As I picked up my son’s clothes off the bathroom floor and walked into his bedroom to drop them in the hamper for the 7th night this week, I had an epiphany. This time, it wasn’t a realization in its usual form, which is to shout at my husband—who is in charge of bath time, by the way—for always expecting me to have a towel and pajamas laid out, for always expecting me to pick up the clothes, for always expecting me to drain the tub and put away the bath toys. Instead, I came to a humbling conclusion about myself: I need to control.
Over my Christmas vacation, I had the privilege of scheduling three play dates for my son with my friends who have toddlers as well. One night, my husband and I went out with a couple and we brought out kids to the restaurant with us. It went pretty well, then we got back to the house and let the kids play while my husband and his friend played video games and my friend and I chatted. Another day, I drove with my brother’s girlfriend to her sister’s house where her son and my son were able to ride their little power wheels outside on their acre (or more?) of land. The third play date was back at my place. A friend who lives in the neighborhood brought her little girl over, and the two kids played with play food, trains, jack-in-the-box, and puzzles.
And I noticed a pattern.
During each play date, what was I doing? I was picking up. Cleaning. Arranging. Looking on the floor to make sure that ball didn’t roll under the couch.
Even when I’m alone with my son, I’m looking at his Alphabet Train. Where’s the letter R? Where the hell is the letter R?
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’ve admitted here before that many nights, my sink sits full of dishes and there are rooms that just don’t get cleaned on a regular basis. But. I need to control something.
That’s the realization I came to.
And I wonder if you can relate.
As working moms, we face a litany of factors in life that we cannot control. We cannot control our bosses, or even, in my case, our salaries. We cannot control our coworkers, or in my case, my students, or their responses to us. We cannot control our spouses’ work schedules. (And I cannot control that I’m not certain I punctuated spouses’ correctly.) We can’t control the commute to work or the behaviors of our tired or wound-up children when we pick them up or come home to them.
As any kind of mom, I think you need to see some consistency or have control of something, just to preserve one’s sanity. I guess mine lies in working out and making sure my house—or what people see of it—is tidy.
My son’s play area is orderly. We have a toy box and a stand with multi-colored storage bins. Cars are in one bin. Animals are in another. Puppets in another. Blocks in another, and so on.
This is my sanity. One little piece of the working mom puzzle I can (attempt) to keep in place.