I’m Not Coming Out and You Can’t Make Me!

(This post originally appeared here on 5.21.2013).

My family knows that my shower- and getting ready time is “my” time. They know that, unless I am absolutely forced to, I will not open the bathroom door during the entire 45-60 minutes it takes me to shower and apply makeup, which is something I do every single day, unless I am so sick I can barely stand. Like the Fly Lady needs her shoes, I need my shower and eyeliner.

This doesn’t mean that in particular life seasons I don’t have someone either in the bathroom with me or banging on the door, screaming, from the outside. In fact, with a teen, toddler, and infant in the house, this happens more often than not. And my husband and I are often forced to plan an entire day’s schedule by shouting through the bathroom door. Nonetheless, the fundamental rule remains the same: if mama is in the bathroom getting ready, you better leave her alone or be prepared to face the consequences.

Sometimes I hear major chaos going on beyond the locked door of my sanctuary. Loud thumps and bumps followed by cries, phones ringing, dogs barking, teen requests intermingled with toddler tantrums and an infant’s demand to be feed. In these moments, I sigh, hastily apply 8-minutes worth of make-up in two, and head out the door to sort it all out.

The other day I heard all those things at once. My husband and mom were surviving, but they certainly could have used more (wo)manpower to ease the hurt.

As I listened to my husband try to make a phone call for our sixteen-year-old while the little ones’ battles raged around him and my mom pleaded with Rachel to stop poking her in the eye, I sighed a sigh of resignation and started to go into getting-ready overdrive.

But then… I didn’t.

I thought, “I am not coming out of here and you can’t make me.” If I could have locked the door even tighter, I would have.

No one knows what’s going on behind the bathroom door, and they aren’t going to ask. And if they do, I’ll tell them that mama’s getting-ready bathroom time is like Vegas—what goes on in there stays in there.

This was a particularly empowering moment, but don’t worry. I have no intention of abusing my loved ones by hiding out in the bathroom during the morning crazies. But you know what? Despite the cries and chaos coming from beyond the door, despite the stress and frustration I heard in the outnumbered grown-up voices, everything turned out just fine. My oldest son’s car got to the shop, the phone call was made, the baby was fed, and my mom’s eye remained in tact. And all of this was done just fine without me.  Can you believe it?

(Stuff in the third person: Jamie is going on her 4th year of membership in Mothers’ Council. She blogs at http://jamiecallowayhanauer.com)

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When Your Best Isn’t Good Enough

My best simply isn’t good enough anymore.

No, no. It really isn’t. I’m not fishing for compliments, or advice, or sympathy. I’m just stating the facts, ma’am.

I say the following phrase with increasing frequency: “I’m doing the best I can!” This is usually in response to questions like:

“Why are there no clean towels?”

“Why do I have to borrow Dad’s socks again?”

“What am I supposed to eat? There’s no food in the house!”

And then there are the questions I ask myself:

“Why haven’t I had quiet time today?”

“Why does everything seem so grungy and chaotic?”

“Why am I so snappy with my family when I have so darn much?”

“Why are we eating chicken apple sausage and noodles AGAIN?”

Lately I’ve felt a big, ugly thing inside of me. I don’t have to be a psych major to know what it is: It’s discontent because nothing is how I want it to be.

Common refrains:

“Honey, PLEASE take the kids out today so I can get something done.”

“Honey, PLEASE take Rachel to the Splash Park so I can have a bit of silence and maybe get a shower.”

“Honey, PLEASE help Collin so I can type up this declaration.”

So, even though I’m “doing the best I can,” that “best” seldom seems to include “doing it all,” or hanging out with my kids, who I very much wanted and am so glad to have.

Trust me: this has nothing to do with having a smaller to-do list. I am not trying to scrapbook and reorganize closets and Shop Vac the garage. This is Survival 101. Such as having NO TOWELS, not even dish towels, the other day, so we all had to drip dry after showering. Such as having canned soup and a green lemon from our lemon tree as the only foods in the house. Such as my husband borrowing my underwear because all of his are in the wash (I made that last one up, but not by much). Such as having to store my “active” files on the kitchen counter, right by the CDs of singing vegetables and the “Home Menus and Shopping Lists” binder I haven’t touched in eight months, so I can glance over them while boiling noodles.

Rachel often says things like, “I want Daddy to take me somewhere!” And, ugly upon ugly, I think, “Wait! I’M the MOMMA. Why don’t you want me???” And of course, the answer is because I constantly beg Andy to take the kids and go — somewhere, anywhere — so basic essentials (you know, like food and undies) can magically appear in the house. It’s because Rachel’s daddy is a very good daddy, and she should want to be with him just as much as she wants to be with me.

And frankly, I think this sucks.

I would really like to be Supermom. I would dearly love to Shop Vac the garage and paste cute things onto acid-free paper. But, it just isn’t happening. And so I mutter bad things to myself about how I used to do it all, and how I’ve lost control of the house, and how I’ll never have clean area rugs again. And I get angry that my best isn’t good enough to be 110% perfect, and then I get angry that I don’t extend to myself the same forgiveness I advise other moms to feel in their own hectic lives.

I know all the tips, tricks, and gimmicks to cut time, save time, eat healthy, work out, get ‘er done. But sometimes life just doesn’t cooperate. There’s simply nothing left to cut from my to-do list, no other way to incorporate efficiency. In fact, I know that to overcome the ugliness of my discontent, I have to add more tasks, in bright red letters, to my little sticky notes that clutter up the kitchen counter:

1) Find the quiet time you’re missing. Use it to read scripture, not to blog, edit declarations, or strategize.

2) Remember to use shower time for prayer and meditation.

3) Extend love, even when you don’t feel it, to everyone around you, until your smile becomes real.

And with these things done, and done well, all the rest will fall into place.

How do you overcome your discontent? Where do you carve time from a chaotic, overfull life when you’re already down to bare bones? I’d love to know!

(Stuff in the third person: Jamie is going on her 4th year of membership in Mothers’ Council. She blogs at http://jamiecallowayhanauer.com)