Dayscare

Shortly after I had Sloane I had my first freak-out about how fleeting maternity leave is. It was May 8, I had a 13 day old baby and it was already 1/12 over. That’s 8 percent done. Which seemed like an awfully big number in that moment. After that, every time I thought about going back to work I felt the anxiety squeeze my rib cage, quicken my breathing and send my pulse skyrocketing. So I made a deal with myself: I wouldn’t deal with daycare or even think about it until she was 6 months old. I deserved 6 months of burying my head in the sand.

Alas, just a couple weeks ago I decided it was finally time to face the music.

In an absolutely ideal scenario, I wouldn’t have to go back to work until Sloane was at least in pre-school, if not Kindergarten. Sadly, there are no Rockefellers in my family tree. In the second-to-ideal scenario, I could at least put off the inevitable until she turns 2. Still no Rockefellers. In the third-best situation, we would hire Mary Poppins herself to care for Sloane while I returned to work part-time. Sadly,  a no-go. In the fourth-to-ideal scenario, we put her in the care of a normal, reasonably priced daycare or day home while I return to work 4 days a week (3 if I can swing it without risking my job or losing too much of my salary in the deal). So this is where we are – and fourth best isn’t too bad when I’m well aware that there are about a thousand much less desirable scenarios that many less-lucky-than-me moms cope with. We are supremely lucky in myriad ways, not the least of which being that we live in a country with 12 month maternity leave, and that living with my reduced EI salary  for a full year is totally do-able.

Back to complaining. It’s not that I don’t want to work, but that I want to take care of my baby more. It’s not about mommy guilt or being overprotective. I do believe that there are plenty of qualified caretakers out there, I do want her to meet and socialize with a variety of people, and I don’t feel guilty about going back to work per se – I just like being with my kid. It really is that simple. But I do like what I do for a living and I won’t lie – there are things about going back to work that are incredibly appealing…like eating 2 meals a day without having to attend to a baby. Drinking coffee while it’s still hot. Not getting puked on. In fact, an average day at my office sounds like a vacation compared to the effort it takes to spend 12+ hours a day solely responsible for child care. So no, I don’t want to stay home because it’s easy – but because it’s important, rewarding, fun and meaningful work. Sometimes advertising is too (a lot of the time it’s not) but at no point has it (or will it ever be) more important to me than Sloane. Duh.

However, I also like earning a wage and contributing financially to the household. It would be a switch to rely on somebody else for my pocket money and while in theory I understand that it is “our” money, it’s something that I still struggle to get my head around. We’ve always been more of a “both parties kick in the cash” than a “let’s throw it all in a pool together” kind of couple, with our own credit cards and separate bank accounts. Obviously, our household contributions aren’t financially equal, given the grand canyon between our salaries, but it works somehow. If he’s paying the big Costco tab, I’m picking up the daily Safeway bill. If he’s paying rent, I’m paying the utilities (except when I forget, as you may recall.) Plus I like to think that what I lack in funds I make up for in sweat equity – like cooking the majority of the meals and keeping our daughter alive. And while I don’t mind using his (our) money to pay for the necessities of life, I would feel quite silly spending it at Sephora or to fund my Kindle one-click payment bills. Anyways, these are all secondary musings to the issue at hand. Daycare. See how good I am at avoiding it?

In my head (and often, out of my mouth) the story goes that I have to go back to work. That I don’t really have a choice. But of course there is a choice. I could choose not to go back to to work for a couple of years, putting the burden on my husband to be the sole income earner. We could skip vacations and cut back on evenings and meals out. We could keep renting where we are, indefinitely, or move to a more affordable neighbourhood in the suburbs that we don’t really love. We could get rid of one of our vehicles. There are lots of things we could do to financially cushion that decision. But would any of those things make me a happier mom? Make for a better marriage? Help us maintain a fun lifestyle and household? Reduce our daily stress? Increase our joy?

No. Which means that none of these things are ultimately what’s best for Sloane either. So even though the choice is ours to make, it would be foolish to make a choice that didn’t take the overall happiness of our whole family into account.

That decided, it’s time to get into the nitty gritty of choosing a childcare provider. Do you go daycare? Day home? Licensed? Approved? Private? What do all these things even mean?! Thankfully, I am a doggedly determined researcher, so sifting through all of the information and options is right up my alley – my lack of time to do so, notwithstanding.

There are so many pluses and minuses on both sides of the daycare/day home debate. On one hand for example, I like the structure, supervision and accountability of a daycare. But on the other hand, I don’t love the germs, the number of kids, the chaos and the institutional feel. And while day homes may be more cozy, attentive and personal, you have to be even more diligent about background checks, references, and experience/qualifications. With one caregiver in charge and no other adults watching to create “checks and balances” for proper conduct, you want to be damn sure you’ve chosen wisely. You want safety and security most of all…but you also want fun, stimulation and love to be a huge part of it. And then of course there is price to consider…it has to be worth going back to work, especially since I’m not dying to do so strictly for my own fulfillment.

So far we have visited (and waitlisted for) one daycare, with another one on the agenda for tomorrow morning. I only almost cried once (maybe twice) the first go-round, so I’m slowly building confidence in my ability to get through this with the appearance of being a sane, emotionally stable adult.

 

 

A Cat Confession

Last week I was ranting to my husband about needing to know the statistics on death by cat tripping at the top of the stairs.

This morning I got fired up again when one of the cats left a poop beside the litter box, because apparently the first of their twice-daily litter box scoopings was a touch too late for their liking.

Fellow pet lovers, rest assured: I still love my cats, care for them, and they are not going anywhere. I certainly don’t hate them, but I have to confess that post-baby, I’m not always feeling the crazy cat lady affection like I used to.

Taking care of a baby is a giant, time-consuming, energy-funneling undertaking. And some days, the cats seem like pushy, needy, messy things on my to-do list, instead of the joyful companions they have always been. I know it sounds horrible. But an outside-the-litter-box poop when you’ve just gotten the baby fed, changed, burped, and down to nap is spirit crushing. A cat incessantly head-butting you when you sit down to shove 5 bites of food in your mouth before the baby’s “mom is trying to eat” radar goes off can feel like an unwelcome interruption of the highest order. When a cat swerves under your feet for the 70th time that day, causing you to stumble and startle the baby you are clutching, I dare you not to feel at least a fleeting moment of rage. And the cat hair. My god, the cat hair! It’s one thing to lint roller yourself 5 times a day, but a whole other thing when you are rolling the baby, blankets, beds, carpets etc.

A quick Google search (and lots of personal anecdotes) suggest that these ugly feelings of post-parental pet annoyance are shockingly common. There are literally dozens of articles with titles like, “I used to love my cat and dog, then I had a baby”, “I had a baby and now my dog is driving me nuts” or, “My Cats Were My World Before I Had Kids, Now I Forget They Exist”. A common thread running  through each one, is some variation on the assertion that – at one time – the author’s pet was their baby. Not even like their baby. Their actual baby.

Lately, I can’t push away the uneasy feeling that maybe this is part of the problem. Pets are an amazing part of the home and of a family, but they are not children – nor, I reckon, should they be. But when we welcome pets into our home years (or decades) before kids enter the picture, we throw ourselves into caring for them, and about them, with a zealous passion. We do this because we can – because we have the time, money, energy and space to do so. In and of itself, it isn’t a problem. If you have the skill and the inclination, knock yourself out knitting your cat booties and cooking for your dog. Hell, set him a place setting at the dining room table. But if and when things need to change – whether because of a human addition to the family, financial hardship, or maybe an illness or injury – it’s okay to take them off the pedestal they probably didn’t need to be on in the first place.

The thing is, it’s going to feel like it’s not okay, because it’s such a downshift in the dynamic. When your pet gets demoted from beloved “fur baby” (honestly, is there a worse term?) to barely tolerated bum, you’re gonna feel guilty – and we all know moms specialize in guilt. A big problem for shelters and animal welfare organizations is that at this point, some people begin to feel like they are better to give up their animal than to provide it with what they perceive as second-rate care. Rescue organizations point out that in most cases, this is misguided and the animal is just fine in its current home. We don’t need to surrender our pets just because we can’t keep them in the (spoiled?) lifestyle to which they’ve become accustomed. We might if there is an allergy or aggression issue, but that is an entirely different scenario.

Now….I began writing this 2 months ago (so when I said “last night” and “this morning” at the top of the post, it was a bit of a fib). Sidebar: Did you know that Stephen King wrote all 200,000 or so words of The Shining in around 4 weeks? Yes, I feel sufficiently inadequate. WHATEVER, he also did a ton of cocaine at the time. ANYWAYS, the interesting thing is that my attitude has already started to come around. I feel less overwhelmed and irritated by them now and Sloane is starting to enjoy them as well, which totally helps. So if you’re in the thick of this situation now, I’d say give it some time. Like most things with a newborn, it won’t be this crazy forever.

We have to get some perspective and realize that it’s okay to let some things slide without feeling too bad about it. Especially when you have a helpless little human and your own mental health to worry about first and foremost. At the worst of it, our cats were still getting great food, good care, warm shelter, brushing and had treats and toys. They just weren’t getting unlimited attention and their picture uploaded daily to instagram. This is unquestionably better than the life they would have had on the street or in a shelter.

One day when your baby can’t stop giggling at your cat, you just might start to feel it again too, and the cat will have a whole new servant to recruit onto its staff.

PS – Kim, if you’re reading this, I’m not gonna keep posting in time for your morning coffee if you don’t text me gushing compliments every time. Just FYI.

It could totally happen.

I was reading an article about this crazy rash of fentanyl overdoses lately – a BC town experienced 9 overdoses in 20 minutes one evening earlier this month because people unknowingly bought fentanyl-laced cocaine. Anyways, one victim’s mom said, “you just never think this kind of thing will happen to your kid.”

To which I replied: REALLY?! REALLY!? (Please picture Seth and Amy’s Weekend Update delivery of this line, because I couldn’t get the freakin’ GIF To embed here)

Who are these moms who don’t think this kind of horrible stuff could happen to them / their kid?! I think EVERY kind of thing could happen. Every freak accident, every obscure disease, every unprecedented animal attack, every bizarre addiction, every atypical disorder, every unthinkable crime, every rare insect bite…

So yeah, I might be crazy. At least I have a highly developed sense of imagination. I can thank my mother for that. She never just vaguely worried that I would “get hurt”, she worried that I would come home alone, late at night…minus 30, biting north wind…I slip on ice and break my ankle…realize I don’t have my house key or cell phone….and freeze to death alone on my front walk. Thanks, ma. I can only hope that if Sloane inherits this worrying habit from her maternal side, she uses her powers to fuel creativity rather than intensely detailed bouts of paranoia.

One Big Thing

In my vast body of experience (8 whole weeks) as a mom, I’ve learned One Big Thing.

Literally.

It’s not just one lesson, it’s that my whole earth-shattering, paradigm-shifting, rays of light filtering through the clouds while angel choirs sing theory/mantra is actually called: One Big Thing. Or OBT for those trying to peck out a blog post on their iPad in bed.

You’ve probably noticed that newly minted moms will tell you that they can’t get anything done since they had the baby. That whole days just slip away and all their best pre-mat-leave intentions of productivity go out the window. That they are lucky to even manage the time to shower or get dressed with a newborn constantly demanding care and attention.

This is kinda true and kinda untrue. It’s true that I’m busier on the day-to-day than I’ve ever been in my life, as I imagine most moms find themselves. Newborns are unpredictable, time-sucking, relentlessly needy tyrants. The Devil may wear Prada but he/she also surely wears Pampers. This is the truth. It may seem ridiculous to suggest that an immobile lump of baby can run you ragged, but this is also the truth. There have been days where I hit my 10,000 step FitBit goal (all hail FitBit) WITHOUT LEAVING THE HOUSE. It’s a lot, but as for the moms who genuinely can’t find the time to shower/dress, they just need an intervention…put the baby down in a safe place for five minutes, and back away slowly into the nearest bathroom. Baby will survive, I promise.

But what I’ve learned is that when most women say they can’t get ANYTHING done, it actually just means they can’t do EVERYTHING. Because we are suddenly not able to do every single thing we are used to accomplishing in our normally structured, multi/tasking, to-do list driven lives, we feel like we are flailing – if not outright failing, when in fact we are just screwing ourselves over and then beating ourselves up for it.

This is where OBT comes in. The sooner you accept the fact that on any given day during the first few months of your new child’s life you can only accomplish OBT, the better.

One. Big. Thing.

You wanna take baby to the zoo? Great! That is what you will do today. You will not also go out to dinner, and exchange something at the mall, and go to a doctor’s appointment. You will go to the zoo and then get back home in two pieces (you and baby) and that’s all she wrote. You wanna go swimming? Awesome! You can splash and play to your heart’s content. Here’s what you can’t do: any fucking thing else. There will be no errands or visits from friends or boot camp classes before or after the pool. Dinner out at a restaurant tonight? Fab idea. Now go ahead and take a knee until the clock strikes 6 pm, because your dance card is full, my friend.

Because of course you’ll be doing a ton of other stuff too. A gazillion little micro-actions of feeding, burping, wiping, pacing, rocking and cooing, natch. But my OBT rule also allows for adult meals and what we’ll call maintenance – of both self and home. With OBT, I can maintain order by keeping on top of my mess/dishes/laundry, be presentable (this includes taking a proper shower/bath with things like leg shaving, bubbles and letting the conditioner soak in for 5 minutes while you listen to a podcast) as well as pulling off a reasonable facsimile of “done” hair and makeup. The meals part entails eating a half-assed breakfast and lunch, grocery shopping and throwing together a simple “real” dinner. All of this, plus OBT is totally do-able. Anything more is insanity. Trust.

Before OBT, back in the early days when I thought I could still do ABOS (a bunch of shit) like normal, things got out of hand. At the end of the day I’d be stressed out, tired and hungry – and have a baby to match. You can do ABOS, but something has got to give. And a day where you haven’t eaten, tidied, showered, snuggled or rested enough with a newborn is not a good day. And potentially, not a good night or next day either, because you never know when baby is going to decide to party all night long. Babies don’t give a fuck that you had ABOS to do and overdid it yesterday. One day of trying to be superwoman can end up fucking you for two, maybe three, days – it’s the ultimate hangover.

So whenever you catch yourself wanting to say yes to a secondary plan or tempted to tack on an extra activity, chore or side trip to an existing excursion, just repeat the mantra “I’m down with OBT” and politely decline and resist the urge.

All of this is not to say that you have to do OBT every day. In fact, you probably shouldn’t try or expect to, because this is yet another way of screwing yourself over. You and baby will have – and want – days where you just want to hold and be held. A phenomenon known as “Velcro baby” (thanks again, Nicole G.). For example, the day my visiting in-laws returned home after a busy two weeks culminating in a long weekend road trip to a wedding, I drank iced tea and watched HGTV while rocking my baby for a solid 5 hours. On these days you will have nothing to show for your time but a baby who is warm, fed, loved and reasonably clean. And this, it has to be said, is more than enough – explained more eloquently than I ever could in this excerpt from an article by Anne Rust: 

So what are you doing all day? Not much that can be measured, really. You’re simply responding appropriately and with patience (through fatigue), to smiles, to tears, to hunger cues, and to drowsiness, teaching your baby how to navigate this complex and (to a baby) highly emotional and raw world. You are keeping your baby clean, which on some days involves more costume changes (for both of you) than any non-mother can begin to fathom. You are teaching a tiny, helpless person all about the world—at least the important parts, like how we treat each other and what it means to be connected to a family. You are creating a foundation of love and trust between you and your baby, one that will help you set your parenting compass, inform your future interactions, and provide a basis for the way your child relates to the larger world. You may be breastfeeding your baby—another time consuming task (though once established, it takes less time than bottle feeding) that reaches forward through time to heal and protect your child, and simultaneously reduces your risk of disease. Oh, and you’re becoming a mother. It started the day your baby was conceived, and it continues beyond birth. Your baby is stretching and growing into this new body, and you are too.

But that’s about it, really. That’s your day.

Our culture doesn’t have a good way to measure what you are accomplishing. Your baby will grow and meet milestones: check. But to the untrained eye most of this work, at the end of the day, will look like nothing.

But we know better.

There is no greater task than the nothing you did yesterday, the nothing you are doing today, and the nothing you will do tomorrow. Caring for a baby is all about the immediate experience, yet the first two years are all about investment. It’s give, give, give, and give some more. These are hard-fought, rough-and-tumble years that can cut us down to our core and take us soaring high above the clouds, all in the space of 5 minutes. And yes, as you do the hardest work of your life, it will seem like you’re not getting anything done at all. Crazy, huh?

But here’s where it gets interesting: As much as you need and want a break now (and you should take one, more on that later), no mother has ever looked back on this time and thought, “I wish I had held my baby less.” You will not remember the dishes that didn’t get done, the vacuuming that you just couldn’t make happen, or the dirty clothes you wore more often than you’d like to admit. You will remember the first smile, the first belly laugh, the first words, the first steps. You will remember the way you looked at your baby, and the way your baby looked at you.

So the next time you find yourself wondering how another day is gone and nothing is done, stop. Hold your baby—feel the way that tiny body strains to contain this giant soul—complete, and full of potential all at the same time. Take a deep, slow breath. Close your eyes and measure your day not as tasks, but as feelings, as sounds, as colors. Exhaustion is part of it. And it’s true, you will get “nothing” done. But the hard parts will fade. The intense, burning love is what remains, and it is yours to keep forever.

 

 

Baby and Body: Month 1 Surprises

Big picture-wise, it turns out I wasn’t terribly delusional about what having a new baby in the house would be like. By and large, it’s been how I envisioned the experience to be – for better and for worse – just fleshed out in vivid colour and detail.

But as always, it’s the little things that sneak up on you.

The bleeding. Again, with the bleeding to lead off a post. After nine months of missed periods, your body makes up for it with the heaviest, longest period of your life. Asshole. Yup, even if you delivered via c-section you will still have to shed blood, mucous and uterine lining. A delightful trifecta called lochia because everything pertaining to your body, pregnancy and childbirth has to be the grossest sounding word possible – and it lasts for 4-6 weeks. It’s actually shocking how much you bleed at first. Sort of a steady stream with the occasional gush (especially when you nurse or when you get up after sitting or lying down for a while). Oh! And clots! Mustn’t forget those. Isn’t this a pretty and poetic post?

the afterpains. Turns out, contractions don’t end just because labour is over. Your uterus still has to shrink back down to its pre-baby size and does so by continuing to contract for 10 days to two weeks. Personally, I only noticed it for the first week or so, again, particularly when I was nursing. It’s weird – and almost a little bit triggering – to feel like the nightmare most beautiful experience of your life is starting all over again.

The tranquilizer dart effect. everybody warned me (with regards to breastfeeding) about being crazy thirsty and to arm myself with a giant water bottle. This has been true, I drink an unreal amount of ice water out of a spill-proof adult-sized sippy cup now, but it’s the insta-NyQuil effect that caught me off guard. I just realized that it doesn’t really happen any more, but for the first couple of weeks I’d be nodding off like a junkie the instant the baby latched on.

the adrenaline rush. I’m here to tell you that “sleep when the baby sleeps” is the biggest crock of shit ever. It may be good advice, but it’s not realistic. Not that I wasn’t tired, I was fucking exhausted a lot of the time, but I wasn’t sleepy. I was absolutely wired. For like, a solid week, I couldn’t slow my brain or my body down. There are scab-covered meth users taking apart old VCRs who are more chilled out than I was. There was CONSTANTLY something I needed or wanted to be doing for the baby, around the house, or for myself. I had to keep consciously telling myself, “you just had surgery” and it still didn’t stop me from cleaning my house.

And the truth is, in the twenty minute intervals when you’re not looking after baby or doing chores, sometimes you just want to have a bath, text a friend or browse Instagram to feel human and connected to the outside world instead of taking a pointlessly short nap. At one point I read a list of postpartum psychosis warnings signs and “feeling no need for sleep” was on there…as you can imagine, that really helped calm me down.

the crying hour. This refers to the hour of day at which I would spontaneously (but predictably) cry – not to crying for a whole hour. Because that would be crazy, obvs. This was quick and dirty…clock strikes 9 pm, bawl for 10 minutes, done. Like actual clockwork. And it wasn’t out of sadness or even frustration (though I did that too at times) this was just a sheer overflowing of emotion that needed to be released through the old eyeball valves. I would just look at Sloane and suddenly couldn’t stand how beautiful she was. The one thought I had over and over was, “nobody deserves something so nice.” It sounds so dumb now, and certainly not very poignant, but it was all I had.

the insatiable hunger. I have never been hungrier in my life than I was in the week after having a baby. Granted, in my case I had gone through something like a 24 hour fast followed by a couple days of barely eating. And breastfeeding makes you ravenous on top of all that. The first few nights we had her at home I was up multiple times in the middle of the night shoving whatever was handy in my mouth. Entire cans of Pringles were consumed in bed. I ate things like chocolate croissants (note the plural) and hot chocolate with whipped cream for breakfast. And I didn’t feel one tiny bit bad for it either.

the other craving. The same hormone that starts your contractions and gets your milk flowing also helps you bond to your baby. That oxytocin is a multitasking motherfucker. It not only helps you feel attached to – and in love with – your baby, but it also creates intense desire for further contact…effectively causing you to become addicted to your baby. I had heard this, but of course didn’t really get it until she was born and I found that I physically craved holding her. I would also smell her – like, really smell her – taking giant whiffs of her head.

I recently read Amy Poehler’s “Yes Please” and there’s a part where she says of her two boys, “I swear, if I could eat my children, I would. I’d consume them like some beast in a Hieronymus Bosch painting, but in a friendlier, more momlike way. Their little bodies make me salivate. It takes everything I have not to swallow them whole.”

That about sums it up.

Even when I was near my baby constantly, if she was in her stroller or car seat, after a while I would need to touch and cuddle her body-to-body to satisfy the urge. Doing so felt strikingly similar to the sensation of something like lighting up a cigarette after a long plane ride. One night, when I had gone for an actual nap and left Sloane and Andrew downstairs, I woke up and called down the stairs that I was awake and ready for him to bring her up to me. I went back to the bed, and in the (maybe) 5 whole minutes it took them to come upstairs I lost my mind. What was taking them so long?! I need my baby…Right. Now. By the time they got to me I had tears streaming down my face and could barely choke out, “I just missed you guys so much”. It’s crazy town. Of course, it was also around 9pm ish…

 

Herding cats for public health

Here’s a fun thing. The day after you bring your brand new baby home from the hospital – when you feel and look the worst and craziest you probably ever have or ever will – a Public Health Nurse will come to your house for a mandatory visit and check-up. As this hilarious article alludes to, it feels like their sole purpose is to “make sure you are feeling sufficiently isolated, overwhelmed and confused.”

As my friend Wendy describes it, it’s like taking a test you can’t study for and don’t know the answers to. Sort of like living out one of those anxiety dreams where you show up for the future-deciding final exam and realize that you didn’t go to class all semester.

So it begins with the gratingly chipper phone call at 10 am, asking if it’s okay to come by at 11.

Me: Sounds great. (let’s get this over with)
Her: Do you have any animals in the house?
Me: Yes, we have two cats. (shit monsters)
Her: I’m going to need them to be locked away in a separate room before I can enter your home; It’s policy. 
Me: Uh, I can’t really do that because I had a c-section and I’m not supposed to be going up and down stairs. (much less running around, peering under beds/chairs, trying to get both cats – one of whom is double the weight of the baby and therefore I’m not even allowed to lift him – into a second-floor bedroom)
Her: Ah right, ohhhhhkay, well can you come down to our office then?
Me: Nope, I can’t drive either…again, I had a c-section three days ago.
Her: Um, okayyyy, well should we send a cab for you then?
Me: Get fucked, lady. 
Like hell I’m taking my brand new baby for a spin in the back of a filthy cab to a public health clinic. And also, who pays for that? Me? Or does taxpayer money fund the taxi rides so public health nurses can avoid killer cats?
Of course what I actually said was: I guess what would work best for me is if you could give me some extra time so I can get my mom to come over and take care of securing the cats…and she was all, oh could you?! That would be wonderful!
Yeah, it sounds fantastically convenient. For you. Not for the fucking patient who has a 3- day old baby and staples in her bikini line.
Hang up. Call my mom as baby starts crying. Explain situation.
Hang up again.
Ding Dong! I shit you not…there are two Jehovah’s Witnesses at my door. To be fair, I actually have a strangely good relationship with my friendly neighbourhood Jehovahs…we chat, they know my name, they hand me their pamphlets and they promptly skedaddle. But seriously. So I say, “listen Karen, I just brought my baby home from the hospital and as you can hear I have my hands full…” She more than graciously fucks off. God bless. Or, Jehovah bless. 
I even kept the pamphlets to prove this really happened.
Jehovah

Will suffering ever end? Will this public health nurse ever leave? One wonders…

So ANYWAYS. The public health nurse is actually pleasant enough, until we are discussing breastfeeding and she asks me some oddly-phrased question (randomly back-tracking to what my boobs were like during my pregnancy, as it turns out) and I have absofuckinglutely no idea what she is talking about. So I sort of tilt my head look to the side, considering what she could be getting at…and she says, “We’re going to have to turn that TV off if you’re just going to keep getting distracted by it!”
Which confuses me even more – because I certainly wasn’t watching TV, I was trying to process her stupid question – so it took me a few beats to wrap my head around this statement as well. I kept looking back and forth between her and my mom with an expression that I can only imagine was a combination of “huh?” and “I’m going to lunge across this couch and strangle this woman!!” as I stammer out a, “sorry, I didn’t understand your question.”
Then she laughs and says, “oh honey, I’m just teasing you.”
UMMMM, maybe DON’T tease your hormonal, doped-up, postpartum clients?!
Just a thought.

 

Binging on Purging

There’s a book that almost everyone seems to have read, that keeps popping up on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Goodreads lately, called, The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing.

Since it’s a #1 New York Times bestseller, I guess nearly everybody has read it. And although I haven’t – I’m more than willing to vouch for what it stands for.

Purging, organizing and cleaning a houseful of shit is indeed life-changing.

The problem we had gotten into (besides getting knocked up and needing to create a bedroom and play space for a tiny new freeloader) is a common one, I think. We had both spent our twenties mindlessly accumulating our own “treasures”, as well as the left-behind remnants of various roommates, before moving in together and not throwing out nearly enough stuff. And then, you know, we bought a bunch more crap together. And still didn’t throw enough away.

We just kept stowing and shoving and shuffling things into nooks and crannies in an olllld (1911) house with not nearly enough storage space. And when you truly don’t have “a place for everything”, it’s really hard to adhere to the second half of that wise old adage about keeping “everything in its place.” So there’s overflow. Random crap accumulates on spare beds, counters and tables, things come in the door and hang out on the ledge there for-fucking-ever. Shoes spill into the living room from the doorway and things like golf-bags, yoga mats and Rock Band hang out beside your fireplace. it’s madness. And then you lose your mind. Or I do, anyways. Because there comes a point when you can’t properly clean up unless you have a place to clean to–so you just end up re-stacking the same old shit. And shit stacked a different way is still stacks of shit. Your space doesn’t look or function any better, because it isn’t.

Hence the need for a massive overhaul. Which – despite the deceptively lightweight-sounding phrase “tidying up” – is exactly what this book is about.

From the inside cover blurb:

Despite constant efforts to declutter your home, do papers still accumulate like snowdrifts and clothes pile up like a tangled mess of noodles?

Japanese cleaning consultant Marie Kondo takes tidying to a whole new level, promising that if you properly simplify and organize your home once, you’ll never have to do it again. Most methods advocate a room-by-room or little-by-little approach, which doom you to pick away at your piles of stuff forever. The KonMari Method, with its revolutionary category-by-category system, leads to lasting results. In fact, none of Kondo’s clients have lapsed (and she still has a three-month waiting list).

With detailed guidance for determining which items in your house “spark joy” (and which don’t), this international bestseller featuring Tokyo’s newest lifestyle phenomenon will help you clear your clutter and enjoy the unique magic of a tidy home—and the calm, motivated mindset it can inspire.

It is that one thought about being “doomed to pick away at your piles of stuff forever” that had me so stressed out a couple months ago. After many half-assed false starts, I just couldn’t see a way out of the clutter, short of a full-scale, slash and burn attack.

So that is exactly what we did. Taking a “toss first and tidy later” tactic, we earmarked items for disposal and put a “dumpster in a bag” on the front lawn, which ended up being so laughably small that it served as nothing more than a flattened general target area. Loads of clothing went to Goodwill, some items went to last-minute Kijiji takers, some to walk- or drive-by scavengers and the rest to the blessed angels at  1-800-JUNK. Doing God’s work, they are. Not to say they do it cheap.

Another angel in the mix was my brother-in-law Greg, who came down to help us out. The extra muscle was essential given that I am a useless heavy item mover (always, not just in my pregnant state) and having three sets of hands on the task really did help make short work of it. Over one weekend, we were able to accomplish all of our major cleaning and reorganizing goals and it was positively exhilarating (hey, when you can’t drink, it doesn’t take much to thrill you). But really, I do think that getting it all done in one shot so the full effect of the transformation was immediately visible (like an episode of Hoarders!) was the key to my cleaner’s high. Even the cats seemed stoked about exploring their newly expanded territory.

With our remaining stuff neatly stowed and storage space to spare,  I spent the next couple of weeks tackling the few remaining smaller tasks that became icing on the cake, instead of just a drop in the bucket as they would’ve been before the Great Purge of 2016. Plus, we were able to happily accommodate the influx of Baby Ranger necessities and are all ready house-wise for her arrival! We intend to let her believe that her parents have always been meticulous housekeepers.

Who knows, maybe one day I’ll actually get around to reading the book that inspired this post.