Thursday, August 11, 2011

Confessions of a Newly-Employed-Husband's Wife.

I want to know how all of the other mothers out there do it.

You know, how they juggle their sanity along with their 10 children, the housework, shopping, keeping everyone happy, having friends, hobbies, and a dating life with their husbands as well.

I seem to be having a hard time with these things lately and find myself wondering if there is something wrong with me and why I can't seem to stay on top of things, while other women can.

I really do know women like this.

They have immaculately clean homes, their children have organized times during the day for crafts, playtime, meals, and learning. They get their baths every single night, and have folded laundry and clean sheets. These women also have time to go to lunch with their girlfriends, shop for the latest fashions, and have date night with their husbands once a week.

I seem to get a lot of comments from other people that I "do so much". One friend told me "I don't know how you get so much done, it's amazing."

Okay, hold on right there. I must have people fooled, because let's create a real picture here for you. If you seem to think I have it "together", think again...

This morning my 3 year old woke up in sopping wet pajamas from wetting the bed during the middle of the night. Not only did his entire room smell like urine, but it lingered down the hallway as well. And because I was in a hurry to get to my morning training session, we just ripped those wet jammies off as fast as possible, threw them on the floor, put clean underwear and clothes on and went out the door. He never got a bath and the wet jammies stayed on the floor all day, as well as the dirty sheets because I was not home to take care of them.

Last night, we made macaroni and cheese for dinner, and I decided to see if our 11 month old was coordinated enough to handle feeding himself bites of it from his high chair tray. After leaving the room for 10 minutes, I came back to find the entire floor around his chair covered in orange noodles, and several caked in his hair as well. The pasta stayed on the floor until tonight when I finally managed to find a moment to sweep the floor.

Today my boys and I went to Costco to go grocery shopping because I had waited so long to go that we literally had barely any food in our fridge, so I thought we would just pick up something to eat while we were shopping. Well, aside from a few animal crackers that we got at Costco they never ate lunch, fell asleep in the car, and then as planned I dropped them off at Grandma and Grandpa's house, unfed and sleep deprived (their naps were only about 20 min long). I had to call G&G later in a worried frantic state to tell them that my kids hadn't eaten and they are probably starving, and that I felt terrible that they didn't eat lunch!

My hubby and I have rented redbox movies, planning to watch them, only to find ourselves still on our computers at 11pm just trying to clean out inboxes and pay bills, read things we need to catch up on, get work done and other nonsense that we don't get a chance to do during the day. By the time we are finished, we're so exhausted that we both crash into bed and fall asleep. I think it's actually been months since we've watched a movie together or had a real date due to just trying to keep up with the busy day to day tasks.

Is it obvious that I've been feeling like a really bad wife and mother lately?

I didn't used to be this way.

My big confession is that I have found my crazy busy stressful life has only really emerged since Will became gainfully employed. Please. Before I go any further, don't misunderstand - we are both incredibly happy about his job and excited that he is working for a wonderful company and that after such a long stint of unemployment that he's, well, employed.


The transition from having a full-time at-home husband to help out, to me being the full-time sole parent 18 hours a day came fast. To be more accurate, there was NO transition. One day we were on summer vacation in California and found out he had been hired, and a week later BOOM he was commuting 5 hours a day and working 10.

Even though we were always prayerful that he would find a job, I was secretly glad he was at home. If I needed time to work (on music), he would watch the boys for me. We shared in dish duty, and day-to-day tasks were somewhat more equally distributed. We got to spend a lot of time together and always knew what was going on with each other.

Now that he's back at work, and I'm at home doing all of that stuff myself, I have to say that it's been so hard. Today was a top notch hard day for me, and found myself trying to go through my head and figure out how I could possibly lighten my load and not be so stressed. How can I possibly keep my home clean, be this awesome attentive mom, an available wife, and also be a working musician? I have wondered, am I doing what I'm supposed to be doing?

I know from my Patriarchal blessing that I am supposed to be doing music. It is a part of my life and I was destined to do it and Heavenly Father expects me to do it. And so part of me wonders, does He cut me any slack for not always keeping a clean house and spic-n-span kids? One can hope, right?

A few years ago, I remember visiting a gal in my ward (I was her visiting teacher), and she told me that she had just been having a really rough time with her kids lately. There was a lot of contention in her home with them, and she was always feeling really stressed. One day she felt this impression that she needed to be sure to read her scriptures every day. So she started doing it, and she told me that it was really amazing to see the difference in her home. It was probably because she was able to handle the stress better and her children could sense the spirit better with her having a better purpose throughout her day.

I've thought of that so often. And now that I have a similar situation of my own, I find myself feeling that same inspiration. So I'm going to make a great effort to be sure that I start my day out that way. Hopefully with that little boost every morning I'll find the serenity to handle situations better and with more confidence and ease.

Another thing that I'm really going to try to work on is the cleaning. I really struggle with this - NOT because I'm not a clean person. Actually, if you remember, Will and I used to be apartment managers before we had our two little boys. We did it for about 2 years and our apartment home was used as the leasing office for a good part of that time, and so I always had to make sure that it was super clean. And we also turned the apartments ourselves too - so when someone moved out we would go in and clean it and fix it up again. I learned some hardcore cleaning skills, let me tell ya! And it got to be a good habit to keep our home clean all of the time.

But now with a 3 year old who leaves a trail of toys, underwear, dirty socks, and food everywhere he goes throughout the house, and an 11 month old who likes to chuck his food off of his high chair onto the floor, and tear apart's been a trial to keep the house clean. And honestly, a lot of the time, I surrender to it. It feels too overwhelming to keep up with it at times, and you start to ask yourself what is the point of cleaning this room when in 3 hours from now it's going to be messy all over again? And trying to put the effort forth to prevent my children from messing it up is even more stressful.

Today, after a series of consecutive stressful days, it dawned on me that a big part of my overwhelmed-ness was coming from the fact that our house was a total disaster and it was eating at me. If I could at least have my house clean, a good portion of stress would be eleviated and I would feel more at liberty to concentrate on other things that I needed to do. It's not that I just don't clean, it's just that I haven't had the TIME to clean. So it's a new goal of mine to do more daily pick-ups instead of waiting until things turn into the huge undesirable stage before we clean.

All things considered though, back to my original question, I do wonder how many other women out there do these things. What are their organization secrets? How do they teach their children to clean? How do they not get too overwhelmed?

I know that life with little kids is not meant to be perfect all of the time and that I do need to be easier on myself, but I hope I can find a balance of striving to be the best I can and yet not feeling bad if I fall short of perfect.

And by the way, I married an awesome guy. He emailed me today and told me he is trying to line up a babysitter for me so that next week I can have an entire day to myself in my music studio. :)

This has been a soul searching reflective probably way too wordy post by Jenni. Out.

P.S. If you enlarge that picture of me above, you'll see that I have encrusted mashed baby food on my shoulder. Niiiiiice.


Katie Lady said...

I loved this post. It's good to know that I'm not the only one feeling like everybody else is able to be supermoms. I can totally relate to the throwing food on the floor thing too. Jackson throws EVERYTHING on the floor and it drives me nuts! I'm constantly finding old bananas and Cheerios that I somehow missed.

It sounds like you have a lot going on and I'm sure you're doing a really great job at work and parenting. Congrats to Will on the new job!

Carolyn said...

As you know, life was never meant to be's a test on what choices we make and how we will handle every situataion that comes up. Sometimes we do great....other times we don''s a series of up's and downs.

Stress will ALWAYS be a part of your will just change somewhat in nature. Not having enough time to do things will ALWAYS be a part of your life too. We just need to set priorities for each stage of our lives, and the do the best we can. So I won't say that things will get better as your kids get older....they will just change. And I can honestly say, that I have less time now that I don't have kids at home, than when I did.....I still can't figure that one out.

If I were to make only one suggestions, it would be to "clean as you go"....put things away immediately, instead of waiting, then the mess is never as bad. Dishes included.....never let things stack up....that's when things become overwhelming. Preston is at the age when he can be taught to put things away...just be consistent with him. If he can learn to put things away, that will take away a lot of your frustration with a messy house.

Every time you walk by something, pick it up and put it where it belongs....if you did that all the time, you'd had a cleaner house and not have make a specific time to clean.

That said.....your first priority is your family...."No Success can compensate for failure in the Home." Use that as your basis for all your decisions, and you will have a happy family....even if your house is not perfectly clean, or you don't get to do everything you want to. Even at my age, you still don't get to do everything you want still sacrafice and give for your family. But that's how is should be.

Maybe there are some young mothers who would differ with me, but that is how I see it.

Dan Thomas said...

Dear Jenni,

I am not one to talk but one of the best things that Sandy did for her was to make sure as part of the routine each child took a nap each day. Often the kids just read a book but they knew not to bug Mom during that time. That gave Mom some time everyday to herself. Maybe something like that might work for YOU!

Annalea said...

Jenni, there are very few women who actually "do it all". And they're like my stake president's wife, who are blessed with an unending fountain of energy somewhere inside of them.

I've struggled so much with exactly the kinds of things that you're talking about. Here are the guiding principles of my life . . . the things that keep me sane when life gets just like you're talking about.

The first thing to remember is this:

We usually compare our WORST to others' BEST.

The second thing to remember:

If it's hard to find time for the basics of your stewardship (meals, naptimes, basic cleaning, etc), then it's time to sit down and seriously re-prioritize.

Work WILL expand to fill all available time . . . so setting limits, especially on inbox and computer stuff. A timer works best for me. (One that KEEPS going off. lol)

I'm reading an awesome book that is helping me to take back my life:Organized Simplicity: The Clutter-Free Approach to Intentional Living. Tsh handles home management in a truly focused and powerful way . . . beginning with clearing defining the purpose of your own life and the life of your family, and then progressing from there. She defines simple living as Living holistically with your life's purpose. I was drawn to it because a chaotic headless-chicken dance is NOT what my life is supposed to look like. You? ;o)

And finally, one of my favorite quotes:

We were all put here to do something . . . not everything.

Annalea said...

P.S.) As for the mess-making . . . it's easier to clean up when there's not as much stuff to make a mess with. To stay sane, here's what I do:

All eating happens at the table. Period. I still find food stashed here and there, but the kids KNOW they're being naughty if they eat anywhere else, so it cuts down on the food messes drastically. I also did nearly all of the solid food feeding of little ones until they were old enough to manage a spoon with reasonable success on their own. (They got to eat non-messy stuff alone, like cheerios, etc.) Mess making was disciplined like other misbehavior. (You have to be present during the meal, which is sometimes a sacrifice, but I've noticed that when I've tried to have my children eat on their own, it quickly turns into an anything-goes animal house at the table . . . no matter what age they are.)

Available toys are kept to a minimum. Keep things put away and rotate them (you can do this with containers in Preston's closet). That way it only ever takes a couple minutes to pick up toys.

Right now we have Legos, My Little Ponies, a few Chevron & matchbox cars, and a small box of infant toys out -- and that's with six children around. Cleanup is less than 15 minutes, even if I have to do it alone.

My favorite toy-picking-up principle is from a friend. She told me she realized that if a child was old enough to put shaped toys into a toy sorter, they're old enough to put toys in a big toy box. ;o) Too true, eh?

Sleep is The Big Rock. That means I go to sleep before 10pm . . . even if Vern would rather stay up. ;o) He's on board with this, though, and supports me like the good man he is.

I need to take care of my own needs, first. I get to shower every morning, read my scriptures (usually a Conference talk in the am, the Book of Mormon is in the evening, often with Vern), and have personal and companionship prayer before braving the day outside my bedroom door. (Exercise will fit in there eventually, but it's an afternoon/naptime thing now.)

Now, lest you think I'm also one of those "get it all done" moms, let me assure you: my desk is a disaster (albeit a small one, as I'm using a children's play table right now, lol); the kitchen is trying to mutiny, there's laundry lurking everywhere and in some places launching an overt attack; the bathroom sinks need scrubbing; dust bunnies hide under every baseboard heater and piece of furniture in the house; every time I pick the baby up off of the floor, he's got a hairball in one hand that has liberated itself from Lil'MissL's under-brushed head; I'm not going to talk about the yard and ill-begotten garden beds; or my bedroom. (We're still sleeping on a mattress on the floor after 18 months, and Vern's office is in there. 'Nough said.)

"Doing it all" means doing everything that's truly important to you . . . and no more. It's crazy hard work, and you can do it. It just takes a tremendous amount of focus, and consciously eliminating everything that sucks the life out of you by eroding your time. It has many names: Intentional Living, Simple Living, living the Seven Habits, etc. But it works. I'm seeing that for myself . . . and this is one of the longest comments in history, eh? It's going to become a blog post today. lol Thanks for the inspiration!

Sandy said...

You have a lot of great advise here and I heartly agree with things that have been said. But having recently been in your home, let me tell you what I saw.
I saw a mom who fixed a fantastic dinner Sunday evening, went for a walk with her family, got children to bed and loved, stayed up late to arrange a train ride for the children the next morning, took a bunch of kids for a train ride and then to MCD's for lunch. I saw a mom and wife who was attentive to her family and relaxed enough to enjoy them. Do you know how much that is all worth? That is worth EVERYTHING and you are doing a fantastic job! Now tell me, what are some of the other great things you do for others? Bet the list goes on and on. That's just how you are ~ WONDERFUL!

Marissa said...

Jenni, I love how you manage to pull my exact thoughts from my head and write them on your blog. I often feel the exact same way. I know people with far more children than me who have much more peaceful/organized/productive/etc days and homes. You're not alone - I suspect lots of moms feel this way. Thanks for being so real and sharing this. :)

Stephen and Ileana said...


I just wanted to let you know that you are not alone. We deal with the same things here, always having to pick up, just yesterday I was telling the girls to please keep the dinner table clean while we were eating, because I just cleaned it, and it seems to ALWAYS be crusted with food like ALL THE TIME. And the house is always getting strewn with toys, but I will tell you that Mom is right, Preston is old enough that you can make sure he knows how to clean up after himself, at least to some degree, we started making Mackenzie do that and it really takes some of the burden off. And with work, church, family time, shopping, cleaning, etc etc and everything else, it seems like we never have time for dates and Mom/Dad time. So you're definitel not alone there, you should talk to Ileana because she is in your boat, staying at home with 2 kids, dealing with all the same stuff. You guys could exchange ideas and stuff.


debra said...

On the long days when Lance isn't home until 11pm or later (which has been about the last 4 months) I think of my sister-in-law. My little brother is deployed in Afghanistan until Christmas. She has 6 kids, the youngest is 7 months old and the oldest is 11. Then I feel so lucky that my husband gets to come home every night. For me, it's about perspective.
As far as my house is concerned, it's almost always in a state disaster somewhere. When I had two babies, I realized I couldn't do it all, but I could do something, so I learned to celebrate the small victories. (I cleaned bathrooms today, or the laundry is all done.) That's the only way I stay sane.