Hi all! Last week’s blog post took a lot out of me, so I’m taking a week off to decompress a bit. Luckily, I have a really talented up-and-coming blogger to guest post for me. Her name is Michelle and she’s the brains behind the Home Made Mimi blog. Check out what she has to say!
GUEST POST: Missing Tools
The last time my husband was in charge I came home to find the kids covered in sand, dressed like savages and eating shredded cheese off the floor. Chairs were overturned. I wasn’t sure if we’d been robbed or if they’d just been chased by feral hogs. Where was my husband Jonathan? In the bathroom with the door closed.
It wasn’t parenting. It was anarchy.
Jonathan finally came out. “Hi, honey!” he said, and gave me a kiss. He was smiling. Calm, collected. I’m the half-asian one, but he was ZEN. “I’ll take care of this later,” he said, gesturing to… everything. Then he slinked over to the girls, became some kind of scary cheetah and ran after them.
What the hell is going on? You see, Jonathan is not a slob. He’s actually quite a stickler for cleanliness. He’s no me, but dishes get washed. He puts things away, usually. He even gives each pot its own shelf space. The man appreciates order. But throw the kids into the mix and things go wonky.
“I tried it your way,” he said. “But I just couldn’t do it. In fact, your way drove me crazy.”
Yes, our ways are very different. But that’s because I am the primary caretaker of our children and I have a better grasp of the domestic side of things than he does. Come on. I read the books. I have the intuition. I have the mammaries. I have ALL THE TOOLS.
But as my family ran circles around me I took note. Like Jane Goodall, watching her favorite chimp, I wondered: was this a kind of stupid genius? Could Jonathan’s devil-may-care approach be the secret to total family happiness?
The answer is yes. At one time certain things my husband did would get under my skin. But now I understand them. And I’ve found that when I incorporate them into my own life I am actually a happier and more fulfilled person.
It’s almost like I’d been missing tools from my parenting tool belt. Yeah, the one I thought was a complete set. Here are the missing tools that I got from my husband:
LET IT FESTER: That bowl of loose granola that just fell on the floor? Let it fester. The dirty water in those paintbrush jars? Let that fester, too. Crayons, puzzles, and dolls? Let them sit and fester exactly where they are. All. Day. Long.
Trying to keep up with my kids, my house and myself doesn’t make for the cheeriest disposition. Especially when we hit a long, unscheduled weekend. My brain isn’t used to this kind of chaos. Maybe it’s that I was an only child–I had never experienced the turmoil that two children can create in under 30 seconds. (Which, FYI, is more than enough time to deplete an entire can of sunscreen onto a wall.)
I will ask the kids to put away one project before they start another. But the reality is at ages 5 and 2, they don’t. Or they don’t put it all away. Or not the way I like it. So I step in and clean up the excess. Problem is, I find myself “stepping in” all damn day.
“What’s the point of cleaning up as you go?” he says. “It’ll just get messed up again anyway.” The pure, unsullied logic of this makes my head spin. “Wait till the end of the day and just have one big clean up time.”
I almost can’t even take it.
But here’s what happens. As hard as it is to not pick up those shoes or that pizza crust or that decapitated doll, I put it all off till the end of the day, and by that time Jonathan is often home from work. We catch up about our days and start picking up the house together. Before we know it, the girls are there beside us, SOMETIMES EVEN HELPING. Last night the four of us were picking up the playroom together. No whining, just teamwork.
Letting it fester is disgusting. It goes against everything I believe in. But when it turns into quality family time? It’s downright genius.
MANCAVE: I mean this as a verb. To mancave means to take control of your house, to claim your space, and ignore everyone else in it. Some men mancave in the garage or a shed out back, but Jonathan has a great talent for doing this whether he’s watching football in the family room or disappearing for a 20-minute bowel movement.
Every Sunday during football season, my husband insists on watching his favorite team play. This annoys me for two reasons: 1) Because during 10-1 or 2-4 he’s completely unavailable even though he’s sitting right there and 2) Because his team always loses! What a depressing waste of time!
(*Although, the fact that he’s so loyal to the underdog says a lot about our marriage. Deep down I know I owe a lot to the Miami Dolphins.)
And then there are those 20-minute disappearances to the bathroom. How can it seriously take that long to– ? Anyway, the point is, it doesn’t really matter. He takes time for himself. In his house. And the kids learn that even though we are home, it’s not our sole purpose to entertain them. There is no need to pee with the door open or let a tot dictate how long you may take for your business.
Mancaving is giving yourself a timeout. It’s actually a responsible act, as irresponsible as it may look to someone who just walked into your home at the exact moment your kids are swinging from the chandelier.
Just yesterday, I mancaved. I went into the bathroom and meditated for 10 minutes. That was one time. Another time I brought the new Sunset magazine in with me. (Tomato mania, page 83!) Another time I mancaved and I called my mom. She says “Hi!”
Now that I understand it as a way to preserve one’s sanity I am no longer offended by mancaving. I just wonder why it took me so long to figure it out…
PASS THE ROCK: The day I came home to find my children unattended and dining off a sandy floor, Jonathan had asked me to do a few things for him that morning. Namely, give him a plan for lunch, pack the pool bag and find the bike helmets. Little did I know he was “passing the rock.”
I did the chores so that he could reap the benefits. When I brought this to his attention he looked at me like “duh”, then launched into a dissertation about why LeBron James is such a good basketball player– he’s a facilitator, getting everyone around him involved.
So he asks me for A, B and C so he can accomplish X, Y and Z. Now I see.
My husband understands his strengths and limitations. The whole hands up in the air thing? Playing dumb? Used to bug me. But now I know that it means, “I don’t know what I’m doing, please help!” It’s just good wholesome communication. Not even stupid. Just genius.
I, on the other hand, will try to take it all on. God forbid someone go out of their way for me. (I blame my mother for this. A cultural phenomenon stemming from our Thai roots? Perhaps. I’ll MOMcave later and call her to discuss.)
My maternal instincts and my kooky need to do everything and do it well do not make me the star player. In fact, there are no star players. As much as the sports metaphors make me cringe, the more I think of our family as a team the better off we are.
I freed up my days by leaving the mess for later, and I became more available to my kids. When I need a moment I take it because everyone knows a happy mommy means a happy home. I understand my limitations and pass the rock when I need to, which, I’m learning, is a lot more often than I thought. But when I do these things, the kids get the mom they deserve, the husband gets the wife he deserves, and I get a little slice of sanity, which I totally deserve.
Could that annoying thing your partner does actually be a missing tool? I would love to hear about it!