Sunday, August 12, 2007

Why did I think I could have it all, all at the same time?

This weekend has been a time of change, small yet significant changes, in a very good way.

Friday didn't go so well. I ended up canceling a playdate, which meant trapping the children inside the house for the entire day. That's not good. But. I didn't feel so hot. And it's a good thing I acknowledged this because by about 3:30 I had wasted away into uselessness. In other words, I had a big flare-up of the Dread Disease. Had I been out of the house, it would have been bad. I would have been unable to drive, get home, do anything, and I wouldn't have had access to my medication. I probably would have really flipped out my friend, too. Sometimes, this really, really sucks. The worst bit was the pain and the general weakness. I also had one of the numbness flares. That stinks too.

No, the worst bit was the kids.

The kids who were Way Too Good and I Don't Deserve It and OMFG my kids are so used to me being so sick they have learned to recognize it and have figured out what to do to help. I know, I ought to be So Happy---I am raising amazing and fabulous girls. Girls who are compassionate, and know when mom is down. Girls who are supportive, and know how to occupy themselves (without trouble) while mom is down. I am half teary-eyed warm fuzzy proud and half sick to my stomach because this is not the childhood I wanted for them.

Patience and I cuddled on the bed while Persistence played mommy to her babies. Her mommy and baby game is telling: she is very, very sweet to them, but sometimes they are "sassy" or "no hitta me" and get a time out. Patience wanted to fix things and felt impotent to do so, thus needed reassurance. We distracted ourselves with the show "How it's made," and I thanked God above for television. Of course, the science channel has commercials, largely diet and workout equipment. As Slouching Mom has attested, five year olds are very susceptible to advertising.

Patience watched a lengthy commercial for Bow Flex and said, very conversationally, "Maybe we should get that for you, Mom. It says it makes you stronger. Maybe if you were stronger you wouldn't be sick any more."

Yeah, that's about how I felt too.

My husband picked up the ball as soon as he got home and handled everything.

But I wasn't able to get up and go tell the kids goodnight in their beds; they had to tell me goodnight in mine. I didn't trade dreams with Patience, or do the lullaby with Persistence. They kissed me quietly and gently and went to their rooms.

On Saturday I read a post by whymommy that affected me deeply:

“A man’s reach should exceed his grasp.” Robert Browning

The words above are from a poem that have echoed in my head the past few weeks as baby Little Bear reaches, and grasps, and reaches again. That I knew. What I didn’t know? The title of the poem: Less is More.

Less is more.

Right now, fighting the cancer is what I need to do. Loving my babies is what I need to do. Appreciating my family is what I need to do. Everything else can wait.

She's a wise woman, that whymommy. I don't have cancer, but the words resonate nonetheless.

I needed to figure out how to find my own less is more.

Then, later, I read something Stefania at Citymama wrote: Why did I think working all summer with minimal childcare was a good idea?

She could have been writing about me.

I was so ready to be inspired.

Our Kindness Campaign part 1 wrapped up Friday, as you can imagine. The Forfeit cup was quickly and easily emptied. The reward? A local fair.

Instead of working, doing chores, running errands, etc. on Saturday we just went to the fair and had fun. Oh did we have fun.

When we got home, later, after we put the children to bed, my husband and I talked. I admitted I had pushed myself too hard last week, had done too much, even while fretting about how much was left undone. I confessed I felt I had brought on the episode Friday by not listening to my body and taking better care. Then I said I felt trapped between obligations and self-care. Mommies don't get sick days or time off.

He asked me, "If money wasn't an issue, what would you do? What would you let go of?"

I asked a question back, "Do you mean if money wasn't an issue or if money wasn't an object?"

Without waiting for his answer, I pressed on, "You know what? I'd hire a cleaner for the house. Hands down the biggest source of conflict in this house is cleaning. It's easily one of my biggest areas of frustration and resentment. I'd be a lot less stressed if tidying and maintaining was all I had to do. I'd be a lot less annoyed if I didn't constantly walk through the house seeing chores I needed to do."

I paused to think, run through what I thought must be a hugely long list of things I wanted to offload. Instead, I only found one more thing.

"And subcontract some of the work. I want a subcontractor."

We talked in more detail and I think he was a little amazed, as was I, that a house cleaner and a subcontractor were what---all---I needed.

It isn't that these things haven't occurred to us, but we have a very tight budget. I don't have childcare because there really isn't enough income to provide that. I haven't a house cleaner because there really isn't income to provide that.

Lack of income can certainly narrow your choices.

But sometimes, re-budgeting and finding a way to pay for something that seems like a luxury costs less than the other cost of not doing it.

And so, we've decided to invest in a better lifestyle for the family...I think that's a very good use of our money.

I'll be trying to find a cleaner we can afford. I'll be interviewing subcontractors for some of the work. I'll be taking weekends off. Mostly.

And best of all, school will be starting soon. Just a few more weeks.

This morning I woke up happy for the first time in a while. Instead of feeling too heavy and oppressed by the weight of responsibility within the day, I felt good, welcomed the day. My husband and I had a plan for how the day would run, and I knew help and relief was on the way.

So tell me, what's your 'more' that you wish was 'less?' What do you need, what would take that 50lb weight off your chest and shoulders?

Copyright 2007 Julie Pippert
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liv said...

I'd really like to mention some good words from a businesswoman in her 70s. She said,"You can have it all. Just not at once." Although it is in the same vein as my recent post, I just want to mention that so many of us are feeling defeated by artificial expectations. Instead of wanting the big cake, maybe we should focus on a bite at a time.

I'm glad you stayed in with the kids--you trusted your gut.

Jo said...

This is an amazing post. I think I'm going to have to do one of my own on my site to answer your question. It's a very good one girl.

flutter said...

vital, vital questions

thailandchani said...

I am so glad you decided to put some things in place to relieve some of your stress.

Your health thanks you. :)

(And, as an aside, I apologize for corking off in your space last week. I hope you'll forgive my rather disgusting behavior.)



Julie Pippert said...

Liv, wise words. Thanks for sharing them. :)


Jo, I look forward to it!


Flutter, I know...easy to ask, hard to answer, harder to live sometimes.


Chani, me too. And no worries. It's all fine. I'm pretty sure we can all admit to similar at some time or other. I know I live in a glass house so I don't cast stones. :)

Lawyer Mama said...

I need a friggin clone.

Actually, it's funny how subbing a lot of our daily chores out can really relieve a burden. We have a cleaning service that comes twice a week. It's not like they can declutter for me, but they keep my bathrooms and floors pretty clean. They do the hard stuff.

We had a lawn service for awhile and we got rid of it & we really need it back. I don't even have time to weed these days and it takes hubby 3 hours to mow our 4 acres on the lawn tractor, several times a week.

I'm glad you made the decision to give yourself a break from being supermom and hire some help. You're completely right that it is an investment in your family. I'm sure it will help!

Queen of the Mayhem said...

I'm with LM! :)

Seriously, I think a housekeeper would take a huge weight off my shoulders. We used to have one...but had to let her go when we moved to BFE!

Maybe I need to do some calling around myself!

I hope you continue to give yourself a certainly deserve it!

Magpie said...

Lovely post. I don't think a housekeeper would help me - I don't really notice the dust bunnies. But something needs to give - I think I need a sabbatical. Instead of working full-time, I want a few months to regroup - exercise, putter, tackle some organizing, and maybe even dust. Oof. I don't know how that could happen, but I feel more and more that I need it. I've been working full time for 20 years without a break.

jen said...

i need one day a week to myself. i won't get it, but it's what i need.

Gina Pintar said...

A housecleaner is so worth it. I have a woman come in every other week. I still have to clean but no more scrubbing bathrooms! No more dusting the bedrooms! Yes, those are exclaimation points. I bought no new clothes this summer to keep that cleaning lady and it is so worth it.

slouching mom said...

For me it's a no-brainer. I need the boys to start school again. Which is just another way of saying I need some time to myself.

I'm so glad you've done this, for your health. Just so glad.

And also so glad that the Kindness Campaign resulted in a happy trip to the fair!

painted maypole said...

How great that your husband asked the question, and is with you in making it happen. It's true that we often need to reprioritize, including where we spend our money.

And hoorah on the kindness campaign!

thailandchani said...

Julie... award for you over my way.



Aliki2006 said...

Excellent post, just excellent. I wish I could analyze things the way you do...

What do I need? I don't know...some capable person to step in and help me out, to take care of *me*--some time to not worry about my kids, the ability to know everything will turn out alright.

Oh, and a few weeks at the beach, that would be nice, too.

Cathy said...

OK, read this, thought about it, and then had to come back again with an answer.

First -- so sorry about the difficult time you've had healthwise. I hope easing the load will give you the rest and strength needed to keep up with those things most important to you.

As for what would ease my load -- well, I want a personal assistant.

Someone who makes and keeps the doctors' appointments, does the birthday shopping, takes the kids in for haircuts, remembers who needs to see the dentist when ... that sort of thing.

It's so tiring, maintaining this mental calendar and filing system.

My brain needs a break.

Snoskred said...

I decided not to clutter up your comments section and blog about it instead. ;)

Wanted : Peace And Quiet

I'm glad you're making these changes, I think they'll be helpful to you. What your kids will remember years from now is not how clean the house was, but how much time you spent with them. So in the meantime, until you find a cleaner, when you see a chore look at your kids and forget the chore - read a book with them, make cookies, whatever floats your boat. ;)

One of my deepest beliefs is, we're here for a good time, not a long time. So we have to make the most of every moment. :)


mayberry said...

The housecleaning help is huge for me. It really is. I hope you can find somebody and that it lessens your load.

Ali said...

A housecleaner would do it for me too, though a new car wouldn't go astray either!

Used to have a housecleaner once a week and it was heaven. Then the husband died, the income was cut by two thirds and my parenting workload doubled, but bye bye housecleaner.

The Aussie term for this is: bugger!


kim said...

I'm sorry you were feeling bad. Julie have you ever read "Being Perfect" by Anna Quindlen? It's a great little read if you haven't.

Let go of the Mama guilt because I promise you that if it wasn't your illness it would be something else.

We have had a house cleaner even when it meant eating canned tuna every night.

Emily said...

I am fortunate enough to have a house cleaner, which is precisely what I need to keep me sane. PRECISELY. Otherwise, we constantly fight about the cleaning. Sure, full-time cook and 27 hours in the day would be nice, but the cleaner is all I really need to make it doable.

So glad you are getting the help you deserve.

mpearl said...

I have to tell you I have been thinking about this very subject a lot lately. In fact I wrote about this subject recently. And I am also seriously considering hiring a cleaning service, too. I hope you are feeling better. Just curious, what are the subcontractors for?

kaliroz said...

Oh, Jul. A house cleaner would make my life so much better. Between the allergies, female things and IBS ... I've been a mess the last few weeks. Which hasn't been good since I'm unpacking.

The last few days the child and I have had "stay in your PJs all day" days. I can't manage much more at the moment.

I think we, a lot of the time, don't know how to ask for what we need. You know? Like, I can say "I need to clean my house" but I can't look at my husband and say, "I need time to must breathe". And I cant say that because society has told me that I'm not supposed to.


I'm exhausted.

I'm sorry you've got all this on you.

Kyla said...

Ugh. I know the situations are different, you have a personal illness and I have a KayTar with an illness...but I feel the same at times. It breaks my heart when BubTar says, "Why does KayTar ALWAYS have to be sick?" or "Why do we ALWAYS have to turn out the lights and not make any noise?" I know it isn't always...but in the midst of the disruption it feels like that, especially to a five year old. They are learning compassion through it, though.

As for the question, I don't know what my answer would be.

Nathania Johnson said...

My friend's mom is known to say "I'd rather have a happy family than a clean house."

She never apologized to guests for her mess.

I love that.

rebecca said...

Nathania I'm glad you said that. I'm new here but this is a wonderful entry. I went through about 4 months where I had almost a constant migraine. SO many days in bed, with someone else -- and sometimes, NO ONE ELSE -- entertaining my girls. It's horrible to feel so incapable.

Then I realized that I was capable, it was just different. Capable of being quiet and still and holding my girls and loving them still. Your girls are lucky that they have you, since you're obviously so attentive to their needs. And I just... let go ... of the house. I let go of my pride in being a "clean" or "neat" person, realizing it had more to do with my own personal wish to be seen in a particular light, rather than doing what was making me and my family happy.

And, you know what? It's a few months later, my migraines are (suddenly & strangely) under control, and my house is neat and clean. Ish. Will never be what in my mind I think it should be, but we're all still here, anyway. On my death bed I hope I'll remember how much fun we had in our house, and not how filthy it sometimes was...