Keeping house: a working mom’s secret

It’s August. And that means the kid is a 3 year old.

This summer has been a routine in balance. Balance between getting dishes done and hoeing weeds. Balance between walking the dog and trimming the bushes. Balance between finding out what that smell is once and for all and fixing the leaky pipe in the basement. Balance between repairing the leg on the washing machine and folding that one load of laundry that’s been in the dryer for three days.

There is no time for it all, and so some days the weeds peek over the brick edging, making sure I’m nowhere nearby with my trusty hoe. My absence confirmed, they call on all the strength of Mother Earth to sustain their roots and they propel themselves high into the air overnight, until suddenly we are “those people.” You know. The ones who let mutant weeds tower over the flower beds – who let their yard go just a smidge past acceptable before finally thwacking it off right when the neighbors surely begin to wonder about us.

The pipe has leaked all summer. We have the means to fix it. It’s a simple fix, so I’m told. But it gets lost, plunking droplets of water into the large bucket beneath, waiting for us. We dumped the bucket the other day, and I can’t imagine how many drops were in there, marking the minutes, hours, and days of deferred maintenance. But it’s all good. The bucket is big, and it’s been emptied, so we’ve bought ourselves some time.

Time. You know, the thing we don’t have.

Well, we do. And we don’t. It will get done. Just like everything eventually gets done. But the stretch in between getting things done and keeping them that way is often wide, so that all of the weeds I toiled over on Monday and Tuesday evening have returned (along with their babies) by the following Monday. Because on Wednesday and Thursday, we had to do dishes and laundry. Friday, there’s that other thing we had to do. Is that chicken spoiling in the fridge? Better order a pizza.

I could get it all done. I could. If I arrived home, and we had a daily plan, we could get it all done and I could have one of those houses that looks like…well…one of those houses. Sidewalks festooned with vibrant blossoms doused in Miracle Grow. Window boxes spilling with lush vines. Bushes trimmed and groomed respectably. Don’t get me wrong. We don’t have a pile of spare tires in the front yard or aluminum foil in the windows or anything. We keep it tidy…ish. But the folks who live in those houses likely don’t have to smell the food in the fridge to determine its toxicity. We sniff. We sniff often. And sometimes we end up with an inadvertent science experiment like that one time with the pork that grew that weird white fur and– nevermind.

The point is that we just have no time. Actually we have plenty of time. But for some reason it slips away every night after we’ve filled it with dinner, followed by our evening walk together. A few minutes more trickle away in the time I watch kiddo ride his bike in the driveway. Who knew it took a whole half an hour to get that pesky little pretend spider out of a toddler’s armpit? Then we obviously have to smell his stinky toes at the end of each day and pretend to pass out – ten minutes there. Getting jammies on and brushing teeth? Let’s just mark 45 minutes and not think about how long it really takes to garner compliance from a 3-foot tall whirlwind who laughs hysterically at the frustration of others. Bedtime stories take at least half an hour.

And then it’s 9:30 p.m. And he’s still not asleep. And where did the time go? The dishes sat in the sink again. By 10 p.m. the whirlwind is still, and laundry is finally being folded downstairs.

I’ve learned a few things this summer. For one, weeds are obnoxious assholes. Secondly, toddlers like to ask questions. A lot of questions. The same damn questions over and over and over and over again…

One of these things will last forever. The other will not.

The weeds will come. They find a way to emerge and vine, through cracks and up buildings, and from beneath obstructions. And they will always be. Toddlers grow too. They grow into kids who’s toes no longer need smelling – who no longer ask “Mommy, where’s the guy? Mommy where’s that guy? Where’s his truck? Where is he? Where’s his doggy? Where’d he go?” As if the answer to his quandary is simply the key to understanding the purpose of life in the universe.

So it makes sense to tend the toddler with the toes and the questions. And leave the weeds to grow. At least for now. And that’s my secret to not keeping house.

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4 thoughts on “Keeping house: a working mom’s secret

  1. Dianne says:

    Bravo! For another great article and especially for realizing what IS important in the bigger scheme of life and what is not. You are right about weeds – they ARE assholes and they always will be. But that little guy will grow before you can blink twice and you will be SO happy that you took the little time you do have and wisely spent it on him. HE matters. HE owns a piece of your heart. To keep that growing and strong and healthy, all the time spent will make a huge difference in a great way. Good writing and great momming!!

  2. Incredulous Mom says:

    Thanks! I do sometimes have to remind myself to just let the dishes go every once in awhile, but it really is just so much more rewarding! No regrets. Except not marrying rich 😉 (Kidding NT)

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