Right now I am sitting in a room that is sweltering hot next to a sleeping baby who will wake up if she feels my leg move away from her foot. We haven’t had many hot days this summer, but when we do, the lack of air conditioning makes them unbearable. A few minutes ago, I felt like I couldn’t breathe, not because of the heat, but because my anxiety has been overwhelming me. Why? I don’t have any looming deadlines or anything that I am dreading coming up. Why then, do I feel like I am in the grips of anxiety today?
The days when I can’t figure out why I am anxious are the worst. Not only do I not know how to make things better, I also find myself wracking my brain to think of every possible anxiety trigger. This of course makes me think of all of those anxiety triggers, even if I wasn’t before. Today though, I know why I feel the way I do, as I have come to better understand how environmental triggers affect me,
There are two big reasons why I feel the way I do. Number one, my house is messy. Number two, there is a baby foot on my leg. These two reasons are very closely connected. After all that foot belongs to a toddler who is the main reason my house is currently messy.
I wish I had the perfectly clean house that I imagine every other stay-at-home mom has. I look around at toys scattered around my living room and stickers all over and under my kitchen table and I feel like a failure. I am so hard on myself and I feel like every little mess shows the world that I suck and shouldn’t be a stay-at-home mom. I know in reality that a mess doesn’t make me a bad mom, and that everyone else doesn’t always have a showroom perfect home. But sometimes, it really feels like that to me.
Sometimes my house is neat and perfectly picked up, usually when I have had a really great day, or I know someone is coming over. The problem is that it never lasts, at least not with my kids around. At 17 months old, Saoirse is a walking tornado. Nothing seems to bring her greater joy than emptying containers and scattering the contents around my house. The latest culprit has been Ryan’s craft box full of art supplies. Now I have foam stickers shaped like sea creatures all over my house. I would love nothing more than to throw them all away, but then that would be punishing Ryan for a mess he didn’t even make.
In terms of making messes, Ryan means well, but he is an absent-minded kid. Some would be quick to say that that is an autism thing, but I think it might just be an 8 year old boy thing. Either way, it is definitely just a part of who he is. He loves to invent things, build forts, and get lost in his imagination. The problem is he gets so focused on what he is doing, that he somehow always manages to forget to clean it up unless he has constant reminders. By the time I have to ask him to clean up his mess, he has somehow managed to create something that is so overwhelming, he doesn’t know where to start, so he whines and procrastinates instead.
This tends to leave me staring at a messy house, holding a cranky toddler (who is upset because I try to stop her from making messes) and listening to my 8 year old whining and throwing a fit in the next room. Why on earth would this make me anxious, right?
About that cranky toddler, Saoirse is 100 percent a Velcro baby. She likes to explore, make messes and climb on top of things she shouldn’t. However, if she isn’t doing any of those things, she is clinging to me or shrieking at me until I pick her up. That tiny bit of personal space, when no one else is touching me or in my arms pretty much doesn’t exist for me at this stage of toddlerhood, and I miss it so much. Don’t get me wrong, I love human contact and snuggling with my kids. But when it is every waking moment or else I get screeched at, I start to savor those moments that I can.
So messy house and velcro toddler, makes cleaning up that much more difficult. Then, when I finally do have a spare moment, I tend to want to take a break and savor it. Herein lies the vicious cycle that I need to break out of.
The kids make a mess, I get anxious, I step back for a minute and the mess only becomes more overwhelming. This cycle continues until I can’t take it any more and then I am a total stress case cleaning.
The funny thing about that is that I actually find cleaning to be incredibly therapeutic. The trick is that I need to break out of this cycle, I need to clean before I get overwhelmed, even if I have a toddler clinging to me for dear life. I also need to stay on top of Ryan about cleaning up after himself.
I have a lot of plans I want to implement to help stop this vicious cycle, and I plan to share them on here. Today though, I will just be cleaning up another mess.