Monday, February 28, 2011

Day Twenty-Two: Needs Improvement

When I was in elementary school, teachers graded us not only on math, spelling, science, but also on behavior, participation, and other required skills.  Our report cards would consist of numerical or alphabetical grades as well as a ranking of "S", "N" or "U."   For those of you unfamiliar with this system (though I'm sure you can figure it out), "S" stands for "Satisfactory," the desired letter students wanted to take home for their parents to display on the fridge.  Now that I think about it, why on Earth would the highest mark be satisfactory?  Way to set the bar low.  "N" stands for "Needs Improvement," which didn't mark the end of the world since it was still better than the dreaded "U."  If you haven't caught on yet--perhaps it's been a long day--"U" stands for "Unsatisfactory."  And while "unsatisfactory" doesn't sound like the absolute worst assessment a child could receive of his or her skills, a "U" translated to GROUNDED at my house. 
Needless to say, I rarely received a "U" on my report cards.  If I remember correctly, the rare times I did receive the evil vowel, it was in the "talking without permission" department.  Big surprise there, huh?  I did receive my fair share of "N's" however, mostly in behavior.  Sometimes, though, I would earn an "N" in another area, perhaps a skill I was expected to master.  When I received an "N" in these areas, it would motivate me to work harder and bring it up to an "S."  I've never been one to stress about being the best, but I've always made it a point to be better.  This is an attribute that I have carried into my adult life as well. 

I say all of that to introduce today's challenge:  something at which I wish I were better (actually that's not even CLOSE to the phrasing on the challenge page, but I refuse to end a sentence in a preposition and I'm anal about subjunctive mood).   This blog could seriously stretch on for daaaaaaaays.  For the sake of time--both mine and yours, kind reader--I'm going to limit myself to one thing.  Okay, two.  And a half.  No, no, one

Before I started this challenge, I decided I'd like to be a better writer.  I know I'm not the absolute worst writer in the world or no one would take the few minutes out of their day to even read my little blog.  I could be so much better, though, if I would take the time to not only write more but to also read more.  I felt kind of selfish in choosing writing, however, since it would only benefit me--unless, that is, someone paid me gobs of money to write. 

So I decided to choose something else in which I could improve.  What about being a mother?  No sane person wants to do things that's going to screw their kid up; in fact, most of us want to nurture our children in a way that encourages them to be bright, well-rounded people some day.  Even those women who are shoo-ins for "Mom of the Decade" don't get it right all the time, so there's always room to improve and be a better parent.  But being a better mother is something that I constantly try to achieve anyway, so I have to believe that I am already improving in this area of my life. 

As I spun around in my office chair, trying to decide on the area of my life that (A) needs improvement, (B) would benefit someone else and (C) I'm not currently trying to improve, I couldn't help but notice the dirty dishes beside the sink, the garbage overflowing from the can, the thin layer of dog hair on the floor and the pile of laundry I've neglected for days weeks.  My house is not in danger of being condemned and a hazmat suit isn't required to use my bathroom, but I could definitely do a better job keeping things clean and tidy.

Now this is an area in which I've received frequent advice since I've become a stay-at-home mom.  Anytime I make a remark in the real world or in Facebook-land about dirty laundry or unswept floors, I get bombarded with comments about how I need to ignore the housework and spend time with my daughter because she'll practically be starting college next week.  And while I know they mean well and actually do agree with them to a point, I can't just spend every waking minute holding and playing with my daughter. 

Don't get me wrong.  I have never (and will never) set my child in her Pack-N-Play while I cleaned all day.  She is the biggest part of my every waking minute.  I would much rather sit in the floor and play with her or read her a book than fold towels or scrub the toilets.  When she's awake, I spend a good 95% of my time with her.  It's when she's asleep or those times when she's totally absorbed in one of her little toys that I don't make the best use of my time.  Sometimes I just need to totally veg--like when she's been super fussy or when she woke me up four times the night before.  But sometimes I waste time that I could be working around the house.  I play on Facebook (shocker!) or watch TV or read a magazine.  I really feel like I should spend that time more wisely and clean.  Though being a mom is so much more than a job, I feel like this is my job since I don't work outside of the home anymore.  Instead of preparing lessons, teaching class and grading papers, I now raise my child and make my house a home.  This is something I've never been able to do in the past since I stayed so busy with my teaching responsibilities.  Perhaps that's why I've found it difficult to consistently fulfill my new responsibilities. 

I'm sure some of you SAH moms would totally like to choke me right now.  You're hoping that your spouse never stumbles across my blog.  What kind of person wants to clean more?  Please understand, I don't want to clean.  That's the problem. I want to want to clean.  Fortunately, the less I do, the worse I feel.  I feel like a total slacker sometimes, telling myself, "Your family deserves a clean home."   And if there's one thing that motivates me, it's guilt. 

A couple of months ago, Esquire ran an interview with George and Barbara Bush in which Mrs. Bush said,

I think you ought to treat your spouse like you treat your friends. You clean your house for your friends, you make sure they're taken care of, and a spouse comes second. I think you oughtta treat him like a friend.
I literally had to set the magazine down and chew on that quote for a few minutes.  How many times have I spent hours and hours scrubbing the house in preparation for a party or get-together?  How often do I do the "cleaning tornado" around my kitchen and living room when a friend texts to say she's dropping by.  Why will I break my back for everyone but my husband?  Though I say he's my best friend, in many ways I don't treat him with the same respect I do other people.  Go ahead, accuse me of setting back the feminist movement a few hundred years, but I dare you to argue with Mrs. Bush's logic.  She's not implying that we should be in servitude to our husbands or anything of the sort.  But why should I be so concerned about cleaning my home for someone who will be there for a few hours yet neglect my responsibilities when it comes to the person who lives there each day?  (NOTE:  For you working moms, this isn't directed so much toward you.  You all deserve a maid.) 

I wish I were better at keeping house.  I want having a clean, orderly home to be important enough that I log off of Facebook and turn off the television.  I want to give both my husband and my daughter a home that they can be proud of, a place of rest.   The wonderful thing is that this is something I can do.   It's not just wishful thinking or something over which I have no control.  I have the ability to be a great mother and keep my house clean.  I only have to use my time wisely and stay motivated.  Though my friends are so very important to me, my sweet little family deserves to come first. 

Let the hate mail begin...


Samuel J. Helderman said...

After reading this blog all I have to say is... You have more than one Tolit!!! LOL

The next thing is, this sounds good, and it will be hard. I know for me, the best thing is to do it daily! The one day I don't make my bed, wash my dishes after each meal (or at-least at the end of the day), sweep the floor, fold my clothes right after getting them out of the dryer, put them away right after folding them, etc... That is the begining of the end of my clean Empire, and my Dynasty of Cleaniness and Orderliness begins to unravel. Within 3 days it's too much to catch up on durring a week day, and by the weekend, it's more than I want to do, and that cycle can last for as long as 3 weeks.

(Don't get me wrong, I'm never a slob, but not neat, The dirty dishes and the trash would be my most dirty moments).

Good luck to you in your new endevour!

Mom~2~R5Sons said...

so TOTALLY me! I'm also a SAH mom of almost 2 years and I'm so very thankful for that. I don't know how on earth I would manage 5 kids, homework, supper, clean house and keep my husband "happy", if I still worked full time. Most of the time I don't mind cleaning. But I like the quick cleaning. Things like vacuuming, dishes, making beds and throwing a load of laundry in the wash. Now things like scrubbing bath tubs and dusting that take and hour or 3. That I DETEST! I let them go for weeks (ok, so maybe it's months, but who's counting) Dusting seems so pointless to me. You spend half your day doing it. Then run your white-gloved finger across it the next day and what do you find??? A bazillion dust particales!! It's so unfair. After spending all that time it should stay dust-free for at least a week. Two would be great.

Then there's days like tomorrow would normally be (but I can't cause I gotta get ready for a funeral) when I've been up half the night. I get up. Put my almost 2 year old in his high-chair with a huge bowl of cereal and let him have at it. Nurse my baby and sit and veg on the couch all day with Facebook and PBS on TV. Only getting up long enough to let my son out his high-chair confinement, nurse the baby again (which technically I don't have to get up for and I can still navigate FB with one hand), and to potty. Then about 5:00, right before my husband gets home, I jump up off the couch. Go brush my teeth. Splash some water on my face. Throw on a pair of jeans. Just so that he doesn't know (but I'm sure he does) that I've been on my bum all day.

This home IS my job now. Like you, I want to WANT to get off my rear (and FB) and have a sparkly house. Where did the drive go?? Maybe it's because I have boys. Boys are dirty, messy and downright GROSS! I absolutely refuse to use their bathroom. Unless I just cleaned it and none of my punks have been in there to ruin my fresh pine-sol smell. Oh, they're smelly too, forgot to mention that. Cleaning just seems like a lost cause around here.

But, after reading your post, I'm going to try the Barbara Bush approach and think of my family as "friends" and try to have my little house all sparkling and shiny for them when they get home each day. Or every other day. Or every other, other day. And in return I'm sure they'll all notice all my efforts, thank me profuselly, and be eternally greatfull. I'll just keep telling myself that to keep me motivated.

Thanks again. Your blogs are enlightening!