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Mama Mondays: PICK one thing to keep you sane.

Welcome to Mama Mondays.

I often get asked “how I do it” or more accurately, “how I did it” with five kids.  My eldest no longer lives with us but that also doesn’t mean that I have stopped being a mother to five, in fact, motherhood becomes more intense during certain transitions – for example, as you shift from mothering a teen to mothering a young adult or mothering children to teens or mothering toddlers to children, or babies to toddlers, etc.  

You get my drift. Motherhood isn’t a static pose.  It isn’t a one-size fit all flowy dress.  It’s a shape shifting thing that is very much alive.  I could never reduce it to simply “taking care of the kids.” 

Anyway, that’s a whole series of posts that I could share one day.  But on to a more important topic mamahood topic today.

Sweeping the floor.

My idea of perfection: a newly swept floor, my coffee, and my morning pages.

It’s my thing.  You can find me at home sweeping all the bits of mud, dog hair, ripped up paper, and dead bugs off our living room deck multiple times a day.  I don’t complain that I am the only one that chooses to sweep a dozen times a day. I do have something to say if you step through the pile of ripped up paper over and over again without thinking to grab the broom.  But If you had made the gesture of reaching for the broom, this would warrant a word of appreciation from me, and I would probably take the broom from you anyway since it’s my thing.

I don’t know when it became my thing.  I do know it was only my thing after I became a mom. And it definitely wasn’t my thing growing up.  Ask my mom. It was her thing.  

We often forget how habits are started when they begin out of necessity.  I am guessing this is what happened in my case.  I figure it was as simple as no one was sweeping the floor and no one listened to me passive-aggressively suggesting that “someone” should sweep the floor. Then I probably picked up the broom and did it myself.  

I have another hypothesis – I accepted it as my thing when I finished that first sweep and the floor was immaculate.  I still have that feeling of euphoria after I sweep although I know it’s always short-lived because before I know it, someone is prancing around eating something and spilling it all over the place or the dogs. The DOGS.

This momentary feeling of euphoria that led to it to being my thing is highly addictive. Imagine creating one spot in an entire life that wasn’t covered with a layer of garbage or filth that needed to be dealt with.  The floor was easy to maintain compared to other things I needed to attend to.

This act of sweeping could make several top 10 lists in my life: Things I do to avoid other things, things I do as meditation, things I do to distract myself from picking a fight or getting irritated, things I do to feel productive (because at least I swept the floor, right?), things I accomplished, things I am obsessed about.

Speaking of obsessed, my kids often look at me like I am crazy, as I pick up the broom reflexively even as the dogs continue to traipse back and forth in the house with muddy paws.  If I stopped to think about, I could see how one could think this an act in futility and foolishness.  We have an outdoor living space that is welcome to three dogs and two cats. 

And imagine my household ten years ago, 5 kids under the age of 11 – it was always a mess. Always. And then we homeschooled. Perpetual projects and experiments littered every surface – except the floor. I would pile things up on the living room couch, on the dining table, our kitchen counters, and on every horizontal surface above the floor. Then I would sweep.

I swept all the day because it was the one thing I could do to keep my sanity. I was never going to have a perfectly tidy house. Lord, I had 5 children and a husband. And let’s be real, I was never going to catch up to the dishes or the laundry. That was a fool’s fancy.

But I could sweep. I could sweep with a baby tied to me in the front. I could give a little one a mini broom and they could sweep (or pretend to) with me. I could sweep in minutes and enjoy one piece of tidy.

So I could live with the mess of a life or the complete chaos kids because I could always grab the broom and find peace in the action itself. Rest in motion.

I would give #4 a piece of paper to cut into a million pieces because at 2 years old, she really isn’t allowed with scissors. Then I could put the baby to sleep, fold a load of laundry, help with schoolwork, and start prepping the next snack. And of course, the pieces of paper dusted the floor like snow but I didn’t mind because you guessed it, sweeping was my thing.

When I look back and remember those early days of motherhood with littles, sometimes I just see the crumbs and the spilt milk. (Of course the spilt milk.) And I remember the sweeping. But I also remember how that broom helped me take a moment before I had an outburst. Sweeping helped me take a breath. Sweeping sometimes was the thing that jump started my energy and my second wind when I couldn’t move because I was so exhausted. I would sweep the dust balls out instead of under the rug. Lay it all out, dust balls and all.

I remember wondering if this sweep, make mess, repeat was all there was. 20 years later, I believe that yes that’s all there is. At the end of the day we tidy, make our messes, and tidy again. Sometimes we take on new habits or simply grow up so our messes aren’t as big or sometimes we grow up and they are still big and we are still learning how to sweep them up.

We make the mistake of thinking we can sweep everything up once and for all but then we our life trying not to make a mess and we miss out on walking in the mud and watching those little footprints make patterns on the floor or the crumbs that are left as one sister feeds another her new creation in the kitchen – a makeshift carpet of the bits of life – our life as a family who makes messes and has a mom who loves to sweep them.

Because it’s her thing.

What’s your one thing that keeps you sane when mamahood threatens to overwhelm?

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