When Did We Fire the Maid?

This summer has been full to say the very least.  Full of car trips down to Detroit.  Full of visits with family and friends.  Full of days at the pool.  Full of mini vacations to all kinds of wonderful places in and around the Great Lakes.  Full of walks to the farmers market and local festivals.  Full of barbeques and soccer games and birthday parties.  In short, this summer has been one big weekend for me and Cedella.  And hence, the Maid has been on a bit of a vacation.

When Michael and I decided that we would move to Lansing and I would stay at home with the baby I knew it would be hard work, but I welcomed it, I looked forward to it.  I had visions of leisurely mornings sipping coffee after my morning yoga and meditation session.  Afternoons laying the baby down for a nap and reorganizing the linen closet and labeling everything with a P-Touch machine.  Evenings, waiting for Michael to get home from work and presenting him with a gorgeously plated gourmet meal straight outta Top Chef.  A cookie jar always full of freshly baked cookies.  Floors and countertops that you could eat off of.

And what happened?  Well…let’s just say that taking a shower and making it to the grocery store became the top priorities.  That, and making sure I spent as much time as humanely possible playing, laughing and taking care of every one of my little girl’s needs.

I wish I could just accept myself for the uninspired housekeeper I am, but I don’t want to.  I want a clean house.  I want the floors to be free of dog hair.  I want fresh and flavorful meals on the table every night. I want the clothes put away in the closets and drawers.  I want the beds made every morning.  I want to love to do housework and do it well.  I want the cookie jar full of cookies dammit!!

But let’s be honest.  What I want is to know that I’m doing something.  I want to feel that I am contributing more to our household.  It was incredibly hard for me to stop working at the library, to not get up every morning and have to get ready for work.  To not get a paycheck anymore.  To feel like I’m not financially holding up my end of the bargain.  I feel like I owe it to my husband, to my child, to make sure our home is in the most amazing condition it can be in.  But for the life of me, I can’t seem to get into it one little bit.  I play my favorite music, make it a game, see how fast I can complete a task.  It doesn’t matter.  There are plenty of ways to distract myself.  Plenty of ways to rationalize doing it later.  Plenty of ways to begrudgingly get through cleaning the kitchen without making it sparkle and shine the way Martha would.  It’s clean enough, but not Martha clean.

Over the winter it was much easier to look around and find little things to do all day long to keep myself occupied (you know, when Cedella was young enough to sleep every couple of hours).  It was easier then to wear my “Do Everything” martyr hat with gusto.  But despite feeling like I owe it to my family, I gotta say, I’m getting a little sick of it.  The novelty of the Stay at Home Mom Who Does Everything has completely worn off.  What happened to the partnership we talked about all those long months of pregnancy?  We talked about one of us cooking while the other cleaned up.  We talked about dividing the duties equally.  We talked about Was it one too many episodes of Mad Men that made me think that my pregnant ass was named Betty Draper?  That I was destined doomed to be a silly frivolous housewife with vacuums and bundt pans on the brain?  Sure, Michael helps out.  Occasionally.  But between Head of Child Rearing, Master of the Front Loader, Dishwasher Commander, Lead Food Procurer, Top Chef and Accounts Payable Manager, I am wearing many many hats at the moment.  More than any one person in a partnership should wear.  It’s exhausting and honestly, not very fun at all.

And so this summer, I’ve decided just to let things go.  I sweep the floor every day, cause Kira is the Incredible Shedding Dog.  I do the dishes every day.  I wash the diapers every other day.  And the rest, well it gets done when it gets done.  There’s too many fun things to do and too few sunny days to enjoy to slave away like Florence in the Jefferson’s place.  Isn’t that enough?  My child is happy and healthy, we all have clean sheets and underwear and food on the table.  And yes, quite often there are fresh baked cookies in the kitchen, baked with a hint of love and a sprinkling of devotion, but without all that nasty perfectionism that Martha reeks of.

My two little Dirt Bunnies

Happiness is a messy baby…who might eat crayons cause Mama forgot to pick up dinner

How to Get Things Done

My little girl will be six weeks old this Thursday.  Damn!  That was fast!  Somehow it’s taken this long for me to come to terms with one of the old bits of advice that every pregnancy book, midwife, nurse, doctor and friend has given.  I often lumped this piece of advice in with things like “learn to sleep when the baby sleeps”, finding these little pearls of wisdom annoying as hell, I mean, shouldn’t I sleep at night when I’m tired?  Yet over the past week I’ve succumbed to the line “if anyone offers to watch the baby so you can get stuff done just say YES”.

Moving to Lansing (my husband’s hometown) from Detroit (my hometown) in September was the hardest move I’ve ever had to make.  Was it just the pregnant hormones and the impending birth of my first child that made me yearn for the familiar potholed streets of Detroit?  I suppose it was the hormones but more importantly it was the fact that I was months away from having my first child and I was going to be nearly 80 miles away from my mother.  

The same mother that I forgot to call until three days into my study abroad trip to Paris.  The same mother I didn’t so much as wave goodbye to when she dropped me off at camp.  But this is also the same mother that I have been working with everyday for the past seven years at the Library.  To say we’ve gotten closer over the past seven years doesn’t even begin to describe our relationship.  She is one of my best friends and closest confidants.  I even spent two nights a week having sleep-overs with her while I was still commuting the hour and half to the Library from Lansing.  The older I get the more I cherish her company and appreciate her advice.  So how in the world could I have a child and be without my mother around the corner (or across the room) from me at all times?    

I suppose the answer lies in the fact that I have not one but two mother-in-laws in Lansing.  Michael’s mother Becky (MIL #1) decided to move back to Lansing after we discovered we were pregnant.  And Michael’s step-mother Hilda (MIL #2) lives in East Lansing, close to the family business.  Throughout my relationship with Michael they have been so welcoming and generous to me.  MIL #2 threw a wedding shower for me that true to her personality was ultra-extravagant and chic.  MIL #1 has always welcomed me into her home like her own daughter, we even made an entire Thanksgiving meal together a couple years ago when she lived in S. Carolina.  However generous and wonderful these two ladies have been to me though, neither is my mother.

So after having Cedella six weeks ago, my mother came out to visit but she didn’t stay a week like I dreamed she might.  She stayed for one day.  One.  Day.  It was as if she was giving me all the space I needed to figure things out on my own, just like she always had when I was growing up.  But in those first few sleepless nights when my MIL’s kept asking to come over or if I needed help, all I wanted was my mother’s help.

Whether she knew it or not (though I don’t think my mother ever does anything accidentally) she did what was best for me.  She left me alone to figure it out, trusting that I could, and knowing that if I couldn’t she really wasn’t that far away after all.  And more so, knowing that there were two perfectly capable ladies practically on my doorstep waiting to help.

After the first two weeks I figured there is a way to do laundry, cook dinner, mop the floors and do the dishes with a newborn.  Several ways actually.  What I have been doing is probably what most of the moms that may read this do – clean while she sleeps.  Which is great if you’re organized or don’t have a lot to get done, or are disciplined enough to stay focused on one task at a time.  But I’m a multi-tasker.  I constantly have about three things going on at once.  So to get one thing fully finished while Cedella sleeps is a challenge.  The newest strategy is to slip Cedella into the baby sling while I do everything.  Now this is fabulous because I get things done, it goes along with our attachment parenting approach and I get a workout from the extra weight I’m carrying with me.  But this has its challenges too.  I’m not confident enough with the sling yet to go hands-free.  Hell, I don’t even think I’ve got her in there right most of the time!  So everything I do has to be one-handed, which is quite tricky, especially in the kitchen or on the keyboard.  So unless I miraculously get something done while the baby is sleeping, everything is pretty half-assed around here.

This is where my MIL’s come in.  Last week MIL #1 came over to visit and since she was just holding a sleeping Cedella and insisting I just go about my normal business, I decided to work on addressing my thank you cards (from my baby shower which was nearly three months ago, tacky, I know, but at least I’m getting to them).  It was great!  I got every single envelope addressed, and MIL #1 got to hold her grandchild, everyone was happy!

Today my MIL #2 came over on her way home from work.  She just sort of popped in and I was right in the middle of cleaning the neon orange poop off of the baby’s entire back (talk about a blow out!).  Luckily I got the baby changed and handed her off to Teta (grandma in Lebanese arabic), so I could clean the disastrous changing table area.  While I was at it I cleaned the rest of the nursery, straightened the bathroom, threw in a load of laundry and put all the dishes in the dish washer.  This was in the space of 45 minutes!  What?  That was 45 minutes well spent!  If I had those 45 minutes every single day my house might be spotless.  Ok, no it wouldn’t, but it would be cleaner.  That would leave the rest of the day to play with Cedella, eat bon bons, watch my stories, buy baby clothes online and read blogs.

Hey, it took me six long weeks to realize that They were right.  If someone offers to take the baby so you can get some shit done – just say yes (when you’re ready of course)!  Needless to say when MIL #2 asked if I would like her to come over tomorrow, I said yes.

P.S. Despite what They say I never did get into sleeping when the baby slept.  I mean, who can sleep all day and then not at night?  Sorry but my internal clock just does not work that way!

Who wants to sleep when you can stare at this cuteness?