Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The To Do List of Guilt

I love my To Do list. A neat row of things to remember, things to take care of, and errands to run. When I get each one done, I cross it off proudly, knowing I am one step closer to having all my ducks in a row. When I have scratched off all the items on my list, I can relax and take a few minutes for me. I reward myself for good behavior and the proof of my work is right in front of me.

No, seeing a clean house and a smelling dinner cooking on the stove aren't reminders enough for me. Half the time I turn around after finishing one chore and the last one is already undone. If I didn't have my list I wouldn't have proof that anything at all had been finished. I know DH comes home some days and wonders what the heck we've all been doing. It wasn't this way an hour ago! I swear! If it weren't for the To Do List I'll bet he would think I'm just acting crazy.

You would think that with all the girls being older now, that things wouldn't be so messy and crazy like they were when they were babies. Not so. The messes are just more sophisticated. When they were toddlers, I knew when they ate and what they ate and if there were things left out afterwards, I knew it was my own fault for not putting it away. Now, I can walk into a room and the remnants of no less than FOUR MEALS will be strewn across the room - the same room that I yelled at them for eating in not two hours before. I am assuming they have the memory of a goldfish and the appetite of a lion. Nothing else can explain this.

Some days I am so busy and I don't end up finishing everything on my To Do List. Heck, there are times I don't even TOUCH my list. It doesn't mean I haven't been productive. I've just been doing the thousand OTHER things that aren't already on my list. But even though I've been busy and I end the day feeling exhausted, I still have this nagging guilt about all the things I HAVEN'T done.

On the surface it sure seems like the lists are the problem. All those unfinished tasks, just sitting there, staring my in the face as a reminder of what I haven't done. It's more than a little depressing. If I've been busy shouldn't I feel proud of my accomplishments? Well, yes. Sure. It doesn't always work that way. The reason I keep the lists around is that there are just some things that are so very important that I must not forget them but no matter how important they are, I WILL forget them without some sort of reminder. I have TONS of reminders.

The calendar is where I keep appointments, pay days, and bill due dates. The dry erase board is where I keep the tasks that I need help with - the bigger things like, "Fix the hole in the fence." It is also where DH keeps the most important five crafts that he is working on. It helps me to know what he is working on so I don't accidentally clean up his mess while he is in the middle of it. The cork boards are where I keep reminders for the girls. I have a morning and evening routine to help them remember what needs to be done so I can do less nagging (supposedly.)

My favorite is the spiral notebook, which is where I keep my ongoing list. As I finish things, I cross them off. As I think of things, I add them on to the bottom. When one page gets so full that I can't tell at a glance what needs to still be done, I flip to the next page, write the new date at the top, and rewrite all the items that still need to be done. In my heart I know I won't get them all done in one day. I constantly have to remind myself that finishing them at once isn't really the goal. Reminding myself that there is something important to do - THAT is the purpose. It kind of gives me purpose too.

Take this week for instance. It is only Tuesday and already it's gone down the toilet. By this time last week, I had already cleaned all the living areas of my house and I was starting on the bedrooms. This week I'm looking around at the scraps of paper on the floor, the half finished cans of grape soda, the shoes strewn throughout the house as though one got up and went exploring without its partner, all the STUFF that got left around during the weekend and I just can't bring myself to even add "tidy living room" to my list.

I know it sounds a bit like a sulky, pouty child. "I already DID this! Why do I have to do it again?" I certainly admit that sulking is a small part of it. But it is only a part. The rest of me is ignoring the scattered disaster on purpose. Really. It is all part of my plan to raise decent children into responsible adults. I'm just sitting quietly for the moment, waiting until the time is right and then I will SPRING on the girls in all my Mommy glory and they will FEAR ME! They will clean this mess up so fast, I will forget there was ever a cereal bowl left on the dining room table!

You see, if I put this stuff on MY list, then I am actively taking the job away from the girls (who made the mess in the first place.) I want them to take care of it, and not just because I'm sick to death of doing it myself. I want them to take responsibility for their own actions, understand that leaving things down will make a mess that SOMEONE has to clean up. Since there is no one in the house name "Someone" they will just have to take care of it themselves. Deep in my heart I know that raising them to be aware of their own messes and conscious of the necessity to take care of it will make them better adults and better able to care for themselves in the future.

Now, actually following through with this is something I am not 100% great at. Most of the time, I do leave the girls' things exactly where they left them and then I go through the Seven Levels of Nagging to get them to put their things away. Or I trip on them and throw them as far as I can out of sheer frustration. Occasionally (okay more than just occasionally) I wait until most everyone is out of the house or otherwise occupied OUT OF MY FACE and I take care of it myself.

That's what happened last week and quite honestly, it will probably happen again today. Doing the dishes and vacuuming are not on my To Do List, but I have a fix for that. I'll do as much as I can without falling over from exhaustion, and then I will add what I have done to my list. So I can cross it off.


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