It's been a week and a half since I've said goodbye to my last little preschooler. In that short window of time between then and today, I've been in a whirly sort of state, taking a deep breath and then turning around to pack us up for a much-anticipated weekend camping trip with my paternal family. It felt as if I'd just been pirouetting on one toe, round and round, for that window of time.
Now the spinning has stopped, and my feet have settled on the ground. Most of the camping unpacking is done, most of the laundry is caught up, and Kiddo is playing with Wonder Girl across the street for the morning.
Which leaves me here, now, contemplating the Big Downshift in life that's just occurred. This has been a time of many transitions: Kiddo's done with preschool for summer and needs a life which is still relatively routine and scheduled. Bigger than that, though, is that I have landed squarely in that box we call "Housewife".
First, let me say that I take umbrage with the title "Housewife". I am not married to a house, but to a wonderful person who I'd rather call "partner" most of the time. Cleaning the house, being the keeper of a house, does not appeal to my intellectual capacity. Sure, I suppose I could get really zen and be fully present when I am sweeping the hair off the bathroom floor, but I'm not sure that fantasizing instead about winning Megabucks or getting a few days to myself is bad, either. Mental vacation in any case, right?
I struggle with this change. How to meet the needs of myself, my child, my house, my garden, and in good proportion to each other. Part of this will soon be remedied with a schedule of tasks for the week, and I must figure out a new non-preschool-based cleaning schedule. I am not a fan of daily vacuuming. I do sweep some areas daily and have a tendency to want to keep things relatively picked up. It just needs a schedule, otherwise it doesn't get done until I just can't stand it and want to do it all at once. This conflicts with Kiddo's needs, too, because then he loses me to the cleaning frenzy and this is met with an appropriate amount of resistance.
All of this has me a little lost, wanting to find my identity. Wanting to escape and go have a beer out of my house with other grown-ups and forget the mess, the obligations. I'm a writer whose work has been on hold and is constantly redirected into giving advice on a forum where I can write in tidbits and spurts. How to pull out of that and do the lonely work of writing a nonfiction reference book for parents? I've shelved the book work until autumn, but might get started early again. I've been relatively quiet on this blog, in this time of flux, just trying to suss things out for myself.
So, I'm going to try the tactic of acceptance. Accepting that Kiddo is going to want me in some very intense ways this summer. Accepting that my choices as a parent make my time with my son more demanding. We're sticking with 30 minutes of screen time a day, and his favorite video fits the bill, and then he wants me. My time, my attention, sometimes my endless patience. He wants excursions that have nothing to do with running errands. Finding balance in all of this is a little tricky. I am not going to use all of my time when he's with his friends running errands because of his complaints. He's four and while I know he has limited patience, he has to sometimes work with the whole family's needs, lest he believe the sun has been abandoned by the planets and the world revolves around him, ha ha. So, we're going to have some of those struggles this summer. Each day older and he's less docile, more opinionated about what we should be doing. This is the time to firm up, to set him on the solid but not-lovely ground of "you are the child and I am the parent and I am the person who makes the decisions". Reality does bite, sometimes. Especially when you are four. Or when you are forty, too.
Another phase for both of us. I keep plugging along, trying to do the right thing. Sometimes, it happens and we are all happy. Sometimes, I try but fail miserably. So, I go back to the mistakes later, when I've recovered, and try to pull out the lessons within. I'm learning a few things about myself in the process. Imagine- I don't like going clothes shopping with a complaining child, even if I can "handle it". I'd prefer not to! These petty revelations help me to remember how I want to organize my time, and help me evaluate what I can do for myself and when it's better to wait until Joe's around to help.
It's not just about getting it all done, it's about getting it all done and staying sane.
In the meantime, I'm going to make friends with the white board and sketch out a picture of a typical week. I'm going to work toward my goal of a July 15th or so garage sale and getting the basement usable in some fashion. And I'm going to call up some girlfriends and make some dates. This summer, I'm going to get out as much as I can socially to avoid those Domesticated Blues, sung in "D for Dishwashing" Minor, with a chorus of "La la la la laundry", set to the swish-swish rhythm of sweeping the floor. It's all I can do.