There came a time when the risk to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom. ~Anaïs Nin

Monday, May 9, 2011

Time For the Old Dog to Learn a New Trick

Mother’s Day would have been a perfect day if it wasn’t for the argument…no, fight I had with my daughter just before we left for brunch.  I had asked her to wrap my mother and mother-in-law’s gift while I was at church because I would be pressed for time when I returned.

When I got home the gifts were still sitting there, unwrapped.  Apparently, she couldn’t find the scissors. I spoke harshly to my daughter as I started to wrap the gifts (using a jack knife to cut the paper, because I also couldn’t find the scissors) only to realize that I didn’t have enough wrapping paper.  That’s when I lost it. Because now, not only would we be late, but I would be handing my mother-in-law a partially wrapped gift.  What a failure…

Afterwards, as I apologized to my daughter, yet again, I thought about my reaction…or I should say my over-reaction.  And I realized that this event struck at the core of one of my biggest insecurities.  My inability to run a tidy and efficient house.  A house where there’s a place for the scissors so anyone can find them. A house where things are done ahead of time, not at the last minute.

I always assumed that once I became a mother I would naturally know how to run a household.  My own mom ran a tight ship.  In fact, so tight that I wasn’t able to help out.  She liked to do things herself, so I never learned how to cook, or run the washing machines.  We were allowed to bring the groceries in, but not put them away, because she had her own systems that worked for her. So I stayed out of her way and learned how to mow the lawn and clean the garage and the cars instead.

However, once I became a mother, under the assumption that now I should be able to run the house like my mom did, I failed miserably.  I was constantly fighting an uphill battle to stay on top of the grocery shopping, the laundry, the dusting, vacuuming, finally concluding that I “can’t” do it.  And there must be something wrong with me.

So I went to the self help books, ultimately convincing myself that I must have ADD. I hired coaches, therapists, professional organizers and even convinced a psychiatrist to put me on Adderall.  Thinking that if I could cure my ADD I could run the house. All to no avail.  But it occurred to me as I was mowing the lawn yesterday (which is a chore I still love to do and where I do my best soul searching), that maybe there isn’t anything inherently wrong with me.  Perhaps, I can’t run an efficient household because I simply wasn’t taught how to do it.

And I wonder….what else have I convinced myself I “can’t” do, when really I just haven’t learned it yet.


  1. Excellent point Deborah. I like the way you put this. Thanks for the reminder, I too don't always (ok, not even half the time;) manage to run a house the way I would like or mother with the gentleness and skill I would like too...I guess it is all about learning and being patient with ourselves.

    I really liked this post! Have a wonderful day my friend!

  2. I too grew up in an efficient, tight ship.

    I think it speaks to my conflict with it now.

    I don't want a home like that, yet I feel like I'm failing when it isn't like that.

  3. Colleen, Somehow realizing that this is a skill that can be learned helped me break down a huge mental block.

    Annabelle, I agree, I don't want that either and yet I also don't let my kids help so I've created it. But then I can't keep up because I get overwhelmed! I just have to find what works for me and not try to do it the way anyone else does, including my mom :)

  4. Running a tight ship is overrated especially since the time spent as a family is more important. I want my sons to remember me for the time I spent with them and how I made the house a home, not a tightly ran ship.

  5. I hear you Mamma, and I agree, but I think there's a balance... It causes me a lot of stress to never be able to find what I am looking for and that's not good either. A place for everything and everything in its place is what I'm striving for! (You would think I could have come to this realization before all my kids went off to college, but I guess that's because I was spending all my time with them- i mean when I wasn't hunting for keys, uniforms,scissors,matching

  6. Oh my friend, my heart goes out to you as I read my mind I kept saying, "but you were never taught or allowed to practice while you were young"...and sure enough you realize that...I think there are a lot of things we haven't been taught and if given a chance we would do just fine...trying to organize and clean a house can feel over whelming.

    I would suggest you start one room at a fact start with the easiest or smallest room and keep moving through each room of your house...with practice it will get better...and have fun with it..put on some music, take little breaks and just know that it doesn't have to be done in one day or even one month.

    There was a time my house was spotless and completely organized but then I realized there was more to life then a picture perfect house..and I kept having more I am more balanced and with having my injury I have been learning to let things go when I need to. I am presently going through my house one room at time in an effort to simplify...I have 3 boxes, l for throwing junk away, 1 for our garage sale or giving away and 1 for storing away or putting in it's place.

    I think it's nice to have a clean organized home because it keeps the stress level down unless of course it becomes an obsession. Good luck with this Deb.

    I hope your mothers day turned out to be good inspite of the argument with your daughter...I so understand! XX

  7. No i'm pretty sure that cleaning will never become an obsession Lori, so no worries there! LOL!! But I would like to learn some routines. I agree with your plan to get rid of stuff...I'm pretty good at throwing things away, but I don't do it regularly enough...still, I think I'm heading in the right direction. I am trying to make it more fun with music and all. And yes, my mother's day ended up being a great day :) Glad to see you posting again from time to time Lori, I miss hearing about how you are doing and how the "littles" are doing!

  8. Deborah, love this post! It spoke volumes to me! In fact, I have a post that I still haven't finished writing about things my parents never taught addition, to simple things like how to cook and sew to deeper things like how to love, how to feel something other than anger and resentment. But everytime I try to finish the piece, I can't do it.

    I can never stay on top of household tasks, as well. I'm constantly trying to figure how to juggle stuff and still have fun with the kids.

    Gosh, don't you wish Erma Bombeck had written a manual on how to do all this stuff?! LOL!!

  9. haha Helene, I loved Erma Bombeck! I would love to read that post if you ever finish it. :)