I fully own the control freak in me. She’s kind of my hero, actually. She texts the babysitter about what to reheat for dinner every night, calls the school bus company to file complaints when they fail to show up, and pre-portions all my almonds into baggies to keep at work for snacking (never mind that I then tear through the contents of multiple baggies). However, having a kid will kill the control freak inside you, and pretty damn quickly at that. Is it nature’s way of showing us we need to remain flexible as parents? Maybe. Or maybe Type A moms like me just need to be taken down a peg.
The control freak in me has served me well when it comes to always having enough cash on hand in case a restaurant doesn’t take cards, or shlepping a change of clothes for everyone, everywhere we go with our two kids. But it’s also caused a lot of inconvenience. It has prevented me from putting trust in anyone else to do the things I need done exactly how I want them. I should be choosier about those things I exact control over. Not only would it stress everyone out a lot less trying to live up to my (sometimes) ridiculous standards (“Don’t sit on the bed unless you’re in pajamas!”), but it would allow the parental duties to be more evenly distributed between my partner and me. I think we’d both like that, especially since my nitpicking about how he dresses our son doesn’t bring out the best in us.
I’ve slowly been learning to loosen my grip on so many of the things I take charge on. It’s a good lesson for my kids too, since they are getting older and should be stepping up their participation in domestic chores. Still, their room-cleaning methods are far from perfect, and until I obtain complete namaste-level coping mechanisms, here are some ways having kids is killing the control freak inside me:
The Fingerprints Will Multiply Seemingly Overnight
You know the phrase “clean and shiny?” Well, it no longer applies to homes where children reside. Every surface that isn't floor-level in our home is part of an unintentional mass finger painting project, where the “paint” is often substituted with pureed vegetables, saliva, or snot. It’s been a work in progress since 2008, when my first child started walking.
Random Stickiness Is A Part Of Who You Are Now
I’ll put my hand on the table, or the doorknob, or my own face, and it will be met with some gummy substance. It could be maple syrup, or something old and fermented and possibly at one time a byproduct of my child’s digestive system. So I just tell myself that it’s syrup, or else I’d start dry heaving every time I came into contact with a sticky surface (which is always and forever, it seems).
Their Moods Can Change At The Drop Of A Teething Toy
The unpredictable behavior of a tiny human growing into a full-fledged child is something I’ve had to learn is usually out of control. I might be able to avoid some tantrums by preparing my kid for transitioning from one activity or place to another, but I can’t always predict what will set off a toddler. The cutting of a slice of pizza once catapulted my toddler daughter into a rage from which I am not quite recovered, years later.
You Will Cry Over Spilled Milk...
No matter how hard I tried to place vessels of liquid out my kid’s reach, there was spillage. Yeah, I had a hard time taking it casually. By the third incident of such in as many days, I would think my child was deliberately trying to make me go mad. I want to ban all but clear liquids from my home after dealing with this for the last nine years.
…And Possibly Anything Else
I wasn’t totally prepared for the emotional roller coaster I was on when I was postpartum, but I sort of knew to expect that my feelings would be close to the surface as my hormones attempted to normalize after giving birth. Nobody warned me, though, that I’d be staying on that coaster for what appears to be the duration of motherhood. My tears are triggered by the most random events — my son giving a high five to a soccer teammate, my daughter asking if she can do my hair, someone else’s child dropping a toy from a stroller — and it’s unnerving to have lost that kind of control over my emotions on a day-to-day basis.
Your Sink Will Never Be Empty
After getting married, my husband and I bought an apartment and it had a dishwasher. We ran it maybe once a week with the two of us. However, after two kids, that thing was run around the clock and still didn’t preclude the sink from filling with bowls and sippy cups and breast pump parts and coffee-stained mugs. It truly is endless and makes me want to buy my kids astronaut food.
That Crooked Book Report Cover Will Haunt You For The Rest Of Your Life
Oh I want to fix my daughter’s jagged lines and oversized lowercase letters so badly. I’m not going to do her homework for her, of course, but would it kill her to use a ruler to evenly plot the letters in her title? I mean, I know she’s only 9, but still.
They Have No Problem Walking Around The House In One Sock
Seeing my son sporting just one of his socks is the visual equivalent to hearing nails on a chalkboard: it just makes me cringe. The completist in me can’t handle his laissez-faire attitude about missing half of a matched pair. He also shrugs and blows me off when I point out his shirt is on backwards. The kid has much better things to focus his attention towards. I clearly do not.
Their "Clean" Is Your "Dirty"
Me: “Clean your room, please. I want to run the vacuum.”
Fourth grader: “It is clean.”
Me, more than a little bit judgmental: “There’s a ton of stuff under your desk and every drawer is open and I see at least three pens with their caps off on the floor.”
Fourth grader, ready to accept her medal: “Yeah, I know. I just finished putting everything else away.”
More Clothes Will Be Stained Than Not
The first thing I do when I get home from work is take off my outfit. I don’t have to dress up too much for the office, but I like to do everything I can to preserve the state of my “nice” jeans or unsullied white top. Despite my efforts, most of my clothes bear the mark of motherhood: that unidentifiable bit of crust on my elbow, or that faded (through frequent, vigorous attempts at stain removal) spot just above my left breast, where I strategically place a long necklace to get more mileage out of that shirt.
When They "Help" They Will Undo Every Semblance Of Order In Your Home
The hardest thing to do as a control freak mom, is delegate. I may b*tch and moan about how I do everything around the house, but that’s because I don’t trust anyone to do it to my standards. I realize this is my problem.
But as my kids are getting older, they need to learn more responsibility. And, frankly, my husband and I could use the help with the housework. So they wash dishes and fold laundry and wipe down counters and occasionally sweep the floor. And then I re-do everything because washing dishes to them is just playtime, with bubbles. They are not driven by a desire to actually get anything clean.
Just When You Feel You’ve Gotten The Hang Of This Parenting Thing, The Kids Enter Yet Another Developmental Stage
Control freaks like me pride ourselves on being prepared. However, hardly anything can properly prepare you for the chaos inherent in parenting. As a coping mechanism, I remind myself that not all things out of my control are bad things. As a mom, I get to be pleasantly surprised by random delightful moments I couldn’t have possibly planned. Like my son telling me he wants to write a book together, based on the stories I invent at bedtime. Or my daughter earning Student of the Month. As long as letting my control freak flag fly doesn’t get in the way of embracing these unplanned, joyful moments, I can handle the unpredictability that also brings me their 24 hour stomach virus. It’s not all terrible, just messy.