I woke up grumpy today. Maybe it was the stress of dealing with my passport renewal this week, maybe it was the fact that Dan was taking a class this week that necessitated upending our usual daily routine around here, maybe it’s the fact that I woke up with a stiff neck yesterday (a relic of a whiplash injury from a car accident years ago) and dealing with pain for over 24 hours was grating. Maybe I was just grumpy, and there wasn’t a particular reason.
Regardless, I was not having a good day. By the time Dan & Benjamin left for work and school this morning, I didn’t feel like doing anything, I was irritable and exhausted (and that was just after 8:00).
I got started on my to do list for today: cleaning, straightening, sweeping. The rest of the list (laundry, exercising, trimming Liam’s nails and other assorted errands) just made me more irritated every time I looked at it. The state of my house was stressing me out but the thought of doing anything about it was overwhelming.
I used to have days like this all the time, but they aren’t common anymore. I know the pattern, though — as the day goes on, whether or not I accomplish anything — I get more irritable, and, inevitably, my kids end up suffering for it. Sometimes I’m just grumpy all day (not fun for anyone), sometimes I end up growling at them over some minor infraction, sometimes I lose it a little and either break down in tears or scream in frustration. No matter what, it’s not good. I knew I needed something to get me off of that track and on to another one, but I didn’t know what to do — I’ve never really been successful before at rerouting my energy once I’ve started off in a funk.
I couldn’t think of anything that would make me feel better. More coffee? Chocolate? A walk in the park? None of it seemed appealing, and I didn’t think any of it was going to improve my mood (actually, the walk probably would have, but the stress of getting Liam & I ready, going to the park, and insuring I was back in time to pick Benjamin up from school negated the allure). I noticed, though, that every time I walked past my kitchen dry erase board (home to my daily to do list) I got grouchier.
I’m not sure if the list was the cause of my bad mood, or just exacerbating it, but I realized that the consequences of failing to do every single thing on the list would only be a busier weekend, while the consequences of trying to accomplish all of it might be losing my temper with my kids. One day of incomplete chores is irritating, maybe frustrating, and potentially inconvenient. One day of crying hysterically or snapping at my kids is immeasurably worse.
So, I erased the entire list and replaced it with a new one.
To anyone who isn’t a list person, this probably sounds silly, but for me, this was novel and incredibly difficult. I live by my list. It guides my schedule and actions throughout the day, and I get an unreasonable amount of satisfaction out of checking things off of it. Completely abandoning it, conceding that each one of those things would go undone and accepting that putting all of it off will probably make tomorrow harder are all against my nature. But none of those things matter in comparison to keeping myself in a good place, because being in a good place allows me to be a better mom.
It wasn’t a perfect day. I snarled at Liam twice — once when he pulled the drawer out of my nightstand and then started chucking stuff under the bed as I was scrambling to collect it all, and then once when he started “helping” (with very yucky results) during a diaper change. But really, it was a pretty good day. And I know it was better than it would have been if I’d spent my meager energy on laundry and paying bills. Much better. And the bills and laundry will wait until tomorrow.