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Saturday, October 10, 2009

Messes, Mayhem and The Best Advice!

As anyone would expect, being a first-time mom later in life has its rewards but also its challenges. Years of living in a neat and tidy controlled environment give way to diapers, spills, spit up, messes and constant mayhem.

When my little one was born, I remember stressing myself out trying to keep our home in the same perfectly neat state it had always been in while taking on the full-time job of caring for a new baby around the clock. All the chaos that erupts from the minute you bring a baby home from the hospital until they finally fall into bed asleep filled our home. I was running around in circles but I just couldn't keep up. The dishes would pile up in the sink, dust would accumulate on the furniture in the rooms that we didn't use and the beds would go unmade for days.

One day a couple of months after my daughter was born, I was talking to my good friend, Karen on the telephone. I had worked with Karen for years in a well-organized office environment but she had been the first to give that up to stay at home and raise her three little ones. We had remained close so I knew she would be able to relate to the upheaval and chaos that now controlled my life.

I was complaining to her about how stressed I felt with all the housework that was no longer getting done. Instead of giving me the answer I thought I was looking for she laughed out loud and told me that she had felt exactly the same way, at first. Then she passed on to me her "light-bulb moment" and it literally changed my life.

"I gave up trying to keep a perfect house long ago. When my children grow up, I want them to remember all of the fun we had and the things we did together, not how clean I kept the house."

Her words hit me like a ton of bricks. Of course! How ridiculous of me to be so focused on my kitchen floor, my unmade bed or any other chore that was lagging behind. Why wasn't I taking the time to relax and enjoy these precious moments with my new baby, feeding her and just holding her? That day I vowed to make my daughter my priority and relax about my house. Karen's words had taken a huge weight off my shoulders and helped me to focus on what was important and what could wait.

Nothing drove that point home more than a year later when my husband's daughter had her second baby. We booked our flights and traveled the 5 hours to visit with her and meet our new granddaughter. At that time, our own daughter was only one and at that age of constant spills and messes.

We stayed at my step-daughter's home and I will never forget how uncomfortable I felt being chased around by her vacuum every time I made a meal or snack for my daughter. I didn't feel that I could sit down to feed her until I had wiped up every last crumb that fell during the food preparation, had stored away any utensils and dishes used into the dishwasher and had polished the granite counter where the food preparation had taken place. Only then could I feed my daughter as long as I kept a cloth close by to wipe up any crumbs that fell while she ate. Otherwise, my stepdaughter would jump in before the place I had been standing in had cooled off tidying up everything not allowing me the freedom to do it once my baby had been fed and taken care of. It drove me crazy and I left there vowing that I would never stay at her home again until our daughter was at an age where I didn't have to carry her in one arm while working feverishly with the other trying to clean up after her. Karen's advice would have served my stepdaughter well.

To this day, Karen's words echo through my mind and I can't thank her enough for giving me the best advice any new mom can receive. Our daughter is happy, her crayons are spread all over the living room, her toys are scattered, her puzzle pieces are on the floor, on the furniture and on her little table and I don't care. At the end of the day, once she goes to bed, I tidy it up and smile to myself happy in the knowledge that she had a wonderful, stress-free and fun-filled day and you know what?? So did I! Climbing into our own unmade bed once in a while isn't that bad after all!


Anita said...

Congratulations! Yes, you are to be congratulated for allowing yourself to make choices about the condition of your home.
I used to feel guilty because I thought it was my job to keep the house tidy, but now I focus more on my children. It's takes a lot of time to give them attention and to take care of their needs.
I still enjoy a clean house, so when the mood strikes, I clean. And, I think everyone has an area that they "must" have clean - mine is the kitchen - so it stays fairly neat.
When my mom visits, she says, "All you have to do is..." Easier said than done. Besides, life is short, as your friend said or implied. :)

Menopausal New Mom said...

Hi Anita, thanks for your comment. I too must have a clean and tidy kitchen. Although we live in an old historic home, we have an open concept living area and when the kitchen is untidy, the entire first floor looks untidy.

My house keeping is a far cry from the old pre-baby days but I love to focus on enjoying the time with her, children grow up so fast and I have the rest of my life to have that perfectly manicured home once she goes to school full time.


Stephanie said...

Found you through Anita up there!
That was a great light bulb moment (says the Mom with loads of laundry in the wash, dryer and armchair) I hope my kids are happy and any mess in the house....well, it will still be there tomorrow!

Menopausal New Mom said...

Hi ModernMom, thanks for stopping by, glad to hear others have made their children their priority and not the housework. Also nice to know I'm not the only one wading through laundry Lol!

Martha said...

I could not agree more. I was a single older mom (39 when Tara was born, separated when she was 5 months old), and I worked full time (40 plus hours a week). I did work at home, but I worked, I did not do housework during those hours! I had to set my priorities, and those priorities were spending quality time with my child... I was the only parent she had (her dad cut off all contact!)

Menopausal New Mom said...

Hi Martha, thanks for commenting. Glad to know that many of us have decided to put the quality of our kids lives ahead of the housework. Any excuse not to keep a perfectly organized home is welcome!