I’m sitting with E on the couch on a rainy Saturday afternoon. He’s watching Wild Kratts while I write on my laptop. C is napping.
E asks me for a sandwich because it’s 3:30pm and, aside from dinner, meals are requested at super random times. He mostly wants to live on cheese sandwiches and tortilla chips, but I’ll sneak some fruit or veggies on there for him to ignore. On my way to the kitchen, I pick up several dishes from the dining room table so as to make my trip as productive as possible. An important trick to this whole solo management of everything is: no wasted motion like walking from one room to another empty-handed.
I remember when I was a clueless waitress at 19 years old, the restaurant’s manager sat in my patio section, sipping on a glass of wine while watching me work. At the end of my shift, he pointed out how many times I passed stacks of dirty dishes on tables and trays without bringing them back into the kitchen. He was a jerk, but he was also right- I was so focused on getting orders placed and delivered that I was creating quite an unsightly and unnecessary mess. As a 46-year-old solo mom, I have so deeply learned this lesson by now. Unfortunately, it also means staying On Your Game practically all minutes of the day if you don’t want the housework to snowball and then eat you alive.
In the chaos of lockdown, I long for that satisfying feeling of the house being clean, like when I sigh with relief after the cleaning lady has been here. I miss her. Back when I had full-time child care, I would reset the house almost daily and the cleaning lady took care of actual cleaning.
These days, the pillows in my living room have not found their true homes in weeks due to the creation of forts that evolve daily. There are many crumbs on the living room carpet, despite my initial rule that no one should eat in front of the TV (that one went by the wayside early on). There are random toys in random places- books scattered, legos underfoot, evidence of home school activities cover half of the dining room table. There is ALWAYS clean laundry piled on the guest bed waiting to be folded and put away. I’m one meal behind in cleaning the kitchen and the counter tops are not visible. Also- what’s for dinner???
Even more annoyingly, there are stacks of boxes clogging up the back bedroom, waiting to be taken back downstairs to our storage area, including Christmas ornaments (sob). And disorganized piles of giveaway clothes as both kids recently moved up a size. This stuff takes up mental and physical space and I can’t seem to prioritize getting it moved (maybe now that I’ve announced it I can get it done?).
The question is- how to get ahead of it when there are two little whirlwinds quickly undoing my work? It feels like every time I’m getting into the groove, it’s time to prepare another meal.
Do I need a plan for this? Lower expectations? Break it down into steps? Focus on the kitchen and bathroom and let everything else go? I really don’t want to engage in Sisyphean tasks, especially when time is extra precious.
Life is messy right now.
Clearly I need to get the kids to help! And to accept that the end result may not be perfect or even helpful.
Meanwhile, I’m trying to incorporate more moments when I’m doing nothing.
The other night, I was sitting in the living room with the kids after cleaning up dinner. They weren’t doing anything special, just bopping around on the furniture, listening to music. I happened to look out the window because it was extra windy and the trees were swaying violently with the sun setting in the background. I spaced out completely. I didn’t decide to- it just happened. The kids bounced and played and I stayed fixed on my outdoor nature show for like five minutes. It felt so restful and meditative to do nothing, to let go of anticipating whatever needed to be done next. I don’t think I’ve ever stared out an ordinary window as entertainment.
It felt at least as good as a pedicure. This really redefines my idea of a “getaway.”
So- are we all safe and healthy right now? Yes- and that’s more than good enough.
I’m wishing the same for you, and hope you’re going easy on yourselves right now!