Before I was a mother, I didn’t understand. Really, I didn’t understand anything, but right now I’m referring very specifically to how hard it would be to keep up my normal standards. In my vision, I would raise children who would be respectful, well-mannered, and helpful. I would do so effortlessly, because I am a respectful, well-mannered and helpful person. In this vision, I neglected to recall the most important part, raising children is a PROCESS. This means that while I am raising those children, there is a lot of… shall we say… revision occurring. Parenting requires equal parts consistency and adaptability. At any moment the plan may change, but within that spontaneity, there are firm boundaries that remain in place for the safety and comfort of the child (bedtime routines, morning routines, nap routines, etc. etc.) In the midst of discovering this for myself, I realized that my own standards also needed to adapt.
You see, I am what I call a “lazy perfectionist.” I would LOVE for everything to be perfect and in place, and in fact, when things are whacky and out of place – I am a complete witch to be around, but I don’t want to have to do the work myself. With each expanse of our family, my standards have had to get lower out of necessity.
For example, I maintain that there are three levels of showering. In order for it to count as a shower, there needs to be nudity, and running water. Those are the basics. In a level one shower, hair and body get washed, but there is no lingering, there is no leg shaving, you are lucky if the soap gets rinsed all the way off. Oh, and the door to the bathroom is most certainly open, in the event that a small person needs immediate attention. After a level one shower, you find the closest outfit that may or may not be clean and may or may not match. And after a level one shower, you do nothing more than towel dry your hair.
A level two shower is slightly longer, the door to the bathroom is shut, but not locked, and there is lingering, only to enjoy the peace, quiet, and hot water. Hair and body are washed, soap gets rinsed off entirely, armpits may be shaven, but no time for legs. Once you are out of the shower, you are able to dry off, and put on clean clothes that match. You may even have time and energy for a little product in your hair and lipstick and mascara, but nothing more.
A level three shower is the gold standard. It is the Holy Grail for a Mommy. The level three shower is the shower you used to take regularly before the small people came along. Door shut and locked, linger until the hot water runs out completely, wash, rinse, shave to your little heart’s content and repeat as you wish. Get out of the shower, and take your time drying off, dry your hair WITH THE HAIRDRYER, put on clothes that are clean, flattering, match, and are wrinkle free, and (drum roll, please) PUT ON MAKE-UP!!!! If you’re lucky, the level three shower happens once a week.
Since there are three levels of cleanliness, we must also cover the four degrees of mommy filth. These are exclusive to moms with young children or babies in diapers, but I am sure some of the bodily fluids can be swapped out as the children get older. There are four elements of filth. In ascending order of grossness; snot, spit-up, pee, and poop. Any of these elements have the ability to end up on your clothes or body. There are four degrees of filth, depending on what you have on your body at any given time. If you are wearing one element of filth - that is considered first degree, two elements – second degree, and so on, and so forth. The more advanced the filth degree, the more immediate action is required. That said, poop alone by virtue of it’s grossness, is an automatic fourth degree, and requires immediate attention. (There is also a law that the lighter the hue of your clothing, the more prone you are to a higher degree of filth).
You don’t wake up one day and realize that you’ve let yourself go. It happens so gradually, and one day you are blogging and realize that you have a whole ranking system for cleanliness and filth. Within the process of letting yourself go, though – there is a process of letting go of letting yourself go. What? Back up the truck, that is confusing. What I’m saying is there is a freedom in not taking yourself and your standards so seriously, there is a freedom in being able to laugh at yourself and where you’ve ended up compared to who you thought you’d be. I LOVE my life, and I love the person I’ve become, but there are some major discrepancies from who my 18 year old self thought my 33 year old self would be. Back before I made small people, I never gave such things a passing thought. Sure, I babysat, but a visit to that world was far different than living in it. I took my alone time so for granted when I had it, and now, I use those moments to get me through the challenges of my week and recharge.
Fridays are sacred at my house. Friday mornings, in particular. All of my beloved children have a short “enrichment time” at the childcare program at our church. I drop all of them off in the morning for four hours of frolicky faith filled fun, while I get four hours to myself to do what I please. What I please is usually a trip to the YMCA, Target, and a second or third level shower (keeping in mind that I’ll be picking them up again, and will be subject to any of the degrees of filth). This morning was one of those glorious mornings. I usually have my entire morning mapped out, and am excited to drop the kids and get my list accomplished.
This morning, I took my daughter out of her car seat to pass her off to her “teachers” and gave her a quick snuggle before the handoff. As I bundled up her sweet little body in my arms, I recognized the familiar odor of the fourth element of filth… POOP! Laughing aloud, I handed her off (feeling a little cocky that I’d dodged the poopy diaper bullet) and said, “Oh, you are going to want to change that diaper! She’s a little stinky.” When Cassie, who is also our regular babysitter in addition to being the one who cares for the twins at church, said, “ummmm, I think you got some on you.” Ugh. I looked down. Yep, poop on the boob. GROSSSSSSSSS!
Do you think I let a little fourth degree filth get in the way of my trip to the YMCA and Target? Nope. Because I’m a mommy – and I’ve been waiting all week for this time to myself. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I think I have enough time for a level two shower.