The Myth of the Well-Oiled Machine

I think it's fair to say that since Kristin got into grad school I've been freaking out.

I'm so happy and excited for her I can't even begin to describe it. She's tired and stressed, but she's glowing. This is exactly what she needed and I am thrilled for her. So please don't take what I say next to be an indication that I wish she weren't going to school. Because no matter what I am so proud of her for getting into school and for succeeding (there's no doubt in my mind that she will be a huge success). But I'm freaking out.

Kristin has to work a full 40 hours at her job. They won't let her drop to part time and we can't afford for her to quit her job. On top of work, she's in class 12 hours a week and she is working 13 hours at the homeless shelter for her practicum. That's 65 hours not counting travel and study time. Then comes being a mother. And then comes being a partner. And somewhere in there she needs time for herself.

So, I decided that I should take over all the housework and shopping and cooking and such. I want her to be able to concentrate on school and work without having to stress about the housework. I want her to be able to spend quality time with Julia. I want her to be able to do what she needs to do without the pull of guilt or necessity distracting her.
I want to give her as stress-free a time as I can.

But. I am not the organized one. I am not the one who remembers to start the laundry on Friday so that it's all done by Sunday evening. I am not the one who remembers to write grocery lists so we don't buy all sorts of unnecessary things. I am not the one who remembers to gas up at Costco because it's cheaper. I am not even the one who can manage to keep track of the costco card. Or the check book. Hell, I can't even manage to go through my stack of mail. It just keeps getting bigger and bigger and bigger. I sure hope there aren't any bills in there.

My method of organizing involves losing everything at least twice. It involves never really knowing where anything is.

So you can see that I'm having problems. Because running a household and working full-time requires a great deal of organization. I keep thinking that if only I could get organized well enough then the house would become a well-oiled machine. It would always be clean. It would always smell good. The laundry would never form giant glaciers that threaten to evict my untidy pile of shoes from the closet. I would be able to sail effortlessly through the grocery store confident that everything on my list is really everything that we need. And I'd use coupons to save my family hundreds of dollars. Julia, Kristin, and I would move in a stress-free, clutter-free, lemon-scented, completely organic, off-gassing plastic-free, well-within-budget world. Everyone would envy our grace. "How do you do it all?" People would ask Kristin. "My wife," she'd reply. "She's got our house set up like a well-oiled machine." "Oooooh," her co-workers would say, awe in their voices. "Ahhhh," her co-workers would sigh, their faces betraying how lucky they think Kristin is. Hell, we'd even have a savings account. It would, of course, maintain itself once I got it set up correctly.

That's the catch: getting these things set up correctly. Forming a schedule. Organizing. This is a problem for me.

I just keep thinking that if only I could get the house completely cleaned and organized then everything would fall into place. But it never gets all the way clean. I spend too much time doing maintenance work to do the deep cleaning/organizing that needs to be done. And when I do try to organize, then the maintenance work starts to get overwhelming. I just can't win.

And it doesn't help that I am so unbelievably, intolerably, unbearably emotionally needy right now. I should be a rock from which Kristin could launch herself. Instead I am a muddy quagmire that bogs her down. I dissolve the firm landscape around me and spread my muck around. I pretend to be solid, but the moment she thinks she has her footing I collapse in on myself. This weekend she spent valuable homework or Julia-bonding time helping me do laundry and clean. And still our house is clunky and rusty. Un-oiled. Bone dry, in fact.

I think that in order to create a well-oiled machine one needs first to be a well-oiled machine. They forget to mention that. I still have hopes. But they're on a par with our hopes for the lottery ticket we buy each month. It will be lovely if it ever happens, but it would need an act of god to make it come about.

(I should point out that it's only this first year which will be incredibly time-consuming and hard. Next year Kristin's job will count as her practicum.)

Today's Tiny Triumph:
Two hours of sleep.
Three hours of a night-waking, teething, cranky baby.
Still, I got up and went to work.
And was only an hour and a half late.

Posted by Trista @ 12:41 PM

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Dang, well just let us know if we can be of any help. If you need us to watch Julia for a few hours so you get things done, or whatever.

Posted by Anonymous Anonymous @ 1:12 PM #

Yikes, Trista! I sincerely empathize with you, because I'm the same way.

Have you ever tried Motivated Moms? Take a look at their sample pages, it might be what you need. It does a simple schedule, nicely laid out, of things that need to be done daily, and things that need to be done weekly/monthly/whatever.

PS--Email me if you'd like to get a couple of the current pages.

Posted by Blogger Blondie @ 1:40 PM #

Keep up with the tiny triumphs, no matter how tiny they may be. You can do this....It may not be a smoothly oiled as your imagination would like it to be....but it will be lubed enough to keep the gears grinding.

I said "lube." haha. hahahahaha.

Posted by Blogger J @ 2:41 PM #

It's probably similar to "motivated mom's" but I would suggest Fly Lady (you know .com). It has seriously saved my disorganized butt. My style is similar to yours, throw in some throw up your hands in futility tendencies, and add a dash of laziness. They have a section for working women, and they don't make me feel like a loser. My house isn't perfect but it's better. My self concept takes a slight beating when I announce that I'm a "flylady" but so be it....it's worth the cause.

Posted by Anonymous Anonymous @ 8:39 PM #
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