The Super Whites The ordinary life of a Super Mum

The Super Whites
Housework is for the fairies

I shouldn’t really even caption these photos, they speak for themselves. What they say is that sometimes I am the most incredible slob and rather than clean up after ourselves, Amy and I will wallow in our mess until the very last minute before Ron gets home at which point we RACE around like loonies trying to get it all tidied away or else Ron inevitably asks “What did you do all day?”

And so its rather fitting that my dear friend Carol should send me an email this morning with this little gem in it:
“A man came home from work and found his three children outside, still in their pyjamas, playing in the mud, with empty food boxes and 20 wrappers strewn all around the front yard.
The door of his wife’s car was open, and so the front door to the house and there was no sign of the dog. Proceeding into the entry, he found an even bigger mess. A lamp had been knocked over, and the throw rug was wadded against one wall. In the front room the TV was loudly blaring a cartoon channel, and the family room was strewn with toys and various items of clothing.
In the kitchen, dishes filled the sink, breakfast food was spilled on the counter, the fridge door was open wide, dog food was spilled on the floor a broken glass lay under the table, and a small pile of sand was spread by the back door. He quickly headed up the stairs, stepping over toys and more piles of clothes, looking for his wife. He was worried she might be ill, or that something serious had happened.
He was met with a small trickle of water as it made its way out the bathroom door. As he peered inside he found wet towels, scummy soap and more toys strewn over the floor. Miles of toilet paper lay in a heap and toothpaste had been smeared over the mirror and walls. As he rushed to the bedroom, he found his wife still curled up in the bed in her pyjamas, reading a novel.
She looked up at him, smiled, and asked how his day went. He looked at her bewildered and asked, ‘What happened here today?’
She again smiled and answered, ‘You know every day when you come home from work and you ask me what in the world I do all day?’Yes,’ he said.She answered, ‘Well, today I didn’t do it.’
Its an oldie but a goodie and as evidenced by these photos: very true. It also reminds me of a life lesson that Ron and I learnt whilst attending antenatal classes in London when I was pregnant with Amy. The lovely lady who took the classes divided us into men and women and gave them one handout and us another. The girl’s handout talked about the new father’s typical day. He woke up exhausted due to the colicky baby crying at 3am, stepped into a pile of laundry next to the bed, knocked over a coffee cup on the landing, made cereal with lumpy milk and was late to work because there was no petrol in the car. At work the vending machine ate his change, his boss shouted at him for forgetting something important and he was stuck in traffic for an hour on the way to a client with a radio that didn’t work and only a lullaby cd to listen to. Back at work he had to walk two floors to the toilet due to maintenance and was late leaving because he had to let one of his team members go. Traffic was worse on the way home and the oil change light kept flashing on the car. Finally he gets home to find his wife on the couch, feet up, drinking a glass of wine and eating a large piece of homemade chocolate cake with the baby fast asleep in the bassinet next to her.

The handout given to the men was about a typical day for the mother of a newborn baby. She wakes before the baby because her milk has leaked through her breastpads and all over the sheets. She pulls them off and dumps them on the floor next to the already huge pile of laundry. While attempting to do all the housework in the five minutes before the baby wakes up she inadvertedly floods the laundry and burns her toast and then pops to the loo for a quick wee but gets waylaid by the crying baby. After a feed the baby is sick making the already ridiculous pile of laundry even bigger. The baby refuses to settle so she paces the house for nearly two hours trying to settle the baby and then as soon as she finally manages to get the baby down for a nap she rushes off to do that wee she has been needing since she woke up. She goes to make herself a cup of tea and sees her husband finished all the milk that morning. Later the baby cries for another hour before finally passing out in the bassinet in the living room. The mum races to the loo then rushes around picking up things, putting things into piles to tidy up later, doing two loads of laundry and three loads in the drier before throwing together a pasta sauce and doing a sinkful of dishes left there from when her husband cooked last night. Finally exhausted she sinks onto the couch only to have to get up again when a neighbour drops round with a homemade chocolate cake. For the first time all day she sits down, feet up and accepts a large piece of cake and a glass of wine from her neighbour before she lets herself out. This is where her husband finds her.

The point of this exercise for us soon-to-be new parents? To never judge your partner’s day or make assumptions about how they spend their time. To do this is to build unnecessary resentment and anger and block essential communication. The man in this example finds his wife on the couch with cake and wine and a peaceful sleeping baby and assumes she has had an easy day. The wife is resentful because she assumes her husband has had a wonderful day away from the house, the crying baby, the dirty laundry, the stress of it all. She imagines how she would feel having all that time to herself, to go to the loo, listen to the radio, talk on the phone. The reality was very different for them both. Ron and I have refered back to this exercise more times than you would believe and its really helped us appreciate the different demands our very different ‘jobs’ have .

Why did I start talking about all this? I can’t really remember but I guess the point is that sometimes I give myself permission to let a few things slide at home even though this is my full time job at the moment. I have talked before about how grateful I am to be able to stay at home with my girls and how our move to Australia allowed Ron and I to make this choice. But that doesn’t mean to say that its easy or always a pleasurable experience. The last few months have been quite the opposite in fact at times, with a three year old and a baby who both have totally different but equally important needs that I have to meet whilst still maintaining the house, managing our budget and shopping, cooking meals and preparing lunches and snacks and somehow finding the time to be a wife, friend, daughter.

Its not been easy thats for sure. There are times when I wonder how I am going to get through the day after an unsettled night and not much sleep. There have been days when we have all watched too much television and eaten cheese on toast for dinner. There have been days when I have wearily said hello to Ron as he gets home from work and then struggled through the witching hour until the girls are both in bed at which point I fall into bed myself, no time for Ron or even for myself.

Ron’s knee injury compounded everything and yet somehow in the face of it I have managed to step up and make it work. From somewhere I have summoned the energy to keep on top of it all and although I often feel bone weary and run down, each day I wake with the enthusiasm to at least get through it the best way I can. I make time to play with Amy, to dance or sing or have a tickle fight. I make time to snuggle into Stella’s warm neck, fresh from a sleep, to inhale her babyness before its too late. I make time to take photographs of our lives, to record these days for the future when I will have time to look back and marvel at how much I actually accomplish on a daily basis. I make time to talk to Ron and remind him that this won’t last forever and we will be able to get back to spending quality time together and its not going to be long. For all of this I feel very proud and desperately relieved that the dark thoughts and exhaustion haven’t overtaken me and removed my ability pleasure in the small things. Maybe tonight I will leave the dishes on the counter and the piles of laundry in the spare room and just take some time to appreciate what I do have and how very happy it makes me and how supremely lucky I am.
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