I struggle with people pleasing.
I remember the first time someone I was uncomfortable with held my baby, and my people pleasing tendencies kept me silent. The visitor took a shaky step as she held my two-day-old baby. My postpartum anxiety rose in my throat, almost choked me as I watched, and tried to think of a nice way to ask her to give my baby back to my husband.
It was that day that I realized:
I needed to give up being a people pleaser.
Motherhood launches you straight into tough decision-making from the get-go. Do I go with a midwife or an OBGYN? Should I eat soft cheeses while pregnant or not? Will I have a natural birth or a medicated birth or a c-section? Do we have him circumcised or not? What about vaccines? Should I breastfeed or bottle feed? What about cry it out? Should I drink coffee while I am breastfeeding or not? Do I work or stay-at-home? Should we co-sleep?
And every mom has to make her best decision.
You can’t please everyone, when you’re a mom. You have to stick to your guns, raise your children in the way that you see is right, and say no to trying to please all the people everywhere.
Nowhere, have I learnt this lesson more fully, than in the state of my housekeeping.
It was a Monday, and I was feeling pretty good about my day. I had gotten up early, checked off my virtual assistant work, gone on a walk, played with Gideon all my morning, made a yummy lunch (meatball sliders with roasted green beans), put in a few hours cleaning out our closet while Gideon played with hangers, and I just sat down on the floor to stack blocks with him and watch TV.
Hubby’s been working long hours this summer, launching his new masonry business. As a result, I have had to while away twelve-hour days on the regular. I was beginning to fall into the pattern of turning on the TV too early and for too long, and so I made a new rule for myself not to touch the TV until 5. If, at 5, Saia was still gone than I would flip it on.
I was feeling pretty victorious about my day. I had woken up feeling grumpy, but through the restorative nature of exercise, a tough task accomplished, and a super productive day I was feeling much better. I had filled my time wisely, I had attempted an impossible task (cleaning out the closet), and I was present with Gideon too! I was winning at this motherhood thing!
I cranked the volume up on the TV and gave Gideon another veggie straw.
Then I heard it: a knock on the door.
Instantly I felt less sure of myself, who could it be? Did Saia leave his keys? Did delivery men come this late? Was I hearing things?
“Who is it?” I called down our stairs “It’s me, Auntie!” the voice called back.
“Okay, um, just a minute!” Within seconds I was rooting through the clean laundry, putting on a more appropriate shirt, putting a pair of shorts on Gideon, and pausing the blaring TV. I picked him up and glanced around–suddenly I didn’t see all the work I had put into that day. I saw the massive pile of clean laundry on the couch, the sink full of dishes, and my unwashed hair piled on top of my head. As I walked down our stairs I winced at the piles of stuff I’d brought in from the car and failed to carry up the stairs. I glanced at the box for Goodwill sitting lopsided near the entryway, and no longer saw the triumph of dejunking but the failure of another messy box sitting on the stairs.
I opened the door.
My aunt and uncle were dropping off a big bag of potatoes. A semi truck’s axle had broken, and there were 48,000 lbs of potatoes (!!) up for grabs. The family that owned the towing business was a part of our church, and word quickly spread. I laughed and chatted away, touching my rat’s nest hair lightly, wondering if I still had mascara pooling under my eyes, giving Gideon a quick glance to asses how he looked. My uncle climbed the stairs and dropped off the potatoes, my face blushed with the state of my home. Why, oh why wasn’t I better homemaker?
I closed the door, and walked up into my apartment and looked around. I took a deep breath. I looked once again at the pile of laundry–it was messy, but it was clean! At the toys scattered around–examples of a healthy little toddler’s imagination! At the dishes in the sink–the result of a healthy and frugal meal cooked at home! At my own rat nest hair–the ultimate mom bun!
In college, I maintained my 4.0 until I graduated. I loved the black and white nature of grades. I loved that I could put in the work, and see that A pop up on my report cards.
Grading myself has a mom comes less naturally. Somedays I feel like I have an A, other days I feel like I have a very large F.
And while I can tell myself that all that matters is that my baby boy is healthy and happy, the other things matter too. I want a home that runs efficiently, I want to be able to hear a knock on the door without feeling panic rise in my throat.
But it doesn’t start with decluttering or a regimented cleaning schedule. It starts with me. I have a tough time letting people see my imperfections (of which there are many). I like to appear like I have it together. I don’t like letting all the messes hang out for all the world to see.
I can’t be both a mother and a perfectionist. And between the two, I choose mother.
So drop by, my house won’t be perfect, my child might not be completely dressed, and I might not have showered today, but I can guarantee that there will be something good to eat. I am in the middle of messy motherhood, and that is my favorite place to be.