David and I were married in May, which makes Thanksgiving our first, big, family holiday as husband and wife. What that actually means is that David got to see more of my crazy. I have something called OCM-Obsessive Compulsive Motherhood. I was never a neat freak growing up, I never had a problem with dirt, I wasn’t much of a perfectionist as a young adult, but the day I became a mom, everything changed. It started out in just a few areas but quickly spread. What does this look like in practice?
- I’m a shower nazi-I think the kids secretly hate that when they took a shower last isn’t one of the many things I forget. Clean kids, with clean hair, on a reasonable schedule. This is what momma likes.
- It is really hard for me to let my kids “express their individuality”. I know I know, it’s important for kids, but isn’t there anything positive to be said for teaching kids how to present themselves and make good first impressions? I like hair to look nice, clothes to match, and accessories to coordinate. Sunday mornings can be rough!
- I like a clean and tidy house. The older I get, the more clutter and ick stresses me out. I don’t just make rules for mess clean up, I make rules for mess prevention. It also takes 4 different checklists to keep up with all the housework because I want this house to look new as long as possible!
- I kills me to send a kid to school without all of their homework done, everything signed, and even some of the recommended extra work done!
- If I am asked to bring a food item for a class event, I can’t bring myself to buy it from a store. I must make it homemade.
- I want my kids to eat balanced….really balanced. Another one I am pretty sure my kids hate.
- Just to name a few…(I choose to keep this list short for self-protection!)
As I have mulled about this, I think I have figured out how I got here. When I became a mom, I was crash coursed into it-I had twins first. While I was pregnant, everyone had advice. “You need to get those two on a schedule or life will be really hard.” “Man, that’s going to be hard. A blessing! But hard.” “Are you reading any books about twins? So you know what to expect?” “I could have never done it. One at a time was hard enough!” This can really weigh on a new mom to be and create unnecessary doubt and fear. So what did I do? I read. And I planned. And I studied. First things first-I developed a birth plan. It wasn’t super detailed, but one thing was certain-I did not want a C-section (what first time mom does?). A few days before their birth, I was told the bottom twin was breech and I had to have a C-section. It was scheduled. I was not satisfied. Good news is, the twins already understood me because they decided to come two days early and my dr. was out of town. For me, new doctor meant new plan. As soon as he came in to introduce himself I told him I did not want a C-section and I wanted another ultrasound (for me, being assertive like that was a big deal). He agreed that the bottom twin was breech, but he told me he would let me try the natural birth on two conditions: I would have an epidural so that a quick switch could be made if needed and I would need to give birth in the OR for the same reason. I agreed. Long story short, Madalyn and Meredith were born 4 minutes apart without a C-section. My brain logged the fact that momma knew best.
The twins went to the NICU and were put in separate rooms. For the first day, they didn’t show much improvement from how they entered. I asked the nurses to put them back together, but I was met with an explanation about how their levels are what had them in separate rooms. Through the whole next day I asked that they be put together. By some point the second day, I went to visit and I was told upon entering that they were doing much better. I walked into the room to find them together-finally! By that evening, they were in the same bassinet and in my room. Once again, momma knew. When they came home, I immediately started implementing all I had learned to get them on schedule. In no time at all, they were eating together, sleeping together, even pooping together! Another brain log.
I had two more children before the twins turned three years old and continued to work hard to keep everyone scheduled so that I wouldn’t lose my mind. When I became a single mom, my OCM grew from just scheduled babies to appearance. I would work so hard to give the appearance that I could do this, that I had a handle on everything. I couldn’t leave the house without the kids looking on point. If someone was coming over, I wanted the house to look well kept. I didn’t want anyone to worry that I couldn’t handle it.
Then, eventually, I entered the single parent dating stage of life. When David entered the picture, my OCM skyrocketed! Good mom, clean kids, patient mom, well kept home, effective parenting, great cook/baker, etc etc.
Now I am here. I am newly married, blending a family with 7 kids, and in a brand new (super clean when I got it!) home I have always dreamed of. While I have overcome my need to overcompensate and paint a picture out of fear through striving, I do fully believe that a family as big as ours benefits the most if we function as a fine tuned machine. I am learning what balance looks like as we become fine tuned and keeping myself in check so I don’t exhaust myself (well, more than the exhaustion that just comes with having 7 kids!) or drive my family too crazy.
Thanksgiving was a big test of this. I was hosting in our new home for the first time and as of Monday, it still looked like our storage unit had thrown up all over our main living area. It was my first big holiday meal I would be cooking for David, and gosh darnit, I still like to impress him! My family was coming making our gathering 14 people. And the day before we were stoked to hear that David’s parents and youngest sister would be joining too! Seventeen people were coming to our house for Thanksgiving. I was doing pretty good keeping myself in check until the pie crust turkey started forming on top of the pumpkin pie! I started prepping two days before, complete with the 24 pound turkey brining in a storage tupperware in the second fridge in the garage. I was in the kitchen all day on Thursday (which was not our Thanksgiving) and half the day on Friday. In the past I have been known to completely miss an event mentally because I am so obsessed with everything being perfect, but I am proud (of myself) to say that even when the last dish of the day came out of the oven as a fail, I laughed and continued to have a good time and we still ate it! We just called it apple crisp instead of apple pie!
I may still be learning the balance some, and I know I disgust some of the wives of David’s coworkers because he talks up all that I take on, but this hot mess has come a long way. I had a Happy Thanksgiving. I remember it and made memories. And (I can’t even believe I am going to say this) I only took one picture all day. I was surrounded by all the people I love. I could literally look around the room and count blessing after blessing that I have been given this year. Rather than being near the point of exploding with stress, I was exploding with thankfulness. There is a lot to be thankful for this year, but there has ALWAYS been a lot to be thankful for-even on my darkest Thanksgiving. “Being joyful isn’t what makes you grateful. Being grateful is what makes you joyful.” Ann Voskamp
I hope and pray you all had a blessed and balanced thanksgiving!
Oh, and as far as “Did I still go a little overboard?” This family of NINE is still eating turkey, pumpkin pie and trimmings; we have enough gravy to serve it with breakfast lunch and dinner for a week, and we have over two gallons of turkey stock in the freezer to use this year. So maybe.