At this moment, my house is a disaster. The dishes aren’t done. There are toys all over the living room floor. I’m eating lunch at my desk and my 13-month-old daughter has just gone down for her afternoon sleep. I’m so happy with all of this. I’m about to dive back into the third chapter of the fantasy novel I’m working on. I’m so passionately entwined with writing this story, I couldn’t care less about the mess.
Before, when I was still trying to cling to the image of being a perfect mother, I would use this time to obsessively clean and tidy. My writing always got pushed down to the bottom of my priority list and I was getting more and more disillusioned with my life. Mainly, because the mess always reappeared within a few hours, and it seemed I was constantly chasing my tail in the quest for perfection.
I longed to write, to create my art. But I was a mother now, and I had so many things to juggle. How could I possibly give myself any time?
I couldn’t see how. I was always stressed and started to feel resentful of my daughter and my husband for taking up my entire life.
My husband was a voice of reason in those anxious days. I’d apologise for not having things perfect when he arrived home from work in the afternoon, and he would give me this strange look, as if to say, What are you on about? The toys on the ground and the half-made dinner and the baby wearing one sock and crawling around in nothing but a nappy didn’t bother him. It was me who had the problem. In my struggle to be perfect, I wasn’t giving my attention to the things that mattered most in my life.
My daughter. My husband. And ME.
*I* was missing from the equation completely, and the other two were suffering from my constant stress.
One day, I was complaining to my husband about how hard it was to ever get any writing done. I had 20,000 words of my novel sitting there, waiting for me to turn them into a full-length novel. But I just couldn’t see a way to make it happen.
Just go and write, he urged. Sit down, open your laptop, and write.
But the washing, and the dishes….
They’ll still be there tomorrow. It will all still be there tomorrow.
He took the baby from me, directed me to my desk, and put her to bed as I started typing in earnest. (I’m pretty sure he did the dishes, too – what a champ).
After nine months of puking and another six months of trying to be perfect mum, I had lost myself. But as my fingers danced over the keyboard, I started to find her again.
Hubby was right. The mess was still there the next day. But it didn’t matter in the way it had before.
I finished my novel when my little girl was eight months old. And the world didn’t explode, and my husband didn’t divorce me, and my daughter didn’t suffer.
Now, I’m doing it again with my second novel.
I used to think that the saying “Happy wife, happy life” was a load of crap. But it’s true! As the wife and mother, I’m at the forefront of everything that happens in my little family. If I’m happier and my cup is full, I can take care of my loved ones in a way that stressy perfect mum couldn’t.
When I’m trying to decide big things in life, I often ask myself, When I’m old and on my deathbed, will I wish that I had done one of these things instead of the other? Will I have regrets?
And the answer in this case is: I won’t regret the toys over the floor and the bits of bread that my inventive child has decided to stuff into all of the drawers while I wasn’t looking. I won’t regret
Here’s to messes, and to art.