Sunday, February 3, 2013

Mom Sabbatical: Week 4 of 4: Five Things I Learned

As (bad) luck would have it, I had to end my Mom Freeze one week early, for reasons I cannot disclose at this time (it's not as mysterious/exciting as it sounds). So when Week 4 of my Mom Freeze began, I started it by taking a look around the house at the carnage of filth that awaited me. Here's what I saw mostly:

While I must admit my husband did a good job of keeping the house TIDY for three weeks (and of taking my place as Official Yeller At The Kids About All Things That Aren't Where They're Supposed To Be) neither he nor the children did one lick of the dusting or deep cleaning that is required each week on the floors, mirrors, toilets, windows and furniture of a family of four with two dogs. You know, the kind of things a maid does. Or a Mom.

So I ended my Mom Sabbatical one week early, not with a celebratory glass of wine in hand, but with tears in my Swiffer.
As I got to the deep cleaning I wondered... why did I do this again?
What did I gain from this? A few things. Let me share them.


1. Even if it's frustrating at times, I'm on the right parenting track and I'm not going to change course.
My husband and children are used to a maid. Problem is, we don't have one. My husband grew up in a foreign country, where maids are a part of the family. His family maid didn't come to their house once a week (or even once a month, like our maid did when we had one). His family maid came every single day at 8am to help his mom and dad with the kids and do all the cooking, cleaning, mopping, dusting, laundry and ironing. She left around dinner time after having cooked a hot meal she left on the stove for everyone to come home and eat.

My children, who grew up in this country, have grown up pretty much the same way. Only their maid is not called Jennifer. Their maid is called Mom.

I understand that chores come with the territory of being a parent of small children. I did not have a problem with taking care of the house when my kids were little. A two-year-old can't make himself a grilled cheese sandwich or change his own bedsheets when he pees the bed. I get that.

Thing is, my children are not small anymore, and I have long been a proponent of the "if you can reach it, you can do it" housework philosophy. I've seen TLC's 19 Kids and Counting. Those babies change their own diapers, I'm pretty sure, so I'm not gonna let my 7- and 10-year-olds get away with not wiping the excess toothpaste out of the sink when they're done brushing. They will load the dishwasher and pitch in. And when they are grown-ups, their spouses will thank me for it.

2. My children have impaired vision.
That is, they don't see wrongly-placed items. Besides the nail polish in the middle of the floor from Week 1, there were times these past three weeks when a lone sock would appear in the hallway and stay there for days. It wasn't hard to see. It was a black sock on white tile. And yet, there it sat, sharing a coffee with the dust elephants. I will assume that my husband saw it and chose not to pick it up in support of this Mom Sabbatical. But my kids? Nope. They just didn't see it.

I know this because, even though I couldn't demand the sock be put in the laundry basket (because part of the Mom Sabbatical involved me not being my normal, naggy self) I could ask my daughter if she saw it.

"I'm not asking you to pick it up. I'm just curious," I said. "Do you see that sock there?" She looked right at it and said, "No. Where?" without an ounce of sarcasm. Blerg.

This week, I found this in my bathroom sink:
 Not sure what that is? Neither was I, until I leaned in.
Yep. That's half a kiwi skin, eaten/scooped out by one of my children . . . and left in the bathroom sink. You might think this photo was staged. I wish.

WHYYYYYYYY??? I certainly didn't raise them to believe that the bathroom sink is an appropriate fruit skin receptacle. Yet one of them left it there. And my daughter, who brushes her teeth in this sink 2x/day, did not remove it for 24 hours. She just brushed and rinsed over it.

I know; I am shaking my head too.

They are both getting 3-D glasses for Christmas this year so they can't miss this shit anymore.

3. My children and husband are on their own timeline, and if I don't start adjusting my timeline to meet theirs, I will turn into my mother.
I'm not proud of my impatience, but it's part of my heritage. My mother is exceptionally impatient. When she sets her mind to something--from buying a house to ordering food at a restaurant--she wants immediate results. If she doesn't get them, there are non-stop reminders of her initial wishes which frequently escalate into yelling. Her life, as a result, is a series of exasperated outbursts about things over which she has no control.

Turns out, I am pretty much the same way. If I want the the dogs walked. . . I want it done now. Before the Freeze, if I wanted help with whatever it was that needed to be done immediately, I would ask and nag and ask and nag with no response, until I was forced to scream causing the kids (and sometimes me) to start crying. This was the pattern to which we'd all become accustomed.

However, the last few weeks I discovered that if I can keep my mouth shut long enough, my kids will eventually clean up after themselves, and my husband will eventually be the one to remind them to do it if they take too long. Or he will do it for them. It will just be done on their timeline, which may be a couple hours (or a couple days) longer than I would like. To quote my stepmother, I should "lower my expectations until they meet reality."

Basically, if I can ignore a kiwi in the bathroom sink long enough, I can find inner harmony in the knowledge that it will at some point in time be removed before it rots. And not by me. The ignorance is the thing. I must become more ignorant, which I'm pretty sure I can do with practice. And bourbon.

4. My husband is there for me when I need him.
Regardless of all my whining, when all was said and done it cannot be overlooked that my husband put up with me not lifting a finger for 26 days. And he never once complained about it or asked me to to quit it, already. He indulged my experiment and took care of it all, and I appreciate him for that.

Likewise, I think he got a little taste of what it feels like to wear my hat and be the kids' sole go-to person for everything from settling arguments to pouring cereal. And that might have given him one more reason to appreciate me.

5. While I do like a clean house and well-behaved children, things don't have to be perfect all the damn time. 
In fact, I learned


  1. Hahaha that kiwi in the sink had me bursting out laughing!! Here's to embracing imperfection! xx