06 April 2009

all in the details

We have some really smart bloggers here in Pittsburgh, women who seem to know what I'm thinking before I do and say it far better than I ever could. Two recent examples are from RedPenMama and My Very Last Nerve.  Go read them. I'll wait.

Marriage is hard. Marriage with children is even harder. I sometimes think I lack the superhuman skills necessary to successfully navigate life with a spouse and children so it is heartening and encouraging to discover I'm not alone. Not by a long shot.

As I read both the posts linked above I kept saying, "Yes, yes, yes that's it exactly!" to myself, but Gina's post kept niggling at me for days. She's got it just right. The responsibility. Keeping all the balls in the air and not letting any of them drop. Totally exhausting. But something kept poking at me and wouldn't go away. Finally, when I was in the shower this morning, the puzzle was solved. What was bothering me was the alternative to being responsible. Could I let go of the details and be okay if a ball was dropped, even an inconsequential one?

I was told some years ago that my control freak tendencies were abundantly obvious to everyone but me. Talk about a world-rocking revelation. At that time I had lived on my own for nearly 10 years. I liked things the way I liked them. And for the most part, didn't really have to adapt or adjust for anyone else. (My son's particularness brings it all home to roost, but that's a post for another day.)

Now here I am. Husband. Two kids. Schedules to keep track of, houses to deal with (yes that's intentionally plural but not by choice), high maintenance dogs, volunteer work, and a full time job on top of it all. In general, I like being the detail person. But as Gina pointed out in her brilliant post, it is exhausting. David Allen points out how exhausting it is to have it all in your head in his book Getting Things Done, but I have found even having trusted systems doesn't solve the problem entirely. It's still complex, hard, and exhausting.

So I started thinking about the alternate universe, the one where my husband keeps a few of those balls in the air for me. He is an involved parent, no doubt about it, but I am the one who keeps track of the little details. I make sure the nap blankets are clean for Monday morning. I know who prefers waffles to french toast and which school has an in-service day on Friday. I check the weather before dressing the kids. My husband is unlikely to send my daughter to school on a cold day in a sundress, but I also know he is unlikely to check the weather forecast. He has the same "I'd walk through fire for these kids" desire to protect them that I have. It's just little stuff. Details. How much do I care? Could I let go?

I'm trying. I left the house this morning to catch the bus with Eleanor and Oliver wasn't dressed. When I picked him up at school I noticed he was dressed reasonably well, but the only coat hanging on his hook was a sweatshirt. Though it was 55 when we got up this morning, I knew the forecast called for dropping temperatures throughout the day and it was likely to be cold, windy, and possibly snowing by the time we fetched Oliver at school. It was all of those things when we got there, even the snow. I had a moment of panic, a few more moments of being annoyed with CD, then remembered it was really all my fault. I was a little too optimistic on Sunday (and in denial about the cold weather some of the locals were tweeting about) and put all the winter coats in the basement to be washed. Finally, I felt ridiculous for misplacing the blame, and for messing up a detail that is my responsibility. My only defense is exhaustion.


PSU Mom said...

Much agreement here. If you do find a solution, I'm all ears. Or I will try to be, if I can drop something to make room for said solution...

Karen said...

Take it from a confirmed control freak - the world does not explode when you let a few balls drop. While your house is messier, and your kids aren't always properly dressed, you're happier. Much happier.

Gina said...

Aww, thanks!

I do let a lot of things go (anyone who has been in my house can see that), but not doing something and not caring about it are definitely two different things.

Anonymous said...

While you may think I'm smart -- and I thank you very kindly -- I'm still figuring this stuff out too.

Thanks for the link! And this is a pretty good contribution to the conversation. Definitely something to think on more.