The longer I am a mom, the more it becomes clear that a lot of the exasperation I experience on a daily basis is my own doing.
I am frustrating and exasperating myself.
Which makes me more frustrated and exasperated.
I suppose somebody could have pointed this out to me ten years ago (somebody probably did), but just as when you are dating a total asshole and all your friends are telling you to dump him which usually only results in you holding on to the douchebag even tighter, determined to prove everyone wrong, some of these mom lessons are things you need to learn yourself through experience until you have that proverbial a-ha moment.
Some of us need to really bang our heads against the wall repeatedly, over and over and over again before we achieve clarity.
You can’t force an epiphany on someone.
It is no secret that every phase of motherhood is challenging.
When the kids are newborns and toddlers, the lack of sleep and lack of predictability and lack of adult interaction can be debilitating.
When the kids get to elementary school, you enter a new form of chaos. Your after-school hours are very often over scheduled, you feel like a personal chauffeur, getting meals on the table is a challenge with different people going in different directions at different times, and helping your kids with their homework introduces you to a new level of frustration that you never even knew existed.
The middle school and high school years bring attitude and the desire for independence and technology and social media and you are constantly stressing and questioning whether you have done enough, how tight to hold on, how much slack to give and doubting at least 50% of the parenting decisions you’ve made in the last 10 – 15 years.
All those challenges are present in an optimum parenting world. Even if you had the perfect marriage, a steady and guaranteed influx of money for the next 100 years, a big fat emergency fund that would sustain you for the next four generations and perfect health, you would still face parenting challenges on a daily basis.
I don’t know about you, but I do not live in an optimum parenting world.
My marriage isn’t anywhere near perfect, money is tight and life is, well… life.
So I don’t really need to add any challenges into the mix. Things are challenging enough as they are.
And still, we do this.
We add challenges.
You know what one of the biggest challenges many of us add to our lives is?
Disorganization makes our life so much more challenging than it needs to be.
It creates stress. It makes our homes chaotic. It often gives our children anxiety which is manifested in behavior issues.
For some lucky people, organization comes naturally. These people were born enjoying organizing stuff. They are self-disciplined and see the benefits and the payoff of a place for everything and everything in its place. They put their clothes away immediately. They tidy as they go.
Then there are the rest of us.
The ones with laundry issues or paperwork issues or closet issues or back-seat-of-the-car issues.
Or all of those issues.
When we create these chaotic environments for ourselves, we immediately make our parenting jobs exponentially harder.
And we also make our children’s lives harder.
None of us want that.
Think about your child’s classroom for a second.
Imagine if you walked into it for your son or daughter’s report card conference, and there were papers, books, art supplies, and a whole bunch of other stuff on the floor to the point that you could only see a couple actual spots of carpet.
Imagine if you sat down at a table across from the teacher, and she had to move piles and stacks of papers and clear off a space just so she could put the report card down for you to be able to look at it.
What would you think?
I know what I would think.
I’d think this teacher is a disaster.
I’d think, how the hell is my kid supposed to function in this environment?
I’d think, it’s no wonder my kid can’t concentrate or is acting out or can never find any of his stuff!
Do you know why your kid’s classroom doesn’t get to that point?
First, teachers have systems in place that work.
Second, the teachers take not just days, but weeks to “train” students and teach them how to “use” these systems.
Third, after finishing every subject or activity your child does at school, there is a period of time devoted to cleaning stuff up and putting it back where it belongs. This happens multiple times a day.
For all you disorganized people, how often do you stop your kids five or ten minutes before it’s time to leave for an appointment or get dressed or whatever it is that needs to be done pr wherever it is you need to go, and tell them it’s time to clean up? And then guide them while they do it?
I mean, we might all make fun of Barney’s Clean Up song, but Barney had it right.
Many of us who are organizationally challenged were never taught how to organize our own things.
We weren’t taught how to take care of our stuff.
We were expected to do it, but nobody ever showed us how.
Our biggest influences, our parents, never taught us.
This isn’t a blame game situation. It is what it is.
But if you are doing the same thing with your kids, you are perpetuating the problem.
If your counters, your drawers, your front entryway, your bedroom — any area in your house — are in disarray, you are creating an environment for your family that is chaotic and stressful and the opposite from relaxing.
When you fail to set up systems in your house to maintain order, when you are not using those systems yourself, when you are not teaching your children how to build time into their day to “tidy up”, you may feel like you are saving time in the short run.
But in the long run, you are making your job harder.
You are creating more work for yourself the next day or week or month, depending on how long you let it go.
And when you are not involving your family in these systems or leading, guiding, and teaching them to use them, you are sending your children (and your spouse) the message that taking care of their things and their home is not important.
If you are taking care of all this stuff yourself, you are also giving your family the message that they are not required to take any responsibility for this stuff. That you will take care of all of it. And now you have put yourself in the position to be continuously pissed off, resentful, and overwhelmed.
And you have seriously made your parenting job much more stressful and difficult.
I have always been of the mindset, Why do today what you can put off until tomorrow?
All that does leave a big cloud of stress over my head and make me bitchy and irritable.
And that makes me a pretty lousy mother.
I recently saw this quote:
Why did it take me so long to get this???
I have made my job as a parent so much more difficult for the past fourteen years.
I think, as far as a parenting tool goes, organization is up there at the top.
I’m going to be focusing on this a lot more in my own home in the next few months.
And I hope you’ll join me.
Parenting is hard enough as it is.
We don’t need to make it any harder.
So stay tuned.
I’m working on some stuff to help you (and me) out.
Until then, I’d love to hear about your organizational challenges.
Don’t be afraid to share. There are so many of us who struggle or have struggled in this area.
The willingness to address the issue is the first step.
And then I’ve got some ideas to help us all get a little bit more organized together and move onto step two.
Have you read aslobcomesclean.com? It has helped me so much with organization and cleaning! She explains very well how this stuff just does not come naturally to everyone. She gets it!
Jennifer L. says
Paper from school! Kid art work! Hand-written kid stuff (a letter to Santa, a note to the tooth fairy, the awesome drawing, school portfolios, etc)! I used to file, but I did not start with a good system and now it’s just a box here and pile there. I recycle a ton of it as soon as it lands in the house, but it keeps piling up regardless.