For YEARS I wondered, I mean, really, really wondered, what was wrong with me that I couldn’t keep my house neat and tidy all the time and find time to do all the wonderful things that other moms seemed to do, and I thought I was just totally defective (which I am in some ways) because I couldn’t keep to the schedules and routines and standards I saw upheld all around me. We’d been married long past twenty years before I have fully realized that everybody else doesn’t have company the way that we do and it’s only been lately that I fully appreciated the difference this makes in wear and tear and upkeep and time- and my regular bouts of completely drained batteries because I am so very muchly not a people person.
We’ve _always_ done this, so I never knew any different. I mean, my husband invited his entire class home for Thanksgiving dinner when he was going to Technical training school in the AF. I was only 21, it was only our second Thanksgiving, and we didn’t even own a car, and I cooked a full Thanksgiving dinner (including homemade rolls, dressing, three kinds of pie, gravy, and all that stuff). It wasn’t a large class, but for a 21 year old to host some 15-20 18 and 19 year old military boys for Thanksgiving Dinner- well, it kind of makes me reel now, although I think I took it in stride then.
Incidentally, the pecan pie was a total failure- but I didn’t realize it until later, when I kept finding full pieces of pie,with only a bite missing, hidden in the bottom of all my trashcans as I cleaned up. Those sweet, gallant boys, trying not to embarrass me, threw their pie out in the bathroom trash can, in the spare bedroom, wrapped it in napkins and buried it in the kitchen trash….
We went on to have the single and unaccompanied military folks from church home for the weekend, every weekend, the entire time we lived in Okinawa- that was upwards of 10-20 extra mouths to feed and clean up after from Friday night to Sunday afternoon. By then I was 24 and had two small children.;-) I didn’t set out to do that- we started with a Friday night game night. One night I hadn’t put away the stew we’d had for supper yet, and one of the boys came in looking wistful, explaining he’d not gotten off duty in time to go to the mess hall, could he have something to eat? Shortly thereafter I found myself making a huge pot of stew or soup every Friday night. And then my husband made pancakes on Saturday, and I made sandwiches or more soup and stew on Saturday afternoon, which became spaghetti or homemade hamburger helper on Saturday night….
After four years of young Marines, Navy, and Army folk over, having a couple of homeschooling families or friends from church over a couple times a week didn’t seem like such a big deal.
And so it continued. Until one day a friend said something like, “Who wants to deal with company twice a week and all the havoc that entails- just the cleaning up afterwards is so time consuming….”
And I felt like I’d been hit with a bolt of lightening- a cliché, but that’s how eye-opening it was to realize how, um, weird we are and how that difference affects so many other areas.
There are other reasons I am an epic failure in the organization department, but this is certainly not a small part of the reasons for my struggle- not just the constant company, but the fact that I didn’t realize the constant company presented me with hurdles that other people weren’t dealing with- namely, the other people with whom I was constantly comparing myself and coming up the loser in those comparisons.
When you’re lamenting your weaknesses and wondering “Why can’t I do X like she manages to do X?” you might stop to think about the insidiousness of some comparisons, and consider what you might be dealing with that ‘she’ isn’t.
Those things can be large- a disabled child, a handicap of your own, constant company, 8 children under 9, a husband who doesn’t help but does make messes (I deal with some of these, but not the last two- we only had five under 9, and my husband does help, and I am messier than he is)…
They can seem small but in reality are quite significant- the layout of your home, for instance. In our previous home, the washer was in one room, the dryer in another- out a door, down two steps, and into an unheated ‘summer kitchen,’ which means it was freezing in winter (and I do mean that literally- water froze and I could see my breath)- and I didn’t like to go in there without boots and gloves. That added considerably to my laundry time. In the house before that, I could hang a load on the line outside and it would be dry by the time the next load was done. Here, I can hang it on the line all day and the jeans will usually still be a bit damp at the creases.
The amount of water pressure you have, or the time it takes the hot water to get hot, the number of times you have to run up and down stairs, whether you live on a paved or dirt road, whether you have animals or not- all these things and more have a very real
Whatever it is, it will help you immensely to recognize those details and cut yourself a little slack.
Or not, if it turns out you’re just lazy, but that’s really a call only the people who live with you can make.