Thursday, March 28, 2013

If life gives you limes, make margaritas

Over the last few years I've been told by several doctors that I have the blood pressure of Lance Armstrong.

I suppose this is a good thing since I don't currently, nor have I ever, taken steroids recreationally or otherwise. Perhaps it also means that I, too, can win the Tour de France, which would be amazing since being athletic has always been low on my list of priorities, somewhere between dusting my window blinds and putting new batteries in my dying remote.

What confuses me is that if I've got the blood pressure to theoretically win the Tour de France, then why can't I cope well whenever J messes up with household chores? You'd think I'd have the steely nerves of a two-time gold-medal winner when J forgets to clean the cat litter box (his job, not mine), take out the trash, put out the recycling or wash Ava's bottles. And regarding the latter, I get that my "job" (since I no longer hold a traditional one) is to take care of Ava, but there is an unsaid rule in our house that when we're both at home, it's all hands on deck when it comes to the baby.

But lately, I have been completely wigging out when something he's responsible for doing hasn't been done. I'm talking veins-pulsating-out-of-neck, eyes-seeing-red, practically-breathing-fire wigging out. He gets upset, which makes me more upset, we argue, and I go to bed pissed and misunderstood. And for what? Because he left a few empty water bottles on the kitchen counter before he called it a night? I really need to get a grip.

Keeping our house (or previously, our apartments) clean has never been our strong suit. We were both busy with other things, and while we didn't live in squalor, we were fine with the cluttered coffeetable, chaotic dining table, clothing on our bedroom floor and kitchen sink always half full of dirty dishes. It was just the way it was. We'd try and pick up as much as possible (i.e., once every couple weeks), but found we'd rather spend time doing other things together when we had free time, like grabbing a coffee and strolling around downtown, catching a movie, or curling up on the couch together to talk about our hopes and dreams. Also, it was disheartening when we could actually clean and two days later the place was right back to what it looked like before. Two Oscar Madisons do not a Felix Unger make.

With Ava's arrival, though, clutter suddenly seems to bother me. A lot. And as much as I want to blame J for our disorderly house, I know that I'm just as much at fault. I thought keeping an organized, clean house was hard before, but now with Ava it's like trying to keep our heads above water during a monsoon storm in Phuket.

We don't have the money to hire a housekeeper the way that my other mom friends do (mostly because we're trying to make 2013 the Year We Pay Off All Our Credit Card Debt), so it's up to us to stop being lazy and start picking up after ourselves. If not for us, then for Ava (and if not for Ava, then for our mental sanity). The problem is we're still that couple that thinks it's okay to leave a crumpled receipt here or a dirty dish there. After a few days of this, it gets out of control and we wonder how it happened.

When I'm not out running around or home writing slash playing with Ava, I've made an honest effort lately to make sure our dishes are washed, our dark hardwood floors are free of white cat hair (and white cat hair tumbleweeds) from Moneypenny, and that our laundry is kept in a somewhat manageable state and not spilling out the hamper like the Exxon Valdez oil spill spreading across our bedroom floor. While I may not be perfect about keeping organized, I feel that at least I'm trying.

So it really, really bothered me the other day when J left a dirty diaper on Ava's changing table instead of throwing it in the trash bag I'd placed just beneath the changing area. He does this often, and chalks it up to "forgetting" to throw it out. Ava had been crying all that morning, so when I walked into her nursery to get something and was greeted with the dirty pee-filled diaper wrapped up in a ball and left like a little Christmas present in plain sight on her table, I lost it. Went completely non-linear.

I was seething, and unfortunately, he was 20 minutes away in his high-rise office in San Francisco to fully feel my fury. So I whipped out my cell phone and texted with:

"THANK YOU for washing all the bottles this morning like you said you would, along with leaving a bag of dirty diapers near the front door and leaving your routine lone dirty diaper on her changing table even though the plastic bag was hanging RIGHT infront of you."

and then a followup text:

"You need to start taking care of your half of the bargain with her. I'm serious. You half-ass everything related to Ava."

I don't know what I meant by saying "I'm serious" as though making some sort of Dirty Harry-esque threat. But I sent the followup text because I truly feel like he does need to make more of a concerted effort to follow through with things. Lately it seems difficult for him to fully carry out simple tasks related to her, such as making sure all changing stuff is put away, tossing her dirty clothes in a hamper instead of leaving them in a pile on the floor, or storing away her bath stuff after we bathe her.

When he got home I'd (luckily) calmed down some, and it helped that he apologized and agrees that he needs to start pulling his weight more around the house.

"I didn't marry you to be your maid," I told him. And he agreed.

But at the same time, how angry can I really be at him since this is the way we used to be pre-baby? Both of us were and are guilty of letting things slide. I think that deep down (especially when I'm stressed out), it feels good to take it out on him by berating his lack of awareness when it comes to keeping house. But Ava doesn't change the fact that only seven months ago, this is the way we lived. How can he be expected to change so suddenly over night? I don't expect that of myself, so I shouldn't expect that of him, no matter how annoyed I am. It's like the pot calling the kettle black.

Part of the reason I say this is because I'm a proponent of picking your battles. Most things are not worth bickering about. Cleaning is one of them. I like to save bickering for important things like where should we stay the next time we go to Cabo, whether we should drive or take Bart to a baseball game, and why can't I buy that used Prada bag I saw at the consignment store even though it's still an obscene $800.

To me, bickering and nit-picking is the death knell of any relationship, and I don't want to spend the next 50 years of my life arguing about why J left a dirty diaper on the changing table. In his defense, he said he honestly forgot to throw it away (a reason -- note: I didn't use the word "excuse" -- that I find annoying, but okay, I get it, people forget things so I forgive and forget). Also, we will not be changing diapers 50 years from now (unless our marriage follows the plot line of Father of the Bride 2, which I hope it does not), so does it matter in the grand scheme of things? The answer is a big, baby-urine-filled, Pamper-Size 3-covered "no." In the words of Jimmy Buffett, "If life gives you limes, make margaritas."

When I feel myself getting non-linear over some trivial thing, I just remind myself of an uptight British mom in one of my playgroups. Let's call her Eleanor Rigby.

Eleanor has made it clear to all us moms from the very beginning that she hates her husband, loathes her two children, and swears that her marriage would have failed 10-fold after her first baby if she hadn't sought marriage counseling -- for her husband, not for her. Naturally. Eleanor is a self-professed nag who likes things the way she likes them, and is the type to regularly update her Facebook wall with statuses like how she wishes she could continue reading her magazine in the car outside her house because she can't bear to go inside and face her family. I should include that Eleanor has a full-time nanny, housekeeper and has one of her two children enrolled in pre-school, which allows her ample child-free-time to lunch, go shop and work out. Even with all this padding, Eleanor finds things to nag her husband about and subsequently "hate" (her words, not mine).

This, in my view, is the worst life ever. I feel sorry for her, I feel sorry for her kids and I sure as hell feel sorry for her poor husband. I never, ever want to be like Eleanor, and I honestly think that not choosing your battles is probably what kickstarts her kind of relationship. I am by no means a glass-is-half-full type of girl, no matter how much I want to ride a unicorn off into the sunset, but I'm not an extreme pessimist (a la Eleanor) either.

Perspective is key, especially when a baby is added to the mix and you find you and your husband's roles changing as your life together changes. These changes can be beautiful, or they can leave you reading magazines in your car and loathing the moment you walk through your door and greet your life as you know it. I want to believe they are the former.

So the forgotten diaper or empty water bottle might get the quiet, occasional eyeroll from me now, but I tell myself it's not worth inciting World War III over. I'll still gently remind J that he needs to do this or that, but in the end he's not perfect, just as I am not. I guess true love is about giving each other leeway to grow, no matter how long your garbage cans sit near the curb after trash day has come and gone.


eemusings said...

T and I are pretty lax on the housekeeping front. I could totally see myself writing this post 5 years from now. Sigh. I'm getting better at choosing my battles, but sometimes it's damn hard.

beccabobau said...

I'm so glad that I read this. This is totally me and my husband, and I have 12 year olds! Unfortunately I am coping less and less with mess it stresses me out but I am choosing my battles with the rest of the household and myself! I think my own head is half the battle. Good luck with it all and remember that kids grow up so quickly so enjoy every minute, the house can wait.

Shena Richard said...

I would never want to be like Eleanor either. That sounds so miserable because life is too short to hate and loathe your own family. I think it is great that you are picking your battles and trying to let go of some of the things.

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