Friday, June 24, 2011

The Laundry.

I woke at 5 am this morning to Peter’s pleas for milk and walked out all bleary eyed to trip over this in my hallway. IMG_0770 3 huge piles of unfolded laundry.  They’ve been there for almost 3 whole days.   And this isn’t because this week has been particularly busy.  It seems like 80% of my life I’m stumbling through piles of clean laundry waiting to be put away.

There’s just something about the laundry.  It’s always there.  I’ve been obsessing lately about how nice it would be if my kids just didn’t have to wear any clothes ever.  No clothes shopping, no clothes rotating and storing, no laundry.

As I nursed Peter and thought about my laundry problem this poem came into my mind.  The line at the end: “always awakened to the laundry.”   I’ve posted it before on the blog in connection with nursing.  But today, rereading it, it has come alive in me in different ways. 

Read it slowly and read it again.  I think it’s worth it.

Blood and Milk

by Sharlee Mullins Glenn

I dreamed of Oxford . . .
(spires, a thousand spires, endless lectures, musty halls
a solitary self in a Bodleian expanse
A good life my dear Wormwood. An orderly life.)

then awakened to laundry
and things to be wiped
countertops, noses, bottoms)

How did this happen? And when, exactly?

Time flows, it flows, it flows
and there are choices to be made:

left or right?
paper or plastic?
blood or milk?

There's freedom in the bleeding;
bondage in the milk—do not be deceived.

Ah, but it's an empty freedom; a holy bondage,
A sweet and holy bondage.

Five times I chose the chains, those tender chains,
(though once will bind you just as well!)
and checked the crimson flow.
Suckled while dreaming of Trinity Term
but awakened, always awakened, to the laundry
and to that small and cherished captor at my breast.

Tell me it’s not just me.  Do we all wake up one day to little ugly, difficult details of our lives and ask ourselves, “Is this really my life?  This isn’t exactly what I had in mind.”  Maybe we were dreaming of Oxford.  Maybe we were just dreaming of something a little more extraordinary, a little less mundane, a little more adventurous, a little more glamorous or recognized.  Maybe we were just dreaming of a different kind of motherhood: thoughtful, balanced, loving, patient, ordered, peaceful.  Happy kids, a clean house, folded and put away laundry.  

And then we wake up to reality.  The grouchy (grouchy, grouchy) kids.  Our tired (tired, tired) body.  The , rubbed in spit up stains on the floor.  The dried mac and cheese under the high chair.  The never shrinking (no matter how hard you tackle it) to do list.  The mounds of clean laundry. The squalid reality of a real life.  Wait, a real life? 

The life in my dreaming wasn’t fettered with all these nasty little details…..but it also wasn’t one bit real. 

Over and over again in life there comes a point where we must banish our ideals and move on to what is real.  

I really struggled when I was deciding if I should marry Jeff (I know, totally absurd, right?).    He was amazing.  I was in love.  But there was a problem.  He didn’t match the image of my perfect husband, the one I had carefully crafted in my head using all those lists written during Young Women’s lessons.  Sure, he had loads of assets that I’d never thought to include in those lists…..attributes and qualities that would really complete me, but for some silly reason they didn’t seem to matter, he didn’t look the same as the Mr. Perfect I’d dreamt up.  And then, one blessed day it hit me.  Mr. Perfect wasn’t real.  He was made up in my mind.  He didn’t exist.  I decided that I’d rather live my life with something real and solid and amazing than hold on to this imaginary perfection in my head. 

Sometimes we have to take a few moments here and then to recognize those silly ideals in our heads, to kill them, to mourn their loss for a moment and then shake our heads to see how much more beautiful reality is.  Reality can be much harder to live in, there are a lot of messy details, but it’s only there that we really are living.

The tricky thing is that the beauty of reality is in the fleeting present.  The moments that get stamped out and trampled over by all the details and clutter and business in life.  The ones that get buried in all those piles of laundry.  My goal this summer is to clear out my life, all that clutter in my brain, widen my margins and grab onto reality.  I want to “cherish” my little captors while they’re still interested in me.

And maybe figure out how to simplify my laundry routine (any suggestions?)


  1. i love this post, and i love the poem. thanks for sharing. i have 7 kiddos and just finally, this year, learned to conquer the laundry. it's all mental. good luck!!!!

  2. I'll take your 3 and add one more. And I think my baskets may be a tinge bigger. It's been this way since the baby arrived! Well, I've never had it completely under control. Would love a good system. Your posts always seem to express exactly what I'm smack dab in the middle of - Thank You!

  3. Sayds, this is a REALLY good post.
    Can I use it in a column?
    Saren should put it on POM too.

  4. Love that Laundry! I just folded five loads last night.

    So, I actually really like the laundry (but hate folding socks) but with four kids I have a hard time getting back into the ZEN of it (taking dirty, unorganized mass and organizing it into clean, neat piles) because I have NO time and no nice big laundry room. SO, I've changed and made it an indulgent treat for myself. I put all the laundry on my bed and fold it while watching a movie, Hulu episode of a TV show or even some stand up comedians or documentaries on my laptop. It's the only time I get to watch TV or movies anymore, and Jonah knows if he wants to watch with me, he has to fold laundry with me. So, it's usually from 9-10 or 11 pm a couple nights a week. (I make the kids or Jonah match up the socks). And I put the laundry away as soon as it's all folded (well, Cam and Ana put their own away so I just plop it in their rooms).

    Anyway, I feel your pain. I still have laundry I trip over even though I'm actually excited to get to fold it (and have some time to myself to enjoy some entertainment).

  5. This is brilliant! Love the "holy captures and your thought processes! Remember that you said I could facebook and twitter this! Also can we use the second half for the singles and youth talks we're giving this weekend. I'm going to assume the answer is yes unless I hear from you!

  6. This was a great post. Thanks! I never really felt able to keep up with the laundry when my babies were little. Even now, when my youngest is two, it's a challenge. My laundry "method" is to fold the clothes when they are finished in the drier (I don't iron often, so it saves ironing time), then put each child's clothes in a bin in the laundry room. They each, except for the two-year-old, have to empty and return their own clean clothes bin. But, really, I couldn't keep up with this when I had a newborn or a young baby, and I had laundry piled up often. You seem like a great mother with lots of wisdom and good perspective, even if you have piles of laundry (impressively, it is CLEAN laundry). Your kids are lucky to have you.

  7. Awesome thoughts, Saydi.

  8. Saydi... This post is perfection. I love it. It is burning in my chest at this very moment. I miss you. Hopefully I can see you soon. Thank you.

  9. This is SO beautiful, Sayds! You're words are just so perfectly put together. You are quite a writer! I have such problems with laundry too. As soon as I get it all wrapped up and put away the laundry baskets are full again. But it helps that I make my kids do it with me whenever they're around. Oh man, I"m SO excited to have you rub off on me at Bear Lake. Sure love you!

  10. Agreed. This post needs to be read in lots of places!! POMs for sure.

    "Sometimes we have to take a few moments here and then to recognize those silly ideals in our heads, to kill them, to mourn their loss for a moment and then shake our heads to see how much more beautiful reality is."

    That is so my life. I know idealism is one of my tragic flaws - I had the same situation with Doug (he still teases me about this.) Thanks for the beautiful reminder. And what do you mean you can't write??? I love Sharlee's poem. I'll be seeing her next weekend at a writing retreat. I used it too when blogging about nursing. It says so much doesn't it? Sure love you Saydi.

  11. Anonymous5:33 PM

    I relate, and love the poem and your thoughts. Especially because we just had our fifth. If I'm on top of laundry, I must do a load a day (start to finish) and it's never very overwhelming. Am I always on top of it? No. But it's definitely less stressful and more pleasant when I am. When I started to be honest with myself about the laundry, I stopped dreading it so much.

  12. Saydi, this is just the most beautiful post. The most beautiful. Thank you for sharing it!!

    As for laundry, I have one dirty little secret that makes it SO MUCH easier, even though it's a little embarrassing to admit. I dont' sort clothes by color before washing them. The girls have a basket in their room, the boys have a basket in their room, and I wash each once a week, fold the clothes into the same basket (in front of the TV! Like Aja!), and have the kids put them away (I still help sometimes). I keep two baskets for Aaron and I--white and dark--but if there aren't enough for a load of each I mix those sometimes too. I also dish out for better detergent to avoid treating stains.

    Anyway, my whites aren't the whitest (I actively avoid buying white clothes for the kids--except socks, which I buy almost exclusively in white and my kids sometimes have mismatched but not noticeably socks), but laundry is my least hated chore. I actually enjoy picking up each piece of clothing as I fold it and acknowledging that my kids will only wear it for a season or two before it will be gone, gone, gone. Bah, I'm sentimental!

  13. This is amazing. You are such a gifted writer. Wish I could have had that poem when I was nursing my twins. Baskets of laundry sitting?!? No solution here. Just know that it's amazing enough that you've washed the clothes all while taking care of four little ones. I am a firm believer in washing the laundry and letting children sort through and find what they need (it's really like a treasure hunt or something:).

    Now that my oldest is almost 14, I am creating my new expectations of reality...and I am bitterly missing those nursing days (yes, I think that I could have nursed forever). I know you already know how quickly they fly. Blessings to you and your sweet, beautiful family.

  14. Loved this post.
    Thanks for sharing.
    So well written.
    Congrats on your sweet baby.
    My 4th has helped me stop and appreciate.
    There is something that I treasure so much now about her cheeks, smile, smell because I know they grow so fast. Have a wonderful summer.

  15. Laundry is a chore that never ends - just when you think you're finished, more magically appears!
    Boston Laundry Care



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