“Mommy, where is my ninja turtle phone?”, my 4 year old asks for the millionth time today.
My response, in a somewhat shrill voice no doubt, “I don’t know Cal because right now I’m trying to do the dishes so we can find our sink…”
Unphased he asks again, unphased I continue to scrub. Dishwasher full, I stack the rest of the dishes as I rinse them to the side to load in the morning. I tap in to my childhood guilt surrounding pots in the dishwasher and decide to scrub those. I reach the bottom of the sink to find rust stains from the steel lunch boxes I use for my kids and pull out the brillo pad and I scrub. My sink is shining, like a beacon in the mess.
I can’t walk left or right without stepping on a toy or tripping over the suitcase I emptied two days ago but have yet to haul downstairs. The rest of the kitchen(most of the house really) is a mess, but… the sink… the sink is shining.
Yesterday I read this post on Renegade Mothering. I was so excited as I saw the title “Twelve Easy Steps to Doing Creative Work while Parenting”. Finally, the Holy Grail I thought!!!
Just a few paragraphs in as I read the story she offers the jest of her advice “All you have to do is lower your fucking standards, A LOT. Like to the ground." She continues, "I basically had to just chop them off at the knees and move on.”
I was simultaneously elated and heartbroken. Elated because I am an expert at having lowered my housekeeping standards. Heartbroken because at first glance it didn’t seem to give me any new advice.
Step over the piles, in the piles, on the piles, just do the work essentially. Do the work regardless of quality, just love that you’re doing it. I am paraphrasing but this was the overall message and she went on and on. 12 steps in total.
I bellowed a deep howl of recognition as I read. “Yes, Mama Renegade, Yes!!! I am doing just this!”
Then I realized, I’m not. “All I had to do is lower my fucking standards, A LOT. Like to the ground. I basically had to just chop them off at the knees and move on.” I got the first part right, the part about lowering my standards to the ground but… I have not moved on.
I read the article and rallied in recognition, but then visited the FlyLady for my daily few minutes of housekeeping advice(so far I’m enjoying the theory of it all, practice will come eventually I tell myself.)
I pulled the kids’ yogurt staple out at dinner as I slid my drawings and paintings to one side of the kitchen table, but then pulled over some salmon croquettes and kale salad that the kids ignored to theoretically balance it out.(The kids don’t eat this stuff anyway and man oh man does it add to the dish pile).
I stepped over the toys and suitcase on the kitchen floor on my way to sit down and type this and prep some art for sharing in the coming week, but as I stepped the judge in my head was loud and nasty. “You are the house you weren’t allowed to play in!” it said.
I realized in practice I have lowered my standards and prioritized my creative work above house work but… I have not moved on.
I’m living one way but still thinking another. It’s all out of alignment. I am living in the midst of bipolarity when it comes to balancing the domestic arts and creative arts.
I’m figuring it all out as I sit at the tiny spot on my “motherfucking couch” and realizing the energy wasted chastising myself is no less valuable than the energy I could use while cleaning.
I am a creative artist, yes! A title it took a long time to feel confident enough to own. Now... I am owning the fact that I am not at all a domestic artist and wondering how to own this reality as well.