This evening, I found myself doing something that I had never imagined myself doing. Lately, I have been spending the hour after the boys go to bed doing things just for me, like reading a book and relaxing with a cup of tea. Tonight was different, though. I spent that hour cleaning as much of my house as I could.
At first, I felt like cleaning for that hour meant that I was giving up my precious leisure time. That thought did not make me happy. Later in the evening (after I had cleaned), I realized that tonight, cleaning my house did fulfill my goal of doing something “just for me” because I was no longer being dragged down emotionally by the sight of my surroundings.
Tonight, as I left the bedroom after the boys were in bed, I looked around at my house. It was a mess. Most days, I do a reasonably okay job of keeping things picked up as we go through our day. Many days I even get a drainer – full of dishes washed. Today was different. For some reason, the boys were reluctant to “help out” with picking up and washing dishes, either by participating or by playing while I did those things. It almost seemed like they were intent on making a bigger mess than usual, but I think that the real problem was that as the mess got bigger and bigger, my thoughts about it got worse and worse. After all, a three year old and a ten month old are not exactly capable of malicious intent.
As soon as the boys were in bed, I picked up everything that was where it did not belong and put it away. Things like cardboard boxes that were strewn about the living room and the remnants of dinner that were still on the table all went to their proper locations. Next, I swept the living room and kitchen floors. I felt good about that and I still had some time left, so I washed dishes and organized the dirty dishes that are still in the sink.
After that marathon cleaning spree, my head felt clearer and the negative thoughts that had pervaded my afternoon were just a distant memory. I took a look around me and then I sat down to work feeling happy and peaceful. Not only do things look good from where I sit right now, I get to go to bed later and wake up to a clean home in the morning. I never, ever thought that cleaning would fit within my list of “things that I do during my leisure time”. Life with a baby and a toddler has certainly changed my perspective on what counts as leisure.