I used to play The Sims games, back in the days when I had free time. You know, B.C. (Before Child).
In these games, you control a person. You get her to do chores around the house, dress them, help her make friends, and become a useful member of society. You make decisions for her, and you get rewards for doing well. Basically, you guide her through her life for fun and prizes.
I gave up on that kind of game after I became a mom for two reasons. First, when you have a child, you’re already guiding a person through her life, only with less fun and fewer prizes. It sapped some of the joy out of the game, let me tell you, although having someone actually do what you tell her to do got even more satisfying.
But the second reason killed the game for me completely. To keep your Sim happy in the game, you do the same things every “day.” You get up, get dressed, eat, wash the dishes, watch TV, talk to friends…
I’m a mom. I already have enough infinitely repeating tasks, thanks.
There is literally never a moment in my life when everything is done. Even while the dishwasher is running, someone is drinking from a glass. For every washing machine cycle, each person in my family is wearing (and dirtying) some other clothing. And one meal is hardly finished before I have to think about what I’m making for the next.
And the daily cycle isn’t all. Every few days, I must get gas. Every week, I must vacuum and change the sheets. Every month, I have to swear at how high the cable bill is.
Seasonally, I go through my daughter’s clothes and toys and send the things that are too small to my nieces. Every spring, I make summer camp plans. Every August, I leave the beach parks and go to an office supply store for glue sticks and copy paper.
Some of the same chores existed B.C., of course. However, if I missed a day of laundry and showering back then, there wasn’t a child walking next to me all the next day with tangled hair and filthy clothes, looking like an unmedicated schizophrenic. The iPod in my head that repeatedly says “Bad Mom” on those days must have been installed at some point during labor when I wasn’t paying attention.
But I think I’ve finally discovered something. Two somethings, actually.
First, I’ve learned to enjoy some of the chores. Dishes are actually great. There’s something very soothing about hot soapy water and washing by hand until the pile is all gone. There’s a reason Zen masters recommend it. And for alone time, it can’t be beat! Just ask everyone who walks by you to grab a towel and help dry, and soon you’ll be completely by yourself.
Second, and even more soothing, is the realization that every chore has a payoff. For every wash day, there’s a very satisfying pile of clean and folded clothes. For every meal made, there are the happy full bellies of my family. For every hour spent going over reading homework, there’s the bedtime story read to me, rather than the other way around.
The chores may be never ending. But the rewards can be, too. Maybe not fun and prizes, true, but something worth much more.
Organization and good health and the feeling of a job well done may not be as flashy as racking up the points, but in the end, I’d rather be at the top of the Mom High Score list.