Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The post I didn't really want to write

Sam had flushed a piece of his brand-new doctor's kit down the toilet. This was the fourth or fifth toy he'd flushed down, but this was a fake syringe, and there was absolutely no way this was coming out. It was jammed in there but good. I'd posted about my frustration on Facebook (always a mistake) and was told that I should just teach him not to flush toys down the toilet. I spent a whole morning crying about what a failure  I was. A friend called me up, telling me to drop Sam off at her place so I could take some time for myself. I brought him over, and spent over six hours at her house. I was afraid to go home and be by myself. I knew I would just sit on the couch crying for hours.

R had to go out and get a new toilet the night before Sam's birthday party. As we were trying to get it through the door, Sam was crowding us and getting in the way. I almost screamed at him "Why do you have to RUIN EVERYTHING???!!"

That's when I took a step back. Not only was that completely, completely unacceptable, it wasn't even how I felt. I was angry and wanted to lash out and hurt him. I've seen the distrust and hurt between a parent and child when the parent says things like that. There are some things you cannot unsay, and I knew I needed to deal with whatever the hell my problem was. I was terrified that next time I wouldn't be able to bite my tongue, and I would wound my child.

It was just a day after I got my period.

I'd already hurt my husband. Fortunately, he's an adult and he knew that how I was acting didn't mean I loved him any less. He kept begging me to get some help, and he started dreading the period around a week before I got my period. I was angry, and paranoid, and nasty. I'd pick fights with him, trying to make him as miserable I was. I didn't do any housework. And when I say I didn't do any housework, I mean dishes piled up in the sink until we didn't have clean plates to eat off, or clean cups for Sam to use. Laundry went undone, and I'd sometimes spend all day in my pajamas because I didn't have any clean clothes. I didn't pick up any toys, and you could barely walk in the living room. I would wake up exhausted. I turned on the tv in the morning and left it on all day, because I couldn't dredge up the energy to entertain my son in any other way. He'd whine, and it would feel like a drill boring into my skull. I wasn't making it day to day--I was trying to go hour to hour, minute to minute. I was constantly biting my tongue, terrified I'd scream something nasty at him.

My husband would spend a couple hours on Saturday mornings tackling the housework that had built up all week. He'd talk to me and tell me that I needed to go to the doctor and deal with this. I'd tell him that if I still felt like this in a week I'd go to the doctor. That I was just having a rough time right now. If I exercised more it would all be okay. If I ate better it would all be okay. If I was a better person, if I could just make myself into a better person, it would be okay. It would pass.

And it always did. I'd get my period, and within 3-4 days I'd feel normal again. Life would resume, I'd be nice to my husband (extra nice, since i felt so guilty), interact with my son, start cooking and cleaning again. Then a few weeks later, the cycle would start again. Only I couldn't see that this was a cycle.

(Part 2 tomorrow--spoiler: It gets BETTER. SO much better)

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Cleaning House, Part 2

So last week I wrote about, and I was hoping that having a daily schedule e-mailed to me would help me tackle the cleaning demons. And I'm checking back in to report that BOY HOWDY it works. By having set tasks to do every day, I'm not doing a ton of work in any given day, but I'm keeping on top of things. My house is noticeably cleaner. I'm tackling those tasks that I always forget to do, and then I can relax, knowing that I've taken care of what I need to for the day, and not stress about what else needs to be done.

It's not so much that I'm so into the cleaning, as much that I finally feel like I'm in control of the housework rather than vice versa. This week I haven't expanded nearly as much energy looking around at the house and wondering how the hell it got like this and what the hell I need to do to make it look more like my friends' houses. Honestly, it's a little embarrassing that I can't just clean things when they are dirty, but the plain, simply truth is that I procrastinate too well--I can always come up with a reason why something should be done tomorrow instead of today. Having the list eliminates that. Having the computer spit the list out at me eliminates my tendency to put the tough tasks (which are NEVER as bad as I imagine them) off to the next day, and the next, and the next. Feeling like I finally have control of my environment is incredibly liberating.

Monday, February 7, 2011


Last week I learned:

  • Dates are so very very good, and very necessary!
  • Thrift stores are a great place to find used books.
  • Wine tasting brings me back to when the husband and I were courting in Santa Barbara.
  • My husband is so funny and generous!
  • A little boy will still have trouble going to sleep by himself, but I know he'll do it when he's ready.
  • My boy is an amazing artist, and needs more chances to express himself creatively.
  • Cleaning my house is so much easier with a daily schedule.
  • I've been reading a ton, but now I need to start writing some reviews of my recent reads!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Good manners

Yesterday I got a an e-mail from Baby Center warning me not to force my kid to use manners. OK, maybe it didn't say that in so many words. But "experts" are now saying that you shouldn't say "what's the magic word" to get your kids to say "please" and "thank you," but instead just teach them through modeling. I don't understand why these are mutually exclusive. I model good manners for my kid, but I see absolutely no reason why I should allow him to order me about as though I am his servant. Two phrases in my parenting vocabulary are "I don't listen to orders" and "I don't listen to whining." Three is simply not too young to start teaching your child how to interact in a civilized fashion. Modeling alone may work for some children, buy my son is not so fragile that my insistence on being treated with respect will break his spirit.

The article also mentions that you should not force your child to say "I'm sorry." I know there are differing schools of thought on this, but in our family, we insist on apologies when someone has been hurt. I understand that it is important to teach your child empathy, but again, I don't think these are mutually exclusive. And also, I do think that knowing how to sincerely deliver an insincere apology is important. If my husband walks in the house just in time to hear me telling my friends that his brother is a man-whore of epically douchebaggy proportions,* I need to be able to apologize for that. But what if I'm honestly not sorry for saying that? I might be sorry my husband overheard that and it hurt them, but that's not the apology he's going to want to hear--it's not really going to make him feel better. I think especially in the workplace, being able to apologize for things you don't feel sorry about is an important life skill. Apologies are not supposed to make YOU feel better, they are supposed to make the other person feel better.

Obviously, when Sam does something I think he should apologize for, we also spend a bit of time talking about what he did,  how he might feel if someone did that to him, how the other person probably feels, and what could make them feel better. But even if he says he doesn't want to apologize, I tell him that he must do it. To be honest, he hardly EVER balks at apologizing.

Good manners must be taught.

*Not only does my husband not have a brother, but whorishness does not run in his family, so I felt safe to use this example. If he did have a man-whore for a brother, he'd probably join me in the mocking.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Cleaning house: literally.

I am not good at housekeeping. I'm a decent cook, and I've been told I'm a great hostess. I like to think I'm a good mother and wife, but housekeeping is just not my forte. At all. I think a lot of it has to do with my ADD--I simply can't keep track of what to do when. The big thing are obvious--picking up and vacuuming the living room, dishes, laundry. But the other tasks that I think distinguish a truly clean, lovely home from a home that's not quite a pigsty always seem to evade me. It just doesn't occur to me to wipe down my cabinets but every once in a while. I dust when I happen to notice dust. I hardly ever think to clean out my coffeemaker, dust the light over the kitchen table, or clean the microwave. I change the tablecloth is someone is coming to dinner or when I notice it is unbearably gross.

We just got a storage unit, and our goal is to pack up at least one box a week and run it over to the storage unit until we get all the extra crap out of the house, and I think this will make cleaning easier. But it won't help with remembering to clean.

Enter my new best friend: It lets me list ALL my chores: the ones I need to do every day or every other day--declutter, wipe down toilets, clean the kitchen. But it also (and this is the key) lets me list the less frequently performed chores: cleaning the microwave (once a month); organizing the pantry (once a month); cleaning the oven (every other month); putting all books away in bookshelves (every two weeks); throw out old magazines (every month). These are the tasks that I'm always forgetting to do. Now I get a daily schedule with several tasks on it, so I know what to do when. By keeping all my tasks in regular rotation, I'm hoping that each task will be easier since it hasn't built up for weeks or months. By having a schedule, I'm less likely to say "Oh, I'll do that tomorrow, I'm too busy/tired/hungry/lazy right now."

The site is designed primarily for chore-sharing--you enter in the people responsible for the chores, and then you rate each chore according to its difficulty or undesirability. This way, one person isn't stuck with both cleaning the oven and scrubbing the toilets. I do the vast majority of the chores, so I'm just doing the schedule for myself. But being able to rate the chores is still good--it helps me realize that all these tasks I'm dreading aren't really as hard as I think they are. I can also dictate exactly what day of the week I want any weekly chores to fall on--I've already gotten in the habit of cleaning the bathrooms on Sunday, so I put that in, and then dictated that I wipe down the toilets every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. That way the toilets are getting wiped down at least 4 days a week (a necessity with a little boy in the house!) and the bathrooms are getting cleaned once a week.

I also get to put fun things in the rotation. Every month I have "do something fun for me" and "surprise husband/child with something nice." Every 10 days I have "random act of kindness." I put in my yoga class and Sam's speech therapy--that way I don't have a ton of tasks on days when I know I have non-negotiable activities. I put in lighting the Shabbat candles, which we are trying to get in the habit of doing, but I always, always forget to do.

My house will never look like a Pottery Barn catalog, and I'm okay with that. But I want to put a lot less energy into stressing about cleaning and lot more energy into actually cleaning. I'm hoping this site makes a big difference in that!