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The Important Stuff

March 1, 2009

When my husband and I were dating and first married, I was relatively neat. I would go to his house and wash up any dishes he had, pick up what might need to be picked up, and I had kept my room at college fairly clean. He had an image of me that apparently left him thinking I was a fairly neat and tidy person.

Enter children. Apparently somewhere along the way, his view of my neatness changed. Soon after we were married, our oldest daughter made her debut. Even as young as I was (22 when she arrived), I was determined that certain things were non-negotiable. She was to be breastfed. Period. End of discussion. And I was going to give her all the time and attention that required, even if NOTHING and I repeat NOTHING else got done. And so it didn’t.

I started back to school working on my masters, then came the job. Two more priorities that trumped neatness. Over a ten year period, we acquired three more little people to contribute to dirty dishes, dirty laundry, bathtub splatters, clutter, and general grunge. I wasn’t staying on top of things like I did when I was 20 and it was only me.

My sweet husband did make a point to casually mention this at one time. It didn’t help the guilt I already felt over what I knew to be true. He wasn’t critical, just observant.

Somewhere during this whole process of acquiring more anti-neatness generating organisms, he and I took a marriage course called His Needs, Her Needs. It lists a guy’s most important needs in a relationship and a woman’s most important needs in a relationship. I thought surely this was going to be my cross. I was about to get nailed on that domestic support thing that is so important to guys.

And then it happened. In the middle of my almost teary meltdown about how I was unworthy of such a great guy and that my domestic support skills sucked beyond comprehension, he very sweetly told me that he was quite capable of washing dishes and clothes and pushing a vaccuum around the house when things got too deep for his liking. What he needed of me was a personal assistant…a secretary of sorts. He needed the bill-paying, reservation-making, trip-planning, event manager.

Really? Truly? Hey, I can do that. I was doing that. Are you serious? You mean it’s okay that I’m not Martha Stewart? Yes, it was okay. Besides, Martha Stewart would probably bitch at him about putting his sweaty tea glass on the coffee table without a coaster (like I do now when he does it to my grandma’s antique furniture that has been bestowed on me for safe keeping). I wasn’t usually worried about such trivialities and he could when necessary simply sand the table top and revarnish it. No sweat. (Pun intended!)

Let me tell you, that was a most freeing moment. It opened the door for me to be okay with a lived-in house as long as the important things were getting attention: Things like

  • hanging out with him in the back yard,
  • working on our personal construction projects together,
  • watching the kids’ ballgames,
  • sitting in front of the TV as a family with a long-legged, monkey-armed kid draped over me and the chair (okay, not high on the important list, but sometimes you take family moments where you can get them)
  • sitting on the back porch snuggled up next to him while he smokes a cigarette (wish he didn’t have that habit, but I’m still gonna hang out with him anyway)
  • cooking supper together (sometimes requires an emergency cleaning job to get to the stove)
  • cooking smores in the fireplace
  • talking one on one with one of the girls
  • hanging out at the farm walking hand in hand discussing our dreams
  • taking a daughter on a roadtrip to check out colleges
  • hauling girls to and hanging out at a volleball practice
  • allowing myself some private relaxation time just hanging out with the chickens

All pretty cool stuff. WAY cooler than keeping my house clean. Besides, now that our kids are getting older, I have housekeepers along with house destroyers. The mommy and daddy bank remains closed until chores are done. A new pair of spikes and a prom dress really help get things back into shape at our place.  Not sure I am saving any money this way, but at least I am not paying out double.

Thinking this through has really helped me to get over the guilt of not being Susie Homemaker. I choose instead to focus on what is truly important. My husband and beautiful girls are temporary. Memories, cobwebs, and dust are eternal.

What is important to you? How do you balance what is truly important with what society’s messages tell you is important?

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