As a new mom of three, I keep adjusting my expectations in order to survive. I have these mantras to help me get through the day. Enjoy your kids. One hour at a time. Embrace the Now. My newest, Embrace the Chaos.
When we were first married, a source of newlywed tension was our different approaches to washing dishes. My philosophy was to get them done right after dinner so I could have the rest of the night to "let down my hair." Michael would tell me he'd do the dishes, and he meant that he would, just later. I couldn't stand the mess, so I'd end up washing them myself. I've since been able to let this go, but it took a while.
What I didn't realize until recently is to what level these messes drive me bonkers. The other day our living room looked like a tornado had blown through. In this case, it was actually two cute ones, one named Ellie and the other named Hazel. There we were in the middle of puzzle pieces strewn about, along with toys, shoes, sweaters, backpacks, crayons, markers, and cut up scraps of paper, and I realized I was nagging. As soon as the girls dropped one activity and moved on to another, I began.
"Clean up those puzzle pieces."
"Sweep up those scraps you cut up all over the floor."
"Don't get out that toy until you pick up the other ones."
In my mind I was doing this because I want to teach them about cleaning up after themselves, that it's not OK to make huge messes and never clean up. And that's partly true, I'm sure. But I realized how much of this was because I couldn't stand the chaos. It was causing me stress because I was letting it.
Then I had an aha! moment. I need to just LET. IT. GO.
I have become a nagger and a yeller, and it's almost all related to cleaning up. So, I realized that if I held cleaning up messes a bit looser, I might find myself become a happier, less naggy mom. It also meant the girls could actually enjoy play time and the freedom to just be little kids making messes. What a novel thought. This doesn't mean we won't clean up afterwards, but it doesn't have to be the minute they are done playing.
We *might* not even clean up the same day. Confession: I have actually left messes out overnight, and even for days now.
The girls had a huge tea party upstairs in their new play area a few days ago. The dishes and food are still in the same spot they are in this picture:
We've been walking around them for a few days now. I've left them, partly as a reminder to just embrace the mess, and partly because I just haven't had the energy to get the girls to clean it up. I know at some point we'll get a burst of energy and do it. Until then, the mess remains. There are other little messes all over the house.
It helps that the majority of the girls' toys are now in this play area upstairs. What drove Michael and I the craziest was when our living space where we wanted to relax after bedtime routines was a mess. Now the majority of the mess is upstairs. We still pass it several times a day by our bedrooms, but it's a little easier to ignore.
With two girls I was able to manage the chaos, but I have realized quickly with a third that it's not sustainable to care so much about the toys and clothes all over the house. Feeding or rocking a screaming baby means I might just have to let the girls make huge messes. Yesterday while I was nursing Ruby the girls were playing in the dirt outside and were covered from head to toe in mud within a few minutes. I wasn't planning on doing baths, but they sort of gave me no choice. Yet another change that having three kids has produced. Currently, with Michael out of town, this philosophy is helping me survive a week alone with the girls. I'm embracing the chaos, letting the messes signify fun being had and not a source of stress.