I am a Virgo perfectionist professional personal organizer who has had my own business for 18 years. I am paid decently to run other people’s homes and businesses like a tightly run ship. I mentally declutter and re-organize every home I enter.
When we first brought our daughter home I stayed up all night sanitizing the screens on the windows with a bleach covered toothbrush. Then I almost burned the house down by falling asleep while boiling silicone baby bottles. That’s right, they were silicone. I special ordered them from Italy because they didn’t need to be boiled. But I was going for the gold, you see. That’s who I was.
I used to lie in bed, trying not to fall asleep, until I had planned every moment of my six-month old baby’s next day, plotting on how to maximize her awake time to meaningful effect so she’d qualify for a full ride to Harvard when she was fourteen. I thought if I planned the whole day in advance, it was a guarantee that I wouldn’t lose my tightly coiled shit. Then, the next day, I would lose my shit within 20 minutes of waking as my plans crumbled around me, due to cranky kid, my dog getting skunked, the husband being called in early to work, finding a lost cat, and me being too tired to remember where I had parked my car.
Due to all the parenting blogs and other type A moms terrifying me with warnings not to let my kid watch any cartoon that had more than seven edits per minute, ( you do know that all those MTV video-esque edits in modern cartoons will give your child ADHD or seizures, don’t you?), researching every ingredient in everything she ate, and hand sanitizing her entire ecosystem, no one was having any fun. I was white knuckling mom-hood, not realizing that my new life was a loud, colorful and dirty carnival bumper car ride where driving responsibly isn’t exactly the point, and a seven year old is about to T-bone you with gleeful intent.
As I was babbling to a mom-friend, Catherine Burns, about how hard it was to find slower cartoons that weren’t the racist, sexist and politically incorrect Bugs Bunny or Mickey Mouse cartoons of my youth, and ashamed that I was letting my two year old watch cartoons in the first place, instead of guiding her to make animals out of felted wool, Catherine grabbed my arm and said, “Being a Mom is supposed to be fun. Go for the x*&## bronze!”
I stared at her in shock. Catherine had been the first control freak I ever met. She had set every bar on the highest rung, and cleared it repeatedly, then complained endlessly about how it wasn’t completely perfect. She designed clothes, acted, wrote, cooked brilliantly, had impossibly perfect legs, was profoundly well-read, and her home was beyond stylish. I had always tried to copy her style and control freakishness.
I realized her hair was in a messy bun, her kitchen was a cheerful riot of opened cupboards and food all over, her dog was fat, and she had a smart, happy, well-rounded teenager with a crazy mess of a bedroom. And Catherine was HAPPY. Relaxed and happy. I stared at her in newfound awe. “How did you do it? How did you let chaos take the wheel?” Catherine smiled, the Buddha of Bed Stuy.
“I lowered the bar. I stopped trying to be the Mary Lou Retton of momming. When I embraced the chaos, I stopped judging my husband and kid for not being Nancy Kwan, which only made all of us miserable. I made peace with the mess, the smells, the yelling, the dust muffins under the bed and the sticky floor. The only one who is judging you and holding you to Nancy Kerrigan-like ideals, is you. Be Tonya Harding, without the rabbit fur coat and the knee-capping ex-husband, of course. But let it the @#@ go. And see how much more you like life. Besides, your kid won’t remember anything that happens before she is four, so if she watches Bugs Bunny it won’t make her love rifles or be mean to people who lisp, it just might make her laugh. And it might make you laugh too.”
It was like having a fairy godmother turn my golden carriage of dreams into a mouse-filled pumpkin. I instantly relaxed. Now, I not only embrace my tattered dress and dirty feet but my husband is grateful that I’m not scrutinizing his parenting and home-management styles through the evil eye lens of Martha Stewart, who I think is to blame for all this going for the gold in what used to just be living. If my daughter wants to watch Octonauts while naked and dirty on a laundry filled couch, I’m down with it.
My fellow mommas, stop slave driving yourself to daily power yoga-pole dancing class, lie on your dirty floor and maybe, just maybe, take a goddamn nap. If we all stop judging ourself for letting our kids have an occasional Trader Joe’s organic lollypop, we might just stop judging others for allowing their kids to snack on Pirate’s Booty. And please, spread the Going For The Bronze wisdom. The marriage, momhood and sense of humor you might save could be your own. My new, new motto is ‘There Will Be Typos’. I own and embrace it, just like I embrace my Old Mommahood.
Catherine Lloyd Burns is the author of It Hit Me Like a Ton of Bricks, a memoir of her childhood as well as the tween novel, The Good, The Bad And the Beagle. Here is a link to her website and her work!
Top Ten Ways To Know You Are Going For The Bronze
When one of your dogs throws up on your thick pile bedroom rug, you let the other dog eat it. She’s much more effective than paper towel and Nature’s Miracle. And you save money on dog food.
If it hasn’t been a week since your last shower, you’re trying too hard. Remember, greasy hair is free conditioner.
When your 3 year old wants to sweep the kitchen floor and wash the walls, you let her.
Taking the time to put on underwear feels more indulgent than going commando.
When you and the hubs finally break down and accept you need to have sex, you argue over who gets to be the one lying down.
Multi-tasking consists of eating while showering, napping while meditating, and lying down while making the bed.
You would never text and drive because it takes too much effort.
You put on yoga pants and call that going to yoga class.
If you are wearing earrings and a bracelet you’re trying too hard.
Ditto for fingernail polish and make up. Grooming is for sissies. Or Kardashians.