Project Awesome

Making my life more awesome

I still don’t understand why my housework doesn’t get done unless I do it

Something is badly wrong with your life when you start thinking the local leaflet delivery people are out to get you.  I am in the lounge with Big Girl and Small Girl, trying to get them to tidy up.  I hear the letter-box go.  “Aaaaaaggggghhhhhhhh! I am trying so hard to make my house tidy and people are putting more fucking paper through my letter box!” I scream.  Inside my head, of course.  On the outside, I am serene, like a swan. No, wait, I am pitifully begging my children to help me put away jigsaws rather than tipping play food and squeaky toy eggs all over the floor and emptying out all the Happyland five minutes before bedtime.  ‘Serene’ is not generally used to describe me.

In the interests of trying to work out what would make my life feel like it was working, rather than feeling like a big pile of chaos, I made a list of all the housework which needs doing on a day-to-day basis, and how long I thought it would take.  This came to nearly three hours a day if we’re not at home and just over four on days when we’re in.  Given that my children are usually only just asleep by 9.30 pm, my life is actually not possible.  That’s not including things which don’t need doing every day, like cleaning the bathroom and hoovering.

Fortunately for me, I have very low standards.  A friend at work says she can’t go to bed if there is any washing-up still needing doing.  I have days where I can’t actually eat until I do some washing-up.  I’ve never been tidy and mess doesn’t really bother me.  But it turns out that there is a difference between the mess you make as, say, a student in a student house (and I would like to apologise unreservedly to everyone who has ever lived with me at this point) and the mess which accrues living with a two-year-old and a three-year-old.  The difference, as far as I can tell, is that it’s not all mine.  I just don’t want books scattered randomly across my bedroom floor, or bits of ripped-up toilet paper strewn along the hall, or various toys carried up to my room at bedtime and then abandoned.  I would like clothes to be put away so we can find what we need, rather than searching through a massive heap of clean laundry in the corner of the room (I was going to post a picture of my laundry pile on Facebook the other day but it was too depressing).

I made a list of all the different domestic areas of my life I’d like to improve.  I brainstormed solutions.  Some of them just require changing how I do things.  There are some tiny steps I could take which would make life easier, like bringing toys back downstairs at night rather than waiting until most of the contents of the lounge is hiding under my bed.  Some of them just need me to actually buy and install a dishwasher.  But I think perhaps some of it just involves waiting for my children to get a bit bigger so they can learn to be tidier.  Or possibly just wait until they leave home.


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I knew it would be a bad idea about three minutes after I started…

I thought I would make soup.  This plan was clearly doomed from the start because, really, who actually makes soup any more apart from stay-at-home-parents whose children are in school and people who like to pretend they are Jamie Oliver?  But one of my treasured childhood memories is the huge saucepan of vegetable soup my mum used to make, which I ate for every meal until it was finished.

So I get out the knife and chopping board and vegetables and cut the top and bottom off the onion.  And then Small Girl is sick.  On the table.  On the chair. Down her front.  On the floor.  Marvellous.  I clean up the sick, clean up Small Girl, clean the chair, clean the floor, clean my hands and return to my chopping.

Small Girl asks to paint.  I am happy with this, assuming that she wants to use the little palette of the very tidy paints she was given for her birthday.  But no, she wants the ready-made paints squeezed onto a plate, and a big paintbrush.  I set her up and put the onions in the saucepan, and start chopping the peppers.

Big Girl wants to paint too.  Of course she does.  I get her some paint and paper and return to my chopping board.

Big Girl wants some more paint.  Then Small Girl wants some more paint.  I get them more paint and tell them that I have to get on with cooking the soup (which is beginning to dissolve in the pan now, due to overcooking) so they can’t have more paint until I have finished.

Big Girl starts getting down from her chair, leaning against the wall with a paint-covered hand. “Stop! Don’t move!”  Big Girl cries, touches the fridge and tells me that “mummies don’t shout”.  That’s me told then.  I clean her hands and explain that I wasn’t shouting and I just didn’t want her to get paint everywhere.

I go back to my soup.  One carrot later, Big Girl tells me that Small Girl is painting her feet.  This is true.  She has greeny-black paint on her hands and her face and the chair and is carefully painting her feet with a paintbrush.  I ask her not to paint her feet.  She cries.  I chop another carrot.  She wants a cuddle.  I tell her that I can’t cuddle her while she is covered in paint as I don’t want to be covered in paint.  I tell her that if she has finished painting, I will clean her hands and give her a cuddle.  She hasn’t finished painting. She wants a cuddle.  I want to throw my soup in the bin.  I clean her up and give her a cuddle.

Finally, finally, a few carrots, half a swede and a million further interruptions later, I have soup.

Of course, my children refuse to eat it.  They clearly don’t care about my treasured childhood memories.

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I went to a Quaker meeting today.  But not just the normal Meeting for Worship.  I went to the gloriously-titled Meeting for Worship for Business, where the local Quaker Meeting does its church business (I was going to say ‘does its business’ and then realised that sounded like they were doing a poo, which was not the case at all).  This is possibly the most genius thing I have ever been to.

(I’ll admit I am slightly embarrassed by my enthusiasm for everything to do with Quakers.  I’m still in the honeymoon phase of a new discovery and it’s quite likely that at some point, when it’s more normal, and I’m used to the personalities and the little irritations and the things which don’t quite work, I’ll look back at my naive enthusiasm with the same affectionate embarrassment that I now look back at my 18-year-old self.  But perhaps it’s just joy at feeling this excited about something – which hasn’t happened for a while).

So, MfWfB, as I am abbreviating it.  It’s church business, but done in a similar manner to a normal Quaker meeting.  There’s silence at the start.  Then one of the Clerks introduces the meeting and the first subject for discussion.  There are two of them and their job is to record the sense of the meeting in minutes.  There’s no voting and not even always consensus.  Sometimes they record that a decision could not be reached and the issue is passed over to the next meeting.  Sometimes they will record that most people were happy with a decision and some people had reservations, and Friends will agree to the minute because it represents the sense of the meeting.  Everyone gets an opportunity to speak.  Everyone is listened to.  You can see the Quaker belief that everyone is equal being put into action.  It’s a ridiculous idea and I have no idea how anything gets done.  And yet it’s an impressive thing to witness and participate in.

Yes, participating.  I’ve been attending the Quaker meeting for about 3 months, and I’ve taken Big Girl and Small Girl, and I like the Quakers and I think I’d like to stay, but I don’t quite feel that I can call myself a Quaker.  I don’t feel that I know enough or belong enough yet to do that.  I’m considering looking into applying for membership.  However, at my first MfWfB, I stand up and speak about two separate issues, and my opinion is listened to, and seems to shape the decision that is made.  How could I not love an organisation like this?  I do, at one point, have to restrain myself from interrupting to make sarcastic comments, which is quite a departure from my usual style.

And I think perhaps Quakerism is good for me.

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