“Housework can kill you if done right.” ~ Erma Bombeck
I am drowning in other people’s stuff.
Since having Mir, I have been downsizing–giving away clothes, books, toys. But most of what I’ve cleared is my own: My books, my clothes, a few stuffed toys & trinkets. I am down to around two weeks’ worth of regular wear clothes; I’m buying mostly ebooks; and I’m curating my collections with a careful eye, weighing every possession by the seasoned mover’s metric, “Is this worth paying to move?”
And still, I am drowning–in toys, and books, and other people’s clothes. Yet these things are not my issue, but rather an (annoying) symptom. My time is scarce, and I feel as if I am fighting to write, to read, to run, doubling up on my commitments so that now I read as I run, lest I not have time to touch a book the rest of the day. I write as I shower, or tidy, or walk the kidlet in his stroller, keeping copious mental notes, scribbling memory-joggers when I’m tired in pigeon scrawl that is barely recognizable as my own.
I bring this on myself. Taking care of a toddler (mostly) on my own while attempting to work is a special breed of insanity. But much as I love husband and kidlet, they are not enough. I can’t function without writing or reading–it’s like my mind goes into a quiet, desperate kind of sensory deprivation when I do nothing, and I feel like I will explode.
I am being slowly subsumed by my husband and child, like they are eating me from the inside out and soon there will be nothing left but dust and bones. And it is my fault, because I am letting them, but I do not know how to keep them from taking everything I am while still being a good person, a sane person, a person who is there for them when they need me, but still in some semblance of charge of her own life.
Somehow–and I really, truly do not understand how–I am failing at mothering, and wifing, and bad wifing, and bad mothering, because I cannot seem to decide on which I want to be. Instead, I flit between needing to scream and wanting to plunge headfirst into a basin of water to do it so no one can hear me, and thinking I am the luckiest woman in the world because I have two people whom I love so much I feel like my heart will tear from the sheer effort of it. There is no middle ground; I seem only able to do extremes, and extremes are exhausting.
But this is the price of mothering–and writing. Being a stay-at-home mum, a homemaker, or a “domestic engineer,” a term I despise almost as much as overripe mangoes and movies with mawkish soundtracks, is an underrated living. Tack on writer in the dawning of a new age of self-publishing, and you are left with a double whammy of somewhat frowned upon and illegitimate positions, particularly in an area where there are more universities than chocolate shops. I need a road map, and I do not know where to find one.
Drowning in other people’s stuff, though, helps me appreciate the small things: The solitary shower I had this morning, surrounded by bath toys, but with no trains or buses wending their way inexorably closer to my exposed (and sensitive) feet; the quietude of a cup of tea, knowing I don’t have to share it with small fingers (Mir loves herbal tea); turning off the air conditioner and being able to sit with just one blanket rather than two, or three, or four. It’s also given me a greater appreciation of the bathroom because, in a small, one bedroom apartment, a bathroom is a full room, a room with outlets for a computer and a seat that’s not too uncomfortable if you bring a cushion. A room that has a door, a lock, and, with earplugs, some small semblance of privacy. Add a cup of coffee and a slice of cake, and it’s better than a trip to Starbucks.
Image Credit: Housework, by Becky F, via Flickr