12 ways to bond with your kids
5 ways to divorce-proof your marriage
20+ tips to help you eat clean
15 good ideas to end homework battles
6 things that tidy people do
8 easy tasks to get ahead at work
These “listicles” are all over the internet. I’ve read all of them. They seem so simple. Just do these six things – who can’t do six things?! – and my house will be tidy. Just ask these thought-provoking questions and my kids won’t rebel or slam doors in my face or experiment with drugs. Just stock a quiet corner with dried fruit and colored pencils and throw down some oversize pillows and my kids will tackle their homework with gusto (while also getting adequate fiber). Just set aside a date night and check in with each other frequently throughout the day, particularly right before bed, and you’ll live happily ever after. Just eat these superfoods and you’ll lose 10 pounds. Just plan a window each day to answer emails and you’ll be promoted within five years.
But the honest-to-God truth is that I can’t do all of these things, even if I thought they’d work exactly as advertised. (Which, spoiler alert, they won’t.)
I can’t work full-time and eat healthy and be a perfect, patient mom and be a loving, sexy wife and have a clean house.
I can do some of these things pretty damn well – I think I’m a pretty decent employee, wife, and mom – but I can do it while letting the mail pile up on my table and the laundry sit, clean but unfolded, in baskets all over the house. I can do it while bags of Mardi Gras junk occupy a corner of my dining room – after St. Patrick’s Day, I just slung a few more bags on top of Crap Mountain, and I didn’t actually deal with any of it until a forgotten cabbage started rotting. I can do it while shoving day-old donuts from the break room and delivery pizza in my mouth. I can do it while frequently snapping at my kids to get their socks on and turn down the volume on YouTube and pick up the slime from the floor.
There are times when I wonder at 9 p.m., picking up dirty laundry from the floor and laying out uniforms for the next day and starting the dishwasher, if what I’m doing right at that moment – things that tidy people do, things that organized moms who are never late do – is more important than going in to snuggle with my kids or going upstairs to discuss the joys and woes of the day with my husband. Do I choose tidy or mom or wife? I can’t do them all.
Then there are times when the advice contradicts itself. This is notoriously true of diet advice – red wine is good; red wine is bad; eggs are good; eggs are bad – but also of child-rearing advice. Some people say you need to often gentle encouragement during homework; some say you need to let them be 100 percent on top of it themselves and not even ask them if they’ve finished it. Some people say you should hire a private tutor and take yourself out of the “toxic process of homework” altogether, which sounds appealing but assumes I have a Scrooge McDuck cave of money to dive into, and if I had that, I’d be more interested in hiring someone to clean my house than tutor my kids if I’m being honest.
My ideal listicle, I think, would be “10 Ways to Be a Normal OKish Person at a Few Things in Life,” and it would include such gems as:
- It’s important to talk about your hopes and fears and feelings with your spouse, but it’s also important to sometimes just binge-watch Netflix sitcoms together and not talk about anything at all.
- A glass of wine may or may not be good for your physical health, but it will definitely help you care less about the new way your kid is supposed to do multiplication that makes no sense.
- The poem that ends, “So quiet down cobwebs; dust go to sleep! I'm rocking my baby and babies don't keep” is applicable even if your “baby” is almost 6 and even if you can’t remember the last time “dusting” was even on your to-do list. As long as you do the dishes, take out the trash, and make sure to remove the cabbages from your bags of St. Patrick’s Day throws, you’re OK.
- Sometimes, “date night” can just be a trip to Target without the kids.
- Salt and vinegar chips will stave off scurvy, and that’s all the justification you need to eat half a bag.
- If your kid is otherwise doing fine in school, you can sometimes lie on the reading log.
- Knowing that your spouse’s love language is a certain brand of gummy bears or warm, fuzzy socks is really its own kind of romantic.
- It’s acceptable to hide clutter in the laundry room or the closet when company is coming over.
- Quitting coffee will never be a goal or a possibility.
- Love unconditionally. The rest is just lagniappe.