Eyes red rimmed, face flushed, she stumbled through the office door after a toddling two-year old boy while holding on to a chubby six-month old, whimpering infant girl. The young mother apologized when her active son ran into my leg, nearly knocking my notepad and pen from my lap. I smiled.
“It’s okay,” I said. “You have your hands full.”
She smiled. Her graciousness evident in her sparkling eyes. Had I not been looking at her I would have missed it—her gratitude and obvious fatigue. I started back writing. She settled her children as best she could and then called a friend.
Quietly, she asked whomever was on the other end of the phone if they would be able to make it to the office before she was called to the back. The young mother really didn’t want to take Jake and Alyssa into the examination room with her. No Matt could not come. He was at work and couldn’t just take off to babysit while she went to the doctor. No. He didn’t say that but since she was a stay-at-home mom and he had the only income, she had to figure it out. Please come if you can. She was already tired and frazzled from trying to keep the house spotless for her in-laws, who were due later that evening. She still had laundry to wash and still had to make an elaborate dinner so she could show her husband and mother-in-law that she, a young woman with very little support, was as a more than adequate wife, mother and homemaker.
She was tired of Matt complaining about her being tired and the house not being clean enough. He was tired of the mounds of laundry in the laundry room. The house should be immaculate, as clean as his mother’s home was right now. And, why are they having spaghetti for the second time this week?
The friend arrived inside the lobby as Jennifer’s name was called. Again, her thankfulness beamed with telling eyes.
I observed Jennifer (all names have been changed to protect those who don’t know I’m writing about them) while in the waiting room at my doctor’s office yesterday. She could have been any young mother, including me. Tired, frazzled and feeling like a failure in every area including her most important roles—wife and mother. It doesn’t have to be this way.
Don’t Grow Weary Because of Lack of Communication
Jennifer didn’t ask Matt to help her because she felt like she was operating in a worth-less role. Society has made being a stay-at-home-mom as scandalous as being a working mom during the progressive era. If you made a decision to stay home with your children because they needed you, then you’re worth something to your children, to your family, and to society. Your husband working and getting paid to do it does not make his role any more important or valuable than yours.
If you have an important doctor’s appointment, interview or meeting where the environment is not a good fit for children plan in advance with the other person responsible for their existence and well-being—YOUR HUSBAND. Husbands are no more babysitters than moms are. Husbands don’t watch, babysit or get kids situated for their wives. They do those things because it is a shared responsibility. Ask for what you need.
Your House is Clean Enough—Even for Your Mother-In-Law and Her Son
My house is so much cleaner now than it was when I was a mother of young children. With the exception of times I’ve been ill, my home is almost always company ready. It isn’t because I got better at cleaning up. I got better at managing.
Before you were married, you probably lived alone or with roommates. The only person’s needs you had to tend to were your own. You get married and move in with your new husband. Not only are you taking care of you but you’re taking care of him.
Then comes baby…
Late nights, early mornings, soiled diapers and every two hours feedings becomes the norm. You’re stumbling through dirty laundry and drowning in a sea of unwashed dishes. You’re barely able to stay on your feet as you feed the baby for the 6th time in as many hours. You can’t wait until he becomes a toddler. He crawls around and pulls all of the magazines from the magazine rack and all of the folded laundry from the basket. By the time he’s walking, he’s making messes on top of the messes you and your husband make.
You do your best to stay on top of it but why stay up all night folding laundry or mopping the kitchen floor when you’re only getting three hours of sleep. You decide that the laundry can wait since it’s yours and you still have clean underwear. You mop the floor so the little one won’t get germs.
You climb into bed at 1 am, a full two hours earlier than you would have if you’d done laundry. You fall asleep as soon as your head hits the pillow. Instead of being awakened by a crying child at six-thirty, your husband, who is fully dressed, wants to know at five-forty-five why there is laundry in the laundry room. Again, he is tired and works all day so the last thing he wants to wake up to is a dirty house. ’
Panicked, you try to go over in your mind the state off the house when you went to bed. The kitchen was clean. The pillows were fluffed. The house was dusted. None of the baby toys or your books were left out. The floor was mopped. You can even smell the Mr. Clean with Gain from the bedroom. His mom would never leave laundry overnight. And, she was due to arrive by noon.
Let’s. Stop. Here.
If your home is clean enough for you to live in then it is okay. If your home is safe and you don’t have to worry about your child choking on floor debris it is okay. If your home is clean enough for your husband only to complain about it it is okay. If it were that dirty and disgusting, he’d pick up a mop, broom, dish rag or dust cloth. If it needs to look like his mother’s home, he should do the honors since he has more experience there.
If your home is clean enough for you and your family to live in, it is clean enough for your mother-in-law.
Stop stressing yourself out over something that won’t be good enough anyway. You aren’t her. This goes for your mother-in-law, mom, sisters, cousins and friends. It is hard managing life with small children. It is even harder keeping a clean house with them.
**Note: This is not an excuse to keep an untidy home or to be defiant to your husband or rude to relatives. This is a call for you to stop putting unnecessary stress on yourself. This is a call for making a home for you and your family based on your ever growing arsenal of tools and abilities.