My mother has been staying with us for the last month, to help with the twins. It’s been a blessing that I would not have wanted to do without. She kept up the laundry and worked on the dishes, stayed up late so I could sleep when I was at my rope’s end, and worked me through the physical depression and lagging that comes after a great physical exertion to get me back on my feet.
Now, though, I feel painfully inadequate.
I had worked out a system of ‘good enough’, before the kids were born. With my mother here, it reminded me (and she reminded me!) that good enough is not good enough- that I should be striving towards improvement in my everyday, and that inspiration was a blessing.
What is not a blessing is that no matter how hard I work towards a goal, it is never good enough. And I don’t mean ‘this will do because I’m done working’, so much as the sense that all my work and efforts and baby steps towards a healthier me, a cleaner home, and well-loved children are ignored in favor of the laundry that isn’t done, the dishes still in the sink, or the days when my son doesn’t get bathtime before bed because I just cannot find the energy to do it.
It’s when I mention that I’m eating regular meals and I’m hungry and eating actively, large meals.
This requires a touch of background, but to summarize, I don’t eat well. I don’t mean that my diet is nutritionally lacking, although it sometimes is. I mean I don’t like to eat, it takes a lot of thought, and so I usually choose not to. It isn’t unheard of for me to just not eat for a day or two because I got too busy to find the time. I drink plenty of water, but I am breastfeeding twins full-time plus pumping extra for bottles, plus recovering from a strenuous birth.
So, the other day I ate a whole waffle with strawberries, two slices of bacon, two pieces of toast, two eggs, and two cups of coffee, plus three big glasses of water. Then I had a snack of Sunchips a few hours later. I mentioned to my mother that I had eaten a real meal, and instead of praise or even amusement, she got a dark frown and pointed out to me that I need to be careful how much I eat or I’ll get fat again.
I go out of my way to eat as nutritionally sound as I can, but (as my love pointed out) it’s better to eat something that’s less healthy than to not eat at all. Bone broths and stocks, whole grains (literally, still whole! Barley is delicious, by the way!), eggs, meats, and veggies feature prominently in my choice of meals these days. It doesn’t keep me out of the white rice pot, or stop me from having a cookie, but I work hard at my diet in order to give my girls the most nutritious meals I can. Herbs for immunity and minerals and vitamins figure here, as well as the doctor prescribed (quite metallic) iron supplements.
But what does she see?
The Snickers bar I ate at practice last night, when I was hungry but had no snack.
I do two loads of dishes a day (more, now that we have a dishwasher- thank you, Fantastic Landlord!) and a load of laundry, plus pretreating, and sorting out the baby clothes to clean. I make a point to sterilize the baby bottles, organized the cupboard and inventoried it, cooked two meals, did some shopping, ran to the doctors for the girls, played puzzles with my son, picked up toys, and went to pick up my son from his playdate-
I get a lecture on how I keep pushing off the dishes on someone else. (Admittedly, this is true, but not because I’m lazy.)
I would love to have a spotless house, the way I remember my childhood home.
I am not willing to break myself to get it just yet. My mother kept up after myself, my father, and herself. I keep up after five adults and three children, plus the three dogs and the two cats, and I’m learning how to do all this. I’m not well-versed in the finer arts of housekeeping. I’m sort of winging it here, because I’m choosing such a radically different life-path than anyone I know.
Coming from a family of rednecks, Republicans, Christians (and non-Christian, non-religious folk who are still pretty straight-laced) with a penchant for doing what’s always been done and not ever embarassing your family… and here I am, the nearly hippie not-Christian tree hugging wanna-be Gypsy with a passion for nerdy history, theoretical physics, comparative anything, and who’s hobbies include computer games and playing medieval pretend every weekend and ‘green’ housekeeping with a passion for peace, love, and cheesecake. (The cheesecake thing is a family trait. I do share some ideals with them!)
I may as well be an otter born into a swallow’s nest!
I am learning how to be me. I am learning and making big huge mistakes while I do it, and if that means the dishes aren’t getting done, then it’s a sacrifice that I’ll make. They’ll get done eventually. I mean, I have to eat off something. My life is an experiment, and experiments are never guaranteed.
I have a thought that I should go away for a week, a month, a summer. Go where there are no other people at all, so that I can find out without fear of outside condemnation precisely who I am. Do I like to sing out loud while I gather herbs? Do I want to dance under the moon or swim naked in the river? What would I do, if nobody was watching me?
I don’t know.
I know I can’t afford to take off that much time. Not with nursing babes and my son/best friend only three. (Yes, my son is my best friend. Who could ask for more than someone who loves you unconditionally and isn’t at all afraid to call me on my mistakes- “Mama, you’re being rude.” or praise me effusively for even the simplest things that make him happy?) But I wonder who I would be, if nobody was watching me?
Who would you be?