (due to all the beer) hang the clean clothes and remake the bed. It was a cleansing ritual. Ah, the good old days…
Now two children later, we literally have a mountain of laundry. Actually, three mountains that seem to behave more like volcanoes. It never seems to stop. And it’s not like laundry is my job; it’s a team sport in the Pitts household. Even our houseguests get pulled in to pinch-hit folding and sorting.
Mount Laundry More might just seem like clothes to be washed, but to a success-driven mother, the peaks represent a far bigger challenge. It’s not just the piling up of onesies in the girls’ closet, it’s the inability to actually accomplish a simple task in a timely manner. It’s the inability to check off the to-do box that’s nagging me throughout the day and assaulting me as I walk back in the house after work. The to-dos are never ending and start to weigh, literally, on my physical well-being. I hear tapes saying, “I’m not a good mom if my house is dirty,” and while I’m picking up, “If you would stop working so much, you’d have more time to clean and then your husband and children will love you more.”
What the heck, tapes? How did I just go from being frustrated that I can’t get a handle on the laundry to feeling guilty because I’m not a good wife and mother? It’s like the dirty clothes, dishes and strewn toys have actually taken root in my brain and become my own personal “laundry.” Each item out of place is like a box I didn’t check off of my to-do list, and that list determines my success. My own version of success has somehow been transferred to my family, even though they didn’t define it and in some cases, just don’t care.
A few months ago my husband and I had a heart to heart. Somehow, I have no idea how, when he has the girls for mom-goes-to-yoga night, he manages to feed them, change them into their jammies and not destroy the kitchen and house in the process. When he gets home on any other day of the week, I’m in the yard, hunting down a dog that I let out and forgot to let back in, toting a child while watching another on her bike, all while leaving dinner (if I’ve even thought that far) half prepared sitting out on the kitchen counter. My husband wants to know how my mere presence in the home appears to evoke chaos while he seems to keep it manageable.
Well, to start, my husband is an orderly type of guy. Not to say he’s not spur of the moment, but he likes things to go as planned. I just go with the flow, literally going where the moment takes me. As I’m prepping for dinner, the dog bumps up against my leg, so I let her out. Then the baby says she wants to help cook, so I let her transfer the veggies I’m cutting up for dinner into a bowl. Meanwhile, my older daughter says she wants to ride her bike. That’s when the moment of truth arrives: do I keep prepping dinner, or do I go play with my daughter? I have a choice: check off a box or go with the flow. Which will give me greater pleasure? Will it be the smile on my daughter’s face while I play with her in the yard or serving a home cooked meal? Sounds like chicken nuggets for dinner again.
When I have to decide between making memories with my kids or cleaning the kitchen, I pick making memories almost every time. Then the guilt follows because the box didn’t get checked off, and I have to remind myself I checked off boxes all day for others and this moment, this check box is for me. My version of a good mother is not someone with a perfect house. That’s someone else’s version. I make my own check boxes. And I don’t have a version of a perfect mother. I can’t define it; I just know when I think about what I want to be as a mom, I see smiling faces. So that’s where you’ll find me — standing at the base of Mount Laundry More riding bikes with kids, wrangling runaway dogs and laughing despite the mess.
Monica is the founder and Chief Creative Officer of MayeCreate Design. She spends her days brokering a marriage of form and function and creating art with her team to grow businesses through websites and online marketing. By night she’s a story reading, singing, dancing, microwaving mom of two. She and her husband Mike have two daughters, Ellis and Aveleen, and two dogs, Maybe and Roxie. Monica considers herself an artist, yogi and web dork with the ability to speak geek and English.