Managing The Mess, Mama
Sleep when the baby sleeps to avoid total exhaustion. Pump and bag your milk so others can feed the baby while you rest. Wash your clothes using Dreft so you don't have to wash the babies clothes separately. I was given many wonderful, amazing tips for balancing motherhood during my pregnancies, but what I was not given was a list of helpful hints for balancing the daily mess that comes when the baby is grown. I'm talking the daily mess that toddlers and adolescents can create in thirty seconds flat. The play dough playing, glue spilling, paint splashing, fort building, mud pie making, Easy Bake Oven cooking, dress up entertaining, mess that consumes my daily living and can easily devour me if I let it. This was the ultimate balance challenge that rocked my world and shook my socks right off my feet. My clean house, my organized shelves, my shiny wood floors were no more. However, watching the glow radiating from my littles when their imaginations were running wild and their creativity was exploding from every corner of the room was something I was not willing to cut off. I knew I needed to keep that sparkle alive and continue to maintain clutter control the best way I could. What I needed was a handbook on magically managing the mess...and when I could not find the right cliffs notes, I chose to make my own based on my tiny tribe of five.
No one prepares you for the constant moving, the 100% energy, that your littles explode out of bed with each and every morning. From sunrise to sunset they are full of life, ready to dive into the depths of the day, eagerly exploring the grounds you have provided them to walk on. The hands on, independent, vibrant creative play that fuels their learning tanks is the exact same play that can leave us mommas standing in a corner, teeth clenched, drowning in the bale of debris that seems to have swallowed each room whole.
It took me years to figure out, but it was the moment my oldest had army men spread all over the playroom floor, my three girls had pastels and sketch paper all over the living room carpet and my toddler had more paint on himself than his paper that I realized not one of my five cherubs was coming to me pulling the "I'm bored" card. Not one of my littles was arguing, complaining or whining. The televisions were off, music was playing and the girls were joyfully singing along as they drew, sound effects were bursting from the battle scene that laid before my son and the words "Mom I so happy!" were blissfully leaving my toddler's lips. Making a mess suddenly took on a whole new meaning. Making a mess meant less screen time, less fighting, less boredom. Making a mess meant more imagination break outs, more growth in confidence and more being present in the moment. Making a mess was my children's way of teaching me patience and guiding me towards letting go of the unnecessary grind that so regularly controlled my day. It was in that moment that I made a bold choice in my motherhood ways. One that stretched far out of my comfort zone but thunderingly proved to be the choice that resulted in an abundance of positives. I chose to cope. To cope meant to be present, be patient, let go and relieve myself of unnecessary stress. The mess my children made did not have to mean my life was chaotic. It did not have to mean we lived a life with no order. It meant weaving the connection between learning to express themselves and learning the everyday life skills of organization and self pick up. It meant I would not become the mom who ignores her children and herself because she is too busy keeping the house spotless. It meant I would not lose time with my little bugs or lose my sanity over a sink filled with dirty dishes or a basket overflowing with dirty laundry. It meant I wanted to be in the now and I wanted to fully embrace doing things, not picking up things.
Today I am the mother who recognized that the constant upkeep of a spotless home was not something in the realm of reality with my wild brood. Today I am the mother who can comfortably say my home is not messy, it is lived in. Today I am the mother who is using her time wisely and raising happy, independent, creative kids. Today I am the mother who has let go of the added anxiety and stress that comes with the constant worry of cleaning up and picking up and instead has surrendered wholeheartedly to this season of childhood. The kind of childhood that leaves a heavy imprint on the heart and gracefully inspires the soul.
Joelle Fortin, The Village Journalist