22 April 2009

Painful transition: Not just for L&D anymore

In some ways, the transition from two kids to three was easier than the transition from one kid to two. (This is, of course, a mathematically sound observation: just think how much easier it is to add 50% more trouble than it is to double the trouble. Mathematical whiz that I am (emphatically not), I hereby cheerfully deduce that if a fourth kid comes along, household chaos will increase by only 25%, and so on down the line. Right? Right-o.)

Something here is just not adding up...

Yet in other ways, transitioning to three kids has been more difficult for me—maybe because it actually is harder, and maybe because I exert needless hardship upon myself by gazing obsessively into the murky crystal ball of my indeterminate future (Stop it, oh ye silly self of little faith! Stop it right now!).

What I can be sure of is that certain realities (i.e., the still-mourned disappearance of Naptime and the diminishing quantity of Useful or Desirous Things I seem able to accomplish in a day) can no longer be ignored; hence the negotiation of a New Normal hereabouts lately.

My eminent associates have addressed this topic ably and, telling all the truth but telling it slant, poetically. New Normal is something that each woman, each couple, each family, must negotiate. And renegotiate. Frequently. I’m optimistically inclined to think, though, that renegotiating becomes less of a painful wrenching and more of a natural progression, for at least two reasons. 1) Casual appearances to the contrary, underlying structures and foundations are being ever reinforced, and 2) Unless we’re determined to live in angry denial, we must eventually come to terms with the fact that No Normal is in fact the New Normal.

As soon as the wrenching becomes less painful in these parts, I’ll let you know how this hypothesis works out for me ;-)

In the meantime, a number of time-saving, fret-reducing observations: I shall waste no more time in suspecting that (or caring whether) my house is the only one that occasionally, or even frequently or always, showcases crumbs in the silverware drawer, spots in the sink, and fingerprints on the window. Know what? I have been to other people’s houses. Know what else? Even houses with one or two or no children have smudges on the refrigerator door too (gasp!). Know what else? In someone else’s house, this never bothers me a bit, never detracts from hospitality, never lessens my opinion of my hostess. I find a less-than-sterile environment to be enjoyable for reasons other than mere household schadenfreude; I don’t have to freak out if my kids drop a crumb (to say nothing of dropping something more organic and offensive).

Another life-simplifying realization: these kids are my reason (or at least my excuse) for not presenting all comers with House Beautiful. Guess what? It’s these kids that most comers are here to see, and these kids claim all comers’ attention before they even reach the front door. Minding the kids may prevent me from keeping the house, but the kids do a fine job of keeping visitors from minding the house. Sure, if someone sits long enough in my bathroom, he* will notice that the woodwork could use a little attention and there’s some hardwater scale on the spigot. But if someone sits in my bathroom that long, then maybe he has more to be embarrassed about than I do anyway. :D

Can you tell I’ve got company arriving tomorrow? It’s so much more satisfying to blog in a self-justifying manner about the state of the house than to actually do anything about it. . .

But New Normal. Yeah. We’re negotiating. Or navigating. Or something like that.

*I’m using the masculine pronoun here as inclusive of all humankind—you know, old-style grammar and all that. But keeping it real—we all know that a man is unlikely to notice anything of the sort. Hee hee.


Rebekah said...

One of our venerable church ladies cheered me up the other day by saying her house was messier now than when it had kids in it. When she saw my face fall (this convo was taking place in my shamefully unmopped dining room), she said, "I finally realized it didn't all have to be done right now."

My battle cry these days is that clean houses are for people who don't live in them.

Joy said...

One of the PWs in our circuit (and with 5 kiddos) has a beautifully adorned and framed cross-stitch in the living room that says, "Women who keep immaculate houses are dull." And her place is trashed even on a good day. If someone can't see that it's more important to tend to children than dishes, we probably won't get along.

Erich Heidenreich, DDS said...

We found the transition from 3 to 4 was the hardest, as we finally had to concede that we couldn't manage everything the way we wanted to. We couldn't worry about every little thing and stay sane.

From 4 to 7, things have actually seemed to get easier - mostly due to this attitude, but partly due to having older kids who can help out.

If we only knew then what we know now, I truly believe having the first three children would have been much easier. I really believe attitude is the key.

Reb. Mary said...

Erich, I'm incompetent, so the moment of truth came sooner for me than for most :) As a consolation prize, I'll take your observation about attitude.

Sometimes, the house gets so bad that I want to run screaming from it. But mostly, I can't quite remember why I thought it was so important for all the hand towels to be folded/hung with matching edges, and am retrospectively annoyed with myself for all that time I wasted with the white gloves.

Now all I have to do is sit back and wait for these underlings to get useful...

Reb. Mary said...

Joy and Rebekah: I'm likin' those battle cries.

Pam said...

Ack! Towels folded/hung with matching edges?! Reb. Mary, I'm just pleased when they ARE hung or folded-- and thrilled when they are put away too, before they get UNfolded.

But yes, I too had to come to that realization, and it had something to do with my breakdown two years ago. 'Course, it helps when one's counterpart is reassuring in that department, instead of feeding the beast like there's no tomorrow! Which incidentally, has also changed.

I found your post hilarious, especially now that I am looking back on that very sentiment. Yes, yes, yes, it does get better, and I will echo what Erich said, it is GREATLY due to the attitude change.

It'd be nice if I could say I chose to change that, but alas, as it is for so many CSPP, it is be force and neccessity.

I wonder, is it possible for us to pass this on to our own in such a way that maybe they can have it sooner and not freak out with their first few kiddos? I'm sure tryin'. ;o)

Michelle in NM said...

I'm still in transition from 2 to 4 even though the twins are 7 months already. Clean house??? Well, it may appear clean until you reach under the sofa cushions, open cabinets, etc. I use a "company clean" approach. Rooms that may be accessed by company (living room, guest bathroom) are a little cleaner than the rest of the house (therefore, my bedroom is always the last place that gets clean). Oh well. Playing with/caring for toddlers and infants is more fun (most of the time) than cleaning. It gives me a good excuse.