I’m possibly the most disorganized person in the world. Schedules, habits, systems, lists and picking up after myself just don’t come naturally to me. I do those things, but I have to work very, very hard at them to make them work. It’s exhausting. I’m forgetful, inconsistent and a little bit lazy. I’m also spontaneous, creative and I can relax easily, so it’s a bit of a trade off. With three kids though, organization is something I need to survive, so I don’t have the luxury of not making it happen.
Most of the people I know seem to be the opposite. They have well stocked nappy bags. They’re the ones who pull out a tissue when one of my kids needs one, because I forgot or ran out. They’re the ones who can say yes or no to a movie date just by whipping out a phone or diary (never both) and checking the date. They arrive at said movie date on time, refreshed and put together. I’m on time- I have a thing about that- but I look like I’ve been dragged backwards through a hedge, because my shoes don’t match, my jeans have baby food on them and I couldn’t find a hair tie.
I often wonder how they do it. It can’t simply be practice- I’ve been practicing for years! I have three kids, the oldest turning 14, how much more practice can I possibly need? Maybe it’s genetic. Yeah, a genetic thing that everyone in the world inherited, except me. On bad days, I think it’s because I’m stupid or lazy or simply not enough.
I was at the doctors the other day with the kids. My youngest had a suspicious rash, so it was a quick call to the GP to secure an appointment a couple of hours later. That meant a mad rush to collect one kid from school, the other from kindy. A handful of random food, a bottle of formula, tissues (I remembered this time) all crammed in to a bag. I herded the kids in a little before the appointment and was shortly called in. We walked through the door and sat. I grabbed a book out and threw it at the middle child to keep him still. It wasn’t long and thankfully it turned out to be nothing bad. The whole visit was punctuated with…
“I’m hungry” (here, eat a pear).
“I need a tissue” (here’s a tissue).
“I’m bored” (here’s a toy car).
“Bllerrrrggghhh” (Quick, grab the burp cloth).
I felt harried, stressed and under fire in front of the doctor, who was a lovely, young and very professional looking woman. As I finished up, she looked at me and said “Wow, you’re so organized. I mean, you have everything in the little bag and you dealt with everything so easily. I wish I could be like that.”
I nearly fell over. What? Me? Organized? I almost looked around to see who she was talking to. I reflected on it as I drove home and realized that I do pretty well. Before baby #3 I was working full time, studying part time, running the house and raising two kids. That takes a lot of work and dedication, but it must have taken organization too. I had home cooked dinners nearly every night, which meant I was making some meals in advance, shopping well each week, meal planning and surely I must’ve had some sort of afternoon routine. People would tell me they wondered how I could do it, that I must be so organized.
I felt like a fraud, barely muddling along and often messing it up.
Maybe I was wrong. Maybe all those other women I envy are struggling like me. Perhaps they, too, forget things, just not when I’m around to see it. Maybe they collapse into bed at night, only to rocket back up and race down to throw forgotten clothes in the wash. Maybe that nicely pressed shirt is the only clean one they have.
I guess the conversation was a bit of an eye opener. We all have skills and talents. We all have things we could do better. When we’re out, we put our best foot forwards. We show our tidiest home pictures on Pinterest, not the messiest ones. We post about our best days on Facebook, we don’t broadcast our worst. We muddle along, doing our best to string life together and hope like mad that no one notices the frayed edges. The inside perspective is one of chaos and inadequacy, but the outside one is what we make it (or fake it) to be.
As for me, I’m going to take a little more pride in my successes. The emergencies dealt with, the things remembered, the crises averted. I’m not going to dwell on the things that went wrong. I’m also going to be honest. No more ‘Oh, sorry my [madly cleaned and nearly-but-not-quite-spotless] house is such a mess.’ It’ll be ‘Hey look I cleaned up for you! Because that’s the only time the house gets a good go over, right?’
By being honest about my own limitations, maybe some other struggling mom will realize she’s not alone.