Everett is my best friend. I don’t know if that’s cute or pathetic, but it’s the simple truth. He drives me frustrated out of my mind sometimes, but mostly our days are mixed together in this perfect little orbit, where we literally dance and sing and play and have lunch dates every single afternoon. Today we ate grilled cheese and my “special spiced” baked fries, double dipped in ketchup.
He can’t talk to me yet, but he’s starting to understand me more and more. When I say, “Do you want to go na nas?” he runs for the steps and heads up to his room for sleep. Or he’ll walk to the couch when he hears, “Want to watch Little Bear?” It’s his favorite show and he gets to watch a bit of it every morning while we sit together and eat muffins for breakfast. It’s evolved to be one of my favorite times of the day.
I used to hate mornings because I would wake up and start cleaning, maybe even finishing up a few dishes from the night before. I have changed the way I clean now, and this will sound like an exaggeration, but not doing chores when I first wake up has kind of changed my life.
I have finally found a healthy routine that threads the care and needs of me, Everett, Chris and even the dog and bunny, all together in a working unison.
I used to have one big cleaning day every Monday morning because this is what you always did. I’ve done this for as long as I can remember, even though I always hated it, believing one cleaning day best because “it’s what mom did.”
But I have found what it means to tidy. Ah, just that little four letter word makes me feel light: cleaning sounds like a daunting task…tidying sounds simple and fun.
Instead of taking one day, I have broken down cleaning into segments, choosing certain days for laundry, a certain day for scrubbing the bathroom, a day for grocery shopping and food prep, etc.
Chris will take Everett upstairs for his bath after we all eat dinner together, and I start my little tidy routine. I clean the dishes, pack up left overs and wipe the counters. I’ll sweep downstairs and put everything back in it’s place. I light a candle on the kitchen counter which makes me feel like, okay this space is done and ready to relax in.
I tidy the upstairs and rinse the tub, taking a total of twenty five minutes for the entire house. It makes both my night and next morning completely better, allowing me to wake up and feel settled instead of, okay let’s go. The bigger things, like laundry, I do throughout the day so by the time Everett’s in bed, it’s all done.
When his diffuser is put on (another thing, like the candle, that makes me feel like I’m checking off an imaginary list) and he’s in his crib with his bottle (don’t you dare judge me on that), Chris and I can get our snacks and watch TV together. It’s always been our favorite thing to do–so absolutely normal and boring but it’s ours. We like Shark Tank and Dateline and shows on Amazon or HBO. Just like morning muffins with Everett, this is my time with Chris and it’s been essential in our marriage.
I finally feel like I’m not cleaning in circles, something you did constantly. Breaking things down into days has helped immensely, but the idea of getting rid of stuff has been incredibly effective in reducing the amount of time I spend picking up.
I’ve cleared out a lot of junk over the past few weeks, taking time here and there to organize a closet or drawer and throw away seventy five perfect of what’s in it. That’s key–throwing away. I’ve been organizing junk all this time, and then two weeks later, the drawer is messy again because I never got rid of anything. I know this has to sound familiar for other mothers or just people in general.
But by having less crap–less toys, less clothes, less towels, less lotions, less everything–the less I feel disorganized and anxious. I don’t ever want to feel like my home and kids are drowning me; the epitome of a housewife’s nightmare.
I’ve read a few blogs on minimalism and then one specifically about minimalism and motherhood: The Purposeful Housewife. And when I first came across it, I thought, eh what difference does it make…I don’t care if I my house comes undone at times. But it was like an itch in the back of my mind that kept coming up, and then in one of my Law of Attraction books, the author had an entire section on getting rid of clutter and how the process can directly clear your energy. It made sense. And once I started clearing under the bathroom sink, I wanted to keep going. It felt cleansing to throw away what we didn’t use on a regular basis.
I want everything in my home to have a purpose or make me feel good when I see it, like my candles at night. Starting this cleansing process has not only made me feel more energetically clear, but it’s given me loads of free time for Everett and Chris and myself because I’m not wasting minutes picking up meaningless crap. And better yet, I don’t have to try and ignore a mess and pretend like it doesn’t bother me.
I don’t want to portray that I’m spick and span and effortlessly cleaning every day like a pixie fairy–there’s still a long way to go. My next project is our basement, the abyss of forgotten “things,” and that is going to be difficult to tackle because Chris thinks everything will eventually have a purpose.
I’m glad I’m starting to learn about this “minimalism and motherhood” duo before more children come along and before we build our home in the years to come. When we move, we will take what we need and what we use and have one dedicated storage space for the “just in case” stuff. Our kids won’t have mountains of toys that they don’t play with. That’s an important one.
I think the less they have, the more they’ll play. Like pretend. Allison and I always said that…let’s pretend we’re lost and have to find our way home or whatever fun things we could dream up together. And when birthdays and Christmas come around, I want my kids to be thankful and appreciative for their gifts, rather than simply receiving something else to add to a stack of stuff in a play room. Maybe I’ll come to bite these words later on, but maybe not.
I’ve held onto a lot of shit, all in the fear of losing you. All this time, without even consciously realizing it, I’ve been scared to clean different than you for goodness sakes. It sounds so absolutely silly and childish now, but Mom–I would’ve done anything in the world if it meant I could feel just one more inch closer to you. And cleaning on Mondays allowed me to believe that was somehow possible.
So has ignoring any possible relationship with Terri. For so long I’ve held onto that tinge of resentment towards her because I felt like I was still able to choose you and not her.
In one argument Dad and I had, I remember him telling me that when you were sick, you said you didn’t want him to re-marry. Apparently your words were: Hayley will make sure of it. I almost threw up when Dad repeated that. And I’ve never been able to forget it.
Looking back, Dad may have just said that to make a point. I don’t know. But I can still feel that younger version of myself who felt special when her Mother needed her, even if it was in some sick, twisted and possibly even false request from your grave.
Since Dad and Terri have moved into their new house, it’s been so nice to go over there. I feel like I’m at one of the beach houses we all used to go down to in North Carolina. It’s beautiful and spacious and clean and there’s a pool–Everett’s favorite.
No longer do I feel like I’m torn between your space and hers. No longer do I feel like if I’m kind to her, I’m going against you.
Nothing that I do or don’t do here on this physical planet is going to put more space between you and I because there is no separation to begin with.
As I’ve recently really been trying to follow me and become more emotionally aware, it’s coming to my attention that for nine years, I’ve held back on discovering parts of myself because I was scared to lose you.
These old habits, like being mean to Terri or trying to mother just like you, have kept me in a state of resisting who I really am and my natural well-being. I can literally feel it. I don’t know how else to explain it.
My story, for so long, was that you died tragically at an untimely time in my life, and I carried on whatever memory of you I could. Keeping a shitty attitude with Terri allowed me to remain in a feeling place of honoring you, in whatever grief-stricken way I could. Trying to mother just like you allowed me to stay in a feeling place of both remembering and being like you.
I felt like you when I got frustrated cleaning the kitchen in the morning and getting my day off to a terrible start, already feeling overwhelmed by the mundane tasks ahead. I saw way too many times, you absolutely stressed because there was always so much to do.
Do you remember that time when you were driving me to my SAT tutor and you pulled the car over, screaming and crying aloud, “I can’t feel like this! I’m not supposed to feel like this! The doctor says this stress is the worst thing for me to have right now!” And you cringed as you said it, your hands gripped on the steering wheel with your chest leaning forward and over it, like you were trying to squeeze the frustration out of your little body.
I didn’t know what to say. I just felt bad. And I still feel bad because I wish there was something we all could have done to just calm you down a bit when it came to your job as a mother.
What I can do now though, is refuse to ever let myself get to that point. I strive for a much simpler life than you ever wanted: Not as big of a house. Not as many clothes. Not as many cars. Not as many kids’ sports. Not as many marked calendar days. Not as many hair appointments. Not as many any of it, besides the amount of love our family had.
And again, this is something that’s been scary to fall away from because it’s being different than my oh so perfect mother. Maybe every woman at some point in their life feels afraid to alter from their mom, I don’t know. Or maybe I just feel like this because you’re not here.
But I don’t have to try and be like you to keep you close, and there is no choosing between anything or anyone. That feels so absolutely freeing to finally understand.
For the first time in my life, I want to be different than you were, finally not afraid of admitting such a thing because no more fear remains; I know I cannot lose you, not ever or in any way.