“This house!” M muttered under his breath as he kicked a tangled pile of laundry out of his way. “This bloody house!” And then he turned and stormed back upstairs without even looking at me.
I sighed. But I understand why he’s frustrated — this house, indeed. It’s always on the edge of mess, always verging into chaos. I feel as though I fight all day just to maintain it, just to ensure that the mess is no worse at the end of the day than it was at the beginning. But it never gets any better than it was.
The worst of it is the laundry. We are perpetually buried in the piles of clean laundry — washed and dried quickly enough, but rarely folded and almost never put away. Folding laundry with the girls is an exercise in pure crazy-making. I have not made sorting piles — I have made fall-breakers! I have built obstacle courses! I have amassed fascinating collections of dressing-up clothes! When I do manage to fold a couple of baskets’ full, I am so exhausted at the end that I can’t be bothered to haul those baskets upstairs and put them away. Not right now… maybe later… maybe tomorrow. But instead, we raid those same baskets daily, still sitting in the corner of the family room, for knickers and socks and today’s outfit, until the whole thing is such a mess that it couldn’t possibly be put away without being dumped out and refolded. And that does not happen.
And there are always dishes clogging the kitchen — from breakfast, or the snack, or lunch, or the snack, or dinner… And a pile of papers that needs filing over there, and stacks of magazines half-read. There are still boxes to be unpacked from the move. And certainly, oh certainly, this place does not yet feel like a home — it still feels like we just moved in… or are just about to move out.
“What was that?!?” I prodded angrily at M, as he disappeared up the stairs. I couldn’t help myself — I just can’t let a muttering go.
He paused and turned, casting an eye across the chaos, and said hotly, “Well, I just think this place should be… tidier. It should be getting tidier!”
I was defensive now. “You could help, you know. I only have two hands! You could pick things up when you see them instead of stepping over them!” It’s true — he’s as likely to step over a mess the girls have made as clean it up. He’ll clear dishes but leave the mess all over the table. And he opens his mail, and then drops it back on the table for me discover, and deal with, later.
“You’re home all day!” He countered. “You should be dealing with this place! It should be…” he glanced around the room, his eyes lighting on any number sins, “It should be getting better.” Ah, of course, I’m home all day. I should be spending all that time getting the place sorted.
As every weekend approaches, we have conflicting expectations that cause… well… regular conflicts. I see the weekends as a chance for me to get a break from the intensity of full-time care for a four-year-old and a two-year-old. I’d like to wake peacefully, rather than be yelled from my bed at whatever hour the girls awaken, to take a shower alone without interruption, and then to slow everything down a bit and spend time as a family. M sees the weekends as his chance to catch up on the myriad projects that need doing about the house and to quietly recover from a tough week at work. In both cases, the three of us just get in the way of his plans — hinder rather than help — and, understandably, he spends most of his weekends trying to escape us.
I was on my own in the kitchen, drinking a cup of tea and contemplating the pile of dishes in the sink, when I heard it all begin to fall apart in the other room. The girls’ voices rose and quickly became shrill, both of them screeching over some great injustice. M’s voice started quiet and weary, but soon followed their lead and, within moments, he was bellowing at them. And then for me. When I walked in the room, I found him standing by the front door, holding a cordless drill in one hand and with two little girls practically hanging off his other arm. A mess of his tools and their toys were strewn in equal measure at his feet.
“I can’t get anything done with them here!” he roared. “You have to take them.” And then with a little less volume, “If I’m supposed to make any progress with this,” — he waved the drill in the general direction of the door he’d been working on — “then you can’t expect me to be looking after them as well!” I ushered the girls and their screeching away into the kitchen, and smiled to myself.
He’s quite right — it’s impossible for him to get his projects done with them underfoot. I know that. They are wonderful little girls, but it is the nature of their ages to create mischief and mayhem where-ever they go. And keeping that under control brings everything else to a complete halt.
Unless, of course, that everything is folding laundry, and filing the paperwork, and unpacking boxes. And you are home all day.