MESSY: Characterized by dirt, disorder, or confusion; lacking neatness or precision; embarrassing, difficult, or unpleasant.
I love all the definitions for this word. They are all so fitting. The messiness of motherhood stands out to me because I had a very clean, orderly, and precise life Before Children (BC). If my life was a Sesame Street program, it would be “Brought to you by the letter A.” As in, Type A. I’m an ambitious, impatient, time-conscious, tightly-wound multi-tasker. Motherhood has mellowed many of those traits – partly because my priorities have changed and I have an increased ability to keep my eye on the things that are important and meaningful, but mostly because I’m just too tired to be as ambitious as I once was.
BC, I kept a tidy home. To give you a sense of the understatement that may be: one day in my early twenties I ran home to my apartment on a lunch break to find strangers in my kitchen. Turns out the maintenance guy confused my apartment for the staged model unit and was offering prospective tenants a tour. Contrast that with the scene before me as I type. From where I sit on the couch, I can see a partially constructed helicopter made out of straws, three stuffed animals, a pillow, two jackets, a drum, one dirty sock, crumpled jeans, pattern blocks, and a cold cup of coffee that was poured approximately 13 hours ago. I know that things would only be worse if I walked to the kitchen. So yeah, motherhood is messy in the dirt, disorder and confusion sense of the word.
But it’s also messy in the “lacking neatness and precision” sense of the word. I use to do a job with right answers and correct outcomes. Now, the measurements of progress are less precise and the outcomes remain uncertain. What are the long-term effects of eating a donut instead of oatmeal for breakfast? Is it best to flatter a child’s attempt to make his own bed or show him how to do it properly? Will the effort I take to warm his milk make my son more nurturing in the long run? Will my daughter be less nurturing because I decided that heating milk is a rookie mistake that wastes precious minutes of sleep in the middle of the night? How many colorful words can a child have in his vocabulary before other parents discourage their children from inviting mine for a playdate? Does “heck” qualify as a bad word? How big of an impact does wearing socks on my ears in exchange for a giggle have on my child’s future joyfulness? Will my transparent distaste for all things pink make my daughter under value femininity? Is it ever okay to laugh at farts?
Yes, motherhood is messy. There are toys on the floor waiting pointy-side-up for a shoe-less foot, dust on the surfaces not protected by junkmail dust jackets, and unidentifiable sticky substances on the edges and underside of our dining table. There is also an overall lack of precision as I seek to do best by my children…rarely knowing what qualifies as “best.”