Bumper Sticker Life

Evidently, how I spend my days is how I spend my life. Also, there may be angels following me, Elvis may have left the building, and this is the first day of the rest of my life. And so on…

I hate trite. At least tonight, I do. Slogans like these make me start to hyperventilate and panic- well, except the Elvis one. What I do with my days, all to often, is nowhere near what I really want to be doing. I wipe things- the floor, tables, diapers, butts, dishes, the counter, the stove, the floor again, noses, tears, some more butt- you get the picture.

Yesterday, as I was cleaning the kitchen, wiping things down and picking up from Round Three of caring for my family, I suddenly exploded in a tirade of resentment. David- yes, I’m sick of using DH- whatever- his name is David- is sitting at the computer, wondering why his wife has gone insane.

The thing is, I’m a smart woman. The good Lord was generous in the Art department when he came to me, and sometimes I really want to devote more time to that part of myself- and I just don’t get to. I want to stomp my feet and whine and throw a big ol’ rager of a fit, just like my kids, and I want to get my way. Dammit. Anyone can do what I do around my house- can change diapers, wipe the floor for the umpteenth time, and put in a load of laundry.

No one but me can paint like me.

So what do I do? How do I keep the resentment from building up? Was I given talents for no reason? Is this a fair trade-off, and does fair even matter? Sometimes it feels like I’m trading really important things for the mundane- it’s not that caring for my kids isn’t important- but how much is the drudgery work or mothering really contributing to the quality of their parenting? Does it matter if I am the one who makes the floors sparkle?

I’m caught in a stand-off. Someone help me. 

33 thoughts on “Bumper Sticker Life

  1. Hon, then PAINT. Who gives a crap about sparkly floors when Mom’s freaking out? SERIOUSLY. Do whatever you need to do to get the kids occupied and let yourself express yourself. The kids will remember how artistic and happy their mom was when she got to create stuff, or they will remember a crotchety mom who snapped at them for reasons they didn’t get – PAINT RIGHT NOW.

  2. I agree with tracey. PAINT!!!! I dont’ remember what my mothers floors were like. Seriously! Paint! You need to do what keeps you sane to keep wiping those bums. And painting is it.

  3. Ditto to the above. Let the house be messy for a few hours, or a few days, or however long you need to make a couple gorgeous paintings. If the house mess gets frustrating and needs cleaning and there’s nobody else to do it, then you could schedule it out a bit: 2 hours of mundane housework gets you 1 hour of painting time wherein you don’t have to worry about any mess or cleaning it up or anything, or some other time trade setup. Have your husband be in charge of everything kid-related for an hour or two every day, or every couple of days, or however often you think would be good. Use that time just for art. No interruptions allowed unless there’s an emergency.

    If art is your passion in life, then I think you should certainly make time for it. I think your kids will remember your passions, and the things of beauty and joy that you took the time to create, much more than whether or not the house was constantly spotless. The mundane work of motherhood is, of course, important, but finding joy through the talents God gave you is also important, and your kids deserve a mommy who’s taking enough time to herself to keep herself sane and happy.

  4. Tracy M,

    I feel your pain. Seriously. The resentment really starts to build up if I can’t get my creativity out on a regular basis. So like everyone else here has already said, I have made the decision to trade a clean house for time to spend on my talents. Even now, I sit at the computer at the dining table surrounded by patterns, fabric, and half 3 projects waiting to be started (and it’s all been sitting out for the past 4 days). During the busiest times of my life, I have had to pick one night a week to devote to creative endeavors – we ate simple dinners, or take-out and the kids went to bed early. I could get at least 3 hours of work in (sometimes even 4 if I was willing to stay up late and pay for it the next day) Even one night a weeks was good enough to get me through at those times. This is not one of those things you need to wait for the right “time and season”. You have to find a way to fit it into your life now – and always.

  5. I’m going to try to avoid trite in this comment, cause I hate bumper stick life too. But I do have an analogy that has helped me get through feeling this way. Sometimes when I’m sick, I forget that I’m going to get better. Really, my brain and body become convinced that this is life and it’s going to stay this way. I was very ill once for a full year and I learned to deal with the health I had. I grew used to the facts and limitations because of my health. A doctor once asked me how often I was in pain, and I laughed at the question. Because the answer was always. It was very difficult to imagine getting better. I just didn’t believe it.

    This is kinda like having young children. You get used to always being aware of where they are, wiping the butts, and the never-ending laundry. When you’re in the middle of it, it’s hard to imagine life being different.

    But, the thing is, it really does get better. So do whatever you have to to be happy now. Paint away for hours. Allow yourself to imagine and dream and believe that life will change and one day you’ll realize you can’t remember the last time you wiped a butt.

    It would be trite if I told you how much you’ll miss the butt-wiping and all. That’s ridiculous. You won’t. I certainly don’t.

  6. “A thing of beauty is a joy forever.”

    heh, heh, I just had to.

    The floor doesn’t care who scrubs it. If you had employment right now, I’d say hire a teenager to come clean once a week/month. And that makes me miss my cleaning lady.

    Anyway, honey, I agree with all the others – screw the house, and get painting. David’s there, and yes, probably looking for work, but he can handle catastrophes if needed.

  7. Damn, I don’t even paint. Where’s my excuse for sticky floors?
    A friend recently gave me some advice I like (she claims she got it from the flylady), set a timer for 15 minutes and work your butt of until the timer beeps. Then take a break, 15-20 minutes. Then start again.
    So far I’m really good on the first 15 minute block but haven’t really gotten past my break time……15 minutes is better than hiding in my room though, right?

  8. I get so frustrated with this kind of thing, too – though not in the painting department. I feel like I’m letting my music talent go to waste because I’m not taking lessons and working toward something and it’s frustrating. We don’t have the money to pay $40 for a half hour lesson every week, but we can buy new, more professional clothes for NYDD for clinic and Peanut cruises through clothes and diapers like it’s toilet paper. I understand these things are needs and are investments in the future, etc, but it’s still hard sometimes. And the same goes for time. I can’t just sit and practice because Peanut and the house needs attention and NYDD needs to study. It’s frustrating to feel like my desires and abilities are frequently shoved aside for things we need to deal with now.

    A friend reminds me everything has it’s time and season, but it’s still frustrating sometimes because it’s something I’m so passionate about. In the mean time I’m stuffing it in where I can. Not much help or comfort, I know, but I can relate with the tantrum throwing.

  9. I’m a “times and seasons” person over here, ’cause I got married “late” (25) and started my destined-to-be-large family “late” (26) and then insisted on some sanity spacing (2.5ish years between each). So I’m resigned to this season of whelping, rearing, wiping, and cleaning. Mundane but necessary, like brushing our teeth each day.

    But oh my YES I hate it when I’m wiping milk off the floor under the table for the fourth time TODAY and don’t any of you ever actually LISTEN to me when I ask you to put the cereal box/shoes/wet towel/book where it belongs? And boy, am I never NOT flexing my vocal talents singing Sally DeFord arrangements in ward choir. But I’m maintaining them to some degree, and I’m the one who chooses little league for Scooter over vocal study for me. It’s the right choice right now, but I’m the manager of the Muppets and you are the manager of the Dandelions…and your time and season may be different.

  10. Is there a way that you could schedule in your “you time”. I mean, we set aside a three hour block to go to church–we don’t skip out to do a couple loads of laundry and mop the floors. We schedule dr. appts and sports and meetings that we don’t miss for household chores.

    My neighbor’s husband plays guitar. He’s no longer in a band, but they have it worked out that every Wednesday night from 6-9 is his guitar time. She finds a way to occupy their kids, so he’s not disturbed. He does the same for her Saturday mornings, while she does something that’s just for her. It’s not much time, but it’s what they manage to squeeze in right now with their small children. And they’ve already laid down the ground rules and scheduled it, so that there’s no question that that’s their time–they don’t make any other plans during those blocks of time and the other person is always responsible for the kids.

    Other than that, I’m with everyone else. A happy mom is way more important than a clean floor. Of course the chores need to get done eventually, but sometimes you have to make a choice of what’s most important in that moment. Choose to paint! And don’t feel guilty about it.

  11. Paint. When I need time for myself I don’t ask – I inform my sweet husband that he will be in charge while I sew or do whatever it is I need to do to not “reach out and touch someone” in a painful sort of way. God DID give you these talents and you shouldn’t let them sit idly by. I agree with the others – your kids won’t remember how clean the floors were, but they will remember your attitudes and how you expressed them.
    Oh, but if you do paint, you must share with us! I LOVE seeing the things that you create… it inspires me… so, um, maybe my encouragement is a tad on the selfish side 😉

  12. Oh I feel the same way, with only 1 kid and nowhere near your level of talents.
    It comes in waves though. Some days I really love taking care of my family and somedays I know I will crack if I don’t do something ELSE for a while.
    Confounded balance. I’m no help.

  13. I so feel your pain. Sometimes I feel I will explode with resentment. And I don’t even paint, either.

    In the midst of our latest sickness, we were watching “Blue Planet”, and it shows some mother land crabs who have to waddle all the way to the ocean’s edge, laden with thousands of eggs. They have to make it to the ocean to release the eggs. The problem is that land crabs can’t breathe underwater, and can’t swim, and so the mother crabs are risking their very lives to ensure the safety of their progeny. Many of them drown.

    My conclusion?

    Being the female in this world totally sucks.

    And in my fevered state, I had to admit I saw nothing divine about drowning for your kids.

    But I’ve seen what happens when I go under, and it’s not pretty. While on bedrest, my home was in chaos, and my son was on edge. While I’ve been sick, again, my home is in chaos, and it makes my family edgy. DH helps, so so much, but my family runs smoother when I, when MOM is the one in charge. I don’t know why it works that way, but it does. And no, your children will not one day come to you and say, “Mom, you are the best mopper in the UNIVERSE!” But they will remember a mom who was committed to their home, even when it involved drudgery and monotony. And that, my friend, is huge.

    Go ahead and paint. Paint when you can, when you need to, create beauty like nobody else. (And sell it, darn it, because it’s damn good!)But remember that besides the gift of painting, God gifted you with these kids, too. AND NOBODY CAN RAISE THEM THE WAY YOU CAN.

    Just try not to drown in the process 😉

  14. Oh wow, thank you. Last night it took all I had (and putting myself in time out during dinner) not to loose it at my family.

    I too wish I could paint. There was recently a time I painted, life with 3 kids was manageable so I had a few nights a week to paint. Then hubby lost job, moved to God forsaken wilderness(metaphorically speaking) and had an oops baby. My head is still spinning and I’m trying to find what balance is in this new life. My guilt bone was hurting today(what?) mad that I can’t get a handle on it. So thanks for pointing out its OK to be human.

    Admittedly, the times I have painted I’ve been blessed to hang on to my talent despite the time away. Which goes against all I know. Not that I’m ready to paint the Mona Lisa after a day of teething and science fair projects. But I haven’t lost it all either. I see this as a blessing of being a mother. One of God’s tender mercies.

    Also- The thing with art is you’re in it or YOU’RE OUT (to quote a fashion savy diva). You can paint a couple hours a week. But to be critiqued, to see others’ work that inspires you, to get a chance at showing your work and etc. takes consistency and time. Obviously that IS a time and season issue.

    So get some chocolate, turn on your painting music and go at it 🙂

    “Cause when Momma ain’t happy ain’t nobody happy!”
    (HATE that one!)

  15. besides the fact that I DON”T have the ability in art, I know what you are saying. How is this for a trite saying “an empty vessel has nothing to give”. Or the ever popular, “if mamma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy”.

    paint, make if your job (sell those babies…seriously), then you are bringing money in, David can watch the kids (till he works again) or hold down the fort, or even bargin with your neighbors and church friends that would LOVE lovely things in their homes but don’t have the money..trade babysitting for painting…. I would do it in a second if you lived closer.

    There are SO many cute prints on Esty (many that I COVET).. you could make some cash. then, when David is working again, paint and sell enough to pay for the cleaning ladies to come in once a week and clean the mess while you paint!! 🙂

  16. I think your feelings are very normal and nearly every mother feels that way sometimes! I’m a regular reader of your blog and a big fan; I hope I’m not out of line to say I think a little benign neglect is not a bad thing. I know from reading previous posts that you have almost never been separated from your children, and it’s been years. I admire and support SAHMothering, but I also think some mothers overdo it. I don’t know what’s right for you, but I wonder if you might benefit from a little less staying at home and a little more pursuing their other interests?

  17. Sorry, one more thought. I think it’s unavoidable that we all get our lives a little out of balance at times; I certainly have. You might decide that it’s necessary for a limited time to put some things aside, and maybe it is, but it should only be for a limited time. You were not given other talents for no reason.

  18. Hey I love this particular problem you have. It’s mine as well. Would you be surprised if I suggested it has nothing to do with paint? It seems very likely that you’ll paint and sell and do amazing things with that gift.

    I can only give you a partial explanation because I am still so lame at my understanding of this principal. Resentment is an on again off again but serious and joy-stealing battle for me. So here it is:

    Resentment is anger which is fear. It’s not light. It’s not truth and the power it contains does not lift, strengthen and progress in an upward direction.

    If you can find the lie behind it you can let it go and be free. It’s tricky girl. You can do it.

    Don’t be fooled into thinking it’s about the paint.

  19. What everyone else said… I force myself to ignore the obvious at times- so I can regroup for me. I ignore the laundry, the dishes, and sometiems even a sporting event. I’ve been known to skip my ward (so much drama there) and visit another in a town 30 minutes away, just so I can be alone & rejuvenated.

    I think people (husbands, whoever else) forget that mom’s are people. That mom’s aren’t the only ones who can clean, who can cook, and who can clean vomit at 3am.

    Go on strike, paint for days at a time… right now he is looking for work- BUT, make positive use of that time too- and explore YOU!!

  20. I’m with the gang here, and how to deal with it, that is an extremely good question.

    My favorite movie of all time is “Babette’s Feast.” If anyone is so inclined, please take the time to check out this film. So many of us have a talent, that for one reason or another, has to take a back seat, if not be completely ignored for a season or several seasons. And this situation is not unique to just women.

    My only caution about striking (and believe me, I have been tempted) is that the family still needs you. It is okay to let the floors go a week or so, but if it will bother you, you will end up being miserable and in a very messy house. Communicate with David and see if there is a time in the very near future that he can take the kids out and allow you to create/work without distraction.

    Best wishes and big hugs. Jen

  21. I agree with everyone else. Paint. Who cares if the house is not sparkly all the time? You need to do it… to take of yourself and your needs so that you can care for your own family.

    Honestly, I understand where you’re coming from. I myself have four kids under 6 and my house is NEVER clean. The angst of trying to keep up (on top of working to support my fam) has gotten to be too much. So I made a list of things that NEED to be done regularly… like washing underwear and towels, and keeping the dishes done.

    With DH on the computer, it can get tough really fast. I know this from personal experience. My DH lives on his pc… right now, the tide it out in our marriage/household and I find myself being ok, then turning on a dime and feeling quite resentful. I found this quote and whenever the tide it out, so to speak, I read it. I hope it helps you, too.

    May 1923: “Doing up cut fingers, kissing hurt places, and singing bedtime songs are small things by themselves; but they will inculcate a love for home and family that will last through life and help to keep America a land of homes.

    Putting up the school lunch for the children or cooking a good meal for the family may seem very insignificant tasks as compared with giving a lecture, writing a book, or doing other things that have a larger audience; but I doubt very much if, in the ultimate reckoning they will count for as much…It belittles us to think of our daily tasks as small things, and if we continue to do so, it will in time make us small. It will narrow our horizon and make of our work just drudgery.

    There are so many little things that are really very great, and when we learn to look beyond the insignificant-appearing acts themselves to their far-reaching consequences, we will ‘despise not the day of small things.’ We will feel an added dignity and poise from the fact that our everyday round of duties is as important as any other part of the work of the world.

    And just as a little thread of gold, running through a fabric, brightens the whole garment, so women’s work at home, while only the doing of little things, is like the golden gleam of sunlight that runs through and brightens all the fabric of civilization.”

    -Laura Ingalls Wilder, Little House in the Ozarks

  22. Wow. This just shows me how desperately I need Google Reader. I’m always so behind!

    Tracy, everyone has the best advice, and honestly, I wish I could follow it. I think I’m going to have to keep this post of yours for continual future use, because I have no advice to give; I feel exactly as you do, only my desire is to write.

  23. My aunt wanted to write when she was younger, but she had 9 kids and just let it slide by. Now all her kids are out of the house, and now that she has time to write, all of her drive to do it is gone. Even if you just find time to paint a little bit here and there, it’s better to do it instead of letting your talent dry up.

    I have personally found I’m a lot happier when I’ve got articles to write, and I’m not so crabby about the fact that I’m loading the dishwasher again.


  24. I agree with everyone’s comment: just paint. And I don’t think it’s important to the kids how clean the floor is or who cleans it (like if you can afford to get a teenager to do it for you). Here’s the problem I have: The kids don’t need ME to wipe the floor or cook the food, but they need ME. They need me standing around, probably in the kitchen, on call for whatever need emerges at whatever moment. It’s like cleaning house is what I do so I won’t be annoyed when the kids come interrupt.

  25. Personally, I feel like everything happens for a reason. Maybe your husband had the misfortune of losing his job so that you would be in a position of needing to paint again for both financial and emotional well being.

    Not to be too “Pollyanna” on you, but I like to think (hope) that from every trial we gain something. If I don’t think that way, then life just becomes way too overwhelming.

  26. I just turned 50. I just finished rearing 5 kids. Now grandkids, church, travel, and MUCH volunteering. In the immortal words of Roseann Roseanna Danna:

    “It’s always something.”

    Yeah. You can’t wait for the perfect time, because like money, the more you have the more you spend. You’ll never have enough of either.

    A very wise and thoughtful Bishop once counseled me: “Keep one front room clean for visitors, the rest of the house can go. Heavenly Father gave you a talent. If He came to your house would He rather see an immaculate home or one filled with His talent?”

    And one last thought. In our house “Elvis has left the building.” refers to when someone has FINALLY had that long awaited b.m., just saying, you made me laugh.

  27. You have received some great advice. I believe this is a universal problem — how to balance the needs and wants of our families and ourselves.

    Years ago I attended a stake RS enrichment. I don’t remember the details of the class, basically about finding joy in motherhood and finding time for ourselves while not forgetting our responsibilities to our families. But I do remember clearly the comment of one woman. She said that one of the ways she found balance was to remember that laundry (et al) was her way of showing her family she loved them. She viewed it as service to her family, not just mundane drudgery that has to be repeated innumerable times.

    That was a life-changing epiphany for me. I don’t have to resent and dread and hate all the housework and taking care of kids! I can change my attitude! I don’t have to like it all, but I don’t have to hate it so much that it affects my entire attitude for the day! It is a balancing act.

    I agree with others. PAINT! Give yourself something to hold onto and enjoy during this stressful time with the job search. But find the right balance for your family. If you leave the housework for too long, then it will become overwhelming and drudgery. Believe me, I know first-hand. I’ve had to rework my balancing act a million times over the years. It is important — no, ESSENTIAL — that you give yourself permission to take care of yourself as you also take care of your family.

    And remember that you have hundreds of Dandelion Mama (and MMW and other blog) fans who are cheering you on to find a successful balance! You aren’t alone in your natural and understandable feelings of resentment. The question to answer is: what are you going to do about it?

  28. sounds like its time to do a kid swap and take a day or two? for yourself. I get like this many times too and its when I realize that I need to be an individual for awhile and not just a Mommy

  29. I agree with pretty much everything that everybody here has already said…but I can’t get past comment no. 3. Two hours of housework?! Really? With the exception of preparing for overnight guests, I don’t think I’ve ever done two hours of housework at a time, but if I did on a regular basis, I’d definitely feel resentful. I’d say do the bare minimum (delegating some to DH) that is necessary to keep you sane and your home functional (clean laundry, clean dishes). Maybe put away some piles of stuff if that’s what gets to you. I’m talking five or ten minutes at each job.

    Then lock yourself in a room, turn on some music so you can blissfully ignore the hordes pounding on your door, and paint.

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