I don’t want to know if it’s possible to “have it all.” That honestly sounds pretty silly to me. First of all, who wants that much shit? Second of all, there is a never ending line of things being made, invented, and dreamed up every second of every day. So, what does “having it all” really mean? No, my question is something different entirely. Can you actually do it all?
Can you actually have time to take care of kids, spend time with your husband, clean the house (dishes, toys, vacuum), do the laundry, go to the grocery store, make all of the meals, shower, bathe the kids, change diapers, take the kid to preschool, pick the kid up from preschool, play with the kids, do something you love (crafting, painting, reading), sleep, and still be a happy person? If so, how?
I feel like a good first step for me is to sit back and really consider being a minimalist. Now, I already consider myself to be a semi-minimalist. I don’t buy anything extra, but I have relatives who believe that if they don’t buy me and the kids things, all the time, that it means they don’t love us. I’m not sure where this type of thinking comes into play. I like giving gifts so very much, but even I don’t think you need ten gifts for every special occasion, and two on Tuesdays.
My mother in law is the worst. It’s actually an addiction for her. She’s completely addicted to shopping. She will spend $400 on clothes for the kids a month, and the same amount on toys. I’ve begged her to stop. My husband has begged her. My father in law has given her an endless amount of crap for it, but yet she persists. She will visit, randomly, on a Friday and bring my daughter three new toys and my son one. Even though our house is overflowing with things they don’t play with. You cannot walk two inches without stepping on a toy. Yet my kids are bored, or over stimulated, or something. They hate it as much as I do, but I keep putting things out. Why? So I don’t offend her. She shows her love through giving…. but what the kids really need her to give it time.
The biggest problem I’ve had since moving into the neighborhood with my in-laws is that their relationship with my kids is not the same relationship I had with my grandparents. I was always with my grandparents (my grandmother mostly), or they were always with me. They wanted to spend time with us, and even though my grandmother is a world class shopper, she almost never bought us toys. She’d buy us clothes (ugh, boooring), and then send us outside to climb trees or play basketball, then we’d come in for dinner. She was always there for us, and we’d spend hours everyday sitting on the porch, talking and swinging in the big porch swing. These are my fondest memories. I can name one thing she bought for me when I was younger, and that’s because it’s sitting in my bedroom right now, 25 years later. It’s a wooden trunk, and it now holds books for my kids. That’s it.
This is the kind of relationship I want my kids to have with their grandparents. I want them to remember wagon rides around the neighborhood, and playing softball in the back yard. I want them to remember dinners, and snuggles, and laughing. I don’t want them to think of their grandparents as the gift givers. Although my daughter now says “I’m going to ask grandma to get that for me” every time she sees a commercial for a new toy. And you know what… if grandma is around when she sees that commercial, she will have that toy within the next two days.
So, what do I do? How do I unburden myself from this weight? How do I take the biggest problem, the biggest collection of junk strewn about my house, and make it disappear? How do I get this one thing off of my plate so that I can take clean up time and put it towards family time? What can I do besides offend someone who thinks this is how you show love? Is there a fix for this that won’t hurt her feelings? Or hurt our relationship? Something has to give, and it has to be soon.