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Friday, January 4, 2013

Life on the Split: confessions of a rebellious woman

I have been revolting against being a full-time mother -- and all of its accompanying responsibilities -- by laying my disorganization at the feet of my ex and my children instead of taking ownership of it myself.

Yet I see myself capable of going more deeply into motherhood than I am now. But I fear if I give my all to the most important thing in my life, my children, I will lose myself; I, the professional woman will become irrelevant.

Ladies, sound familiar?

Let me digress a moment. Of late I’ve been reclaiming the ground in my home (no longer “our home” after 5+ years of divorce.) The chaos of the time seems to be waning, but a new one – the rebellion of my children – is looming.

This is my feminist *existential struggle. This is the struggle of all women: finding the balance of career and personal expression with the nurturing of family and maintaining a loving home. It’s living on the split between yourself and yourself. Exhausting ground. And housework is the first thing I want to cut and neglect. That and household finances.

And yet.

Recognizing I am exhausted, I have allowed time for myself to lapse, to drift, to a fallow time that is both frightening and needed. Finding my new footing in this dance called life mustn’t be rush. So I find time to do things like reorganizing the kitchen and cleaning my children’s rooms for them. Time that feels indulgently spent while at the same time feeling oppressive and never-ending.

Reorganizing my kitchen was inspired by opening my new gift from my mother – over and over again. The new bottom-storage fridge made me think twice about remodeling the room’s organization, so I installed a pot rack and spoon hooks, made the nook into a craft room/homework table. Utensils and pots are gradually finding their new homes and bread is starting to live in the shiny new breadbox.
So tonight I started by cleaning out the icebox, then I turned my attention to the Tupperware cupboard.

(Yes Son, this is the mysterious activity I do when you are away. Clean and write.)

I’m down on my knees organizing the Tupperware cupboard finding homes for each lid, each container. I I take care to be sure all are matching. Culling the homeless lids and casting them into the hall cupboard to rest until I clean that out soon. I’m paying attention to how it feels to do the job. I’m practicing mindful housecleaning which allows me to have an epiphany. I need to teach these kinesthetic kids by example. (Duh.)

Teach by example

I set the standard for order, calm and organization. If I don't work hard at it myself, how can I expect them to? Instead of blaming others, I can pull up my bootstraps in this New Year and strive for a different kind of perfection. One where balance and harmony reign. Dramatic cuts will be made in some areas while restorative activities will need to be increased in others. Intentional living.

I can do it without complaining because I am showing by doing and they are learning by living it. This feels right for living it needs to happen for a kinesthetic child to learn it. They need to see how it’s done now that they have been taught how it’s done and lived with doing it for five years.

So a radical idea hit me. Instead of having them do chores, I will free them from doing them. I will not criticize their contributions  should they volunteer, but I will quietly rearrange and pick up while they are in school. I will do it the way that feels right. Do I have the energy to do it? Will they learn anything or will I benefit mainly from household peace and order?

So ride with me down the path a bit here. Will this plan work?  I'm taking bets it will.  I hope you’ll vote.

QUESTION 1: How long until they ask what's up?
QUESTION 2: How long will I hold out until they have to do chores again?
QUESTION 3: What should I tell them?
This plan could be a lot more complicated. Every little detail could be all thought out. But I think it's better to wing it a bit. Lord knows I’m the mistress of complexity and tend to overdo that. Besides, I’m always reserving the right to hold on. Wouldn't you? And if I lean into mindful living and acceptance, I'll bet they learn from that too. And that, my friends, is a lesson not to be discounted.

*Existentialism, n.  is the philosophical and cultural movement which holds that the starting point of philosophical thinking must be the experiences of the individual, and that moral and scientific thinking together do not suffice to understand human existence, so a further set of categories, governed by "authenticity", is necessary to understand human existence. ("Authenticity", in the context of existentialism, is being true to one's own personality, spirit, or character.) Wikipedia. I’ll be making a contribution to Wikipedia in appreciation of the definition of existentialism. Will you join me?