Thursday, April 14, 2011

Cleaning Up My Act..A Widowed Parent Makes Some Tough Choices

Cleaning was always an issue for me even before my husband died. As a child I was not the best at keeping my room clean. I got better in college when I had less space. I kept a small apartment so I wouldn’t have much to clean. During my marriage, whenever I got depressed about my husband's health, cleaning the house, much to his frustration was the first thing to go. Energy is required for me to clean and if I had any it was very little and I spent it elsewhere.

I'd vacuum twice weekly, do laundry weekly and clean the kitchen when I used it and that was about it. Now, without him here to stay on me about it, on top of grieving him, well you can imagine. Grieving is exhausting and grieving as a parent is an up and down road. My children are both the light of my life and the most pressure on my heart. They energize me and drain me. My son has a healing touch, an amazing smile, likes to get kisses and gives them back. He has also had some health issues that have taken a lot out of me physically and emotionally. My daughter is the funniest person I know. She's witty and smart and will love you to the end of the earth. She has also had school issues that despite her being only in 2nd grade have me on edge. Got help with her at Sylvan, and even though they are earning that money, they are far from free. Just trying to figure out how to keep everyone sane, work everyday and oh yeah, grieve, I had so little left. You also have to shop to clean and cook…more energy I didn't have.

Then add to it things breaking, like my vacuum cleaner and my steam mop. The vacuum cleaner I wanted cost $180 so time kept going and going and other expenses kept keeping me from getting the vacuum cleaner I wanted. An immediate mess I'd get the dust buster out and I'd go over the carpet with an older vacuum I had that only half worked. I mopped the non-carpeted floors, with a regular dip and wring routine, but it was far from efficient.

Laundry also became an issue. I'd buy more underwear and socks for us to avoid doing it. I did laundry every week, but just the new stuff I bought and as soon as we took clothes off, I'd wash and dry them, while 7 loads of laundry sat upstairs.

Then, there was take-out food. I've been in and out of control of the drive-thru monster for a long time. There were months where I put dinner on the table 5 of 7 days and then months where my daughter would be shocked and disappointed when I said we were going home to eat.

It's not uncommon. I have a friend who was widowed 7 years ago and she said her dad eventually hired someone to clean her house. Speaking of dads, another widow said her dad simply said to her: “Eventually you will get tired of it and clean it up.” Her dad is right. I got tired of it, especially when my son got 2 respiratory viruses in one month. Then I started noticing my daughter doing things like leaving her backpack right in the middle of the floor literally dropping it as soon as she got inside the front door or leaving her shoes at the bottom of the steps on her way to her room and her bedroom just being a big mess and I got scared.

I knew I couldn't tell her to clean her room when I wasn't cleaning the rest of the house. Plus she started letting go of other good habits she had and talking with her revealed she saw no need to continue those things in our house, but would at her Godparents' house, which was much more organized than ours. She was also getting very used to the take-out food to the point that whenever I said I was going to cook, she'd cry and it was becoming very hard to get her to eat anything other than a cheeseburger, pizza or chicken nuggets, things her pediatrician assured me her body can handle and burn off since she's active, but my body at 38 years-old, not so much. In short, I was already tired, so how much more difficult was life going to be if I didn’t change things. It’s difficult to get a 7 year-old to cooperate. How much more difficult would it be with a 10 year-old.

I thought to myself, how tough is this? How unfair is this? My reaction is totally normal, yet if I don’t try to do something different I could be setting myself up for a more difficult road ahead and not necessarily but possibly putting a bad stamp on my child’s future or at least her teens. My daughter is 7 years-old. She doesn’t see the house is a mess because mom is tired and grieving. She sees, “Whoopee, mom is messy so that must mean I can be messy too.” What was I going to do. Oh, crap, where are the big girl pants?

I'm starting to come out of it, but unlike the other times I tried to come out of it, I'm being more patient with myself. I'm doing it more slowly…kind of like we're advised to break most habits, that is, in moderation. My husband had a real sweet tooth and every now and then he'd try to quit sweets "cold turkey". Well, just by me saying he quit cold turkey every now and then is indication of how well that went for him.

I'd already proven I couldn't make these changes cold turkey so I'm going slowly. Eventually said "Screw it" and got a $40 vacuum cleaner. One journey over the downstairs and had to empty the container. Instead of the $100 steam mop I wanted, I got a $20 Swiffer wet jet.

Over a period of weeks, I got caught up with the laundry. I used to joke to myself that it was too bad we couldn't go around naked until it was all done. Instead of trying to do 4 loads on a Saturday, I started doing a load every other day, even if I didn't get it put away or even folded. When I finally got caught up on the laundry, I found clothes my son outgrew while they were dirty. My daughter now has 50 pairs of undies, 30 pairs of socks and I've duplicated some of my son’s pjs. I have too many pairs of socks and underwear to fit in the drawer they go in now. There's still a big pile of dry-cleaning, but after taking in a large amount one week and not going back for it for 3 months, I'm thinking maybe 2 to 3 pieces at a time would be better.

I'm going to work my way back to cooking most nights a little more slowly this time. We had spaghetti last night and it was comforting, the sounds our forks made in the plates, sitting at the table with them. I felt a sense of accomplishment. Took what I had left to clean up afterwards and I wanted to stop several times, but something else helps. After not using it the entire time I was married (not sure why) I started using our dishwasher. So after wiping away the left over sauce, and putting the leftover food in the fridge, I put everything in there. Then was able to wash the tray for my son's high chair, wipe off the stove and table before plopping into a chair in the family room.

I've also bought that daily shower cleaner spray and taught my daughter to shower so I don't have to clean a tub every night and I either bathe my son in the sink or take him into the shower with me. I know he's a boy, but he was nursing just 3 months ago, so this will work for a minute or two.

I do need to call a furniture removal company to take some things away so I can set up my son's nursery. To keep me from taking too long to do that, I'm going to a local store to put his bed on 90 day lay-away. That way I put myself on a timetable to clear that room for his stuff.

To help with the energy I need for all this, as mentioned in another entry, I'm working a wholeness plan for us. I just started, but my daughter is already sleeping better and having better dreams and I'm feeling more capable. I do know I am not alone in this. I'll probably be taking a combination of paths I’ve read about to make one for myself, but unlike some other things, this particular part, might not be in my own time. Maybe that’s for the best. One thing my pastor’s wife says to me a lot is, “Don’t beat yourself up over anything”. And I’m trying to apply that. I can admit that (not beating myself up) is an area where I consistently failed over most of my life so far; but, I can clearly see that I do much better when I try to be kinder to me.

1 comment:

  1. Great job! I couldn't imagine what you are going through. Your Pastor's wife is right, don't beat yourself up. You do what you can, a little at a time. Your daughter will get with the program as you move along and that is what you do...keep moving.