01 Oct 2015

How My Obsession with Clean Kitchen Closure Was Ruining My Evenings

My evenings have often gone like this:

Work a full day. Meet boys at the bus stop. Make them an afternoon snack. Pick up Zoe from school. Make her an afternoon snack. Chase everyone off the screens and out into the yard. Yell at posse of kids playing in our front yard not to climb on the car, use the trash to build a fort, throw the balls on the roof, climb the balconies.

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Try to come up with an idea for supper when faced with nothing but noodles in the fridge.

Give up. Read a book.

Forty five minutes later deal with hangry kids storming into the house.

Open fridge again.

Make noodles with melted butter and cheese. Call it dinner. Let the kids help themselves to ice cream for dessert.

Start the process of cleaning up after them.

Fit in various and sundry sport schedules into this mix.

Begin the process of gnashing and wailing of teeth – otherwise called homework.

Wash dishes/fold laundry while checking spelling and math that no longer makes sense to me.

Threaten kids into the bath, out of the bath, into pajamas, and through the horrendous teeth brushing/spewing blue trails all over the bathroom ritual.

In the midst of all this Peter either would or wouldn’t be home yet. Inevitably, if he was home he’d pitch in for parts and for other parts he’d have the audacity to sit down, rest, maybe open a book.

This was liable to make my head explode.

It would result in a lot of huffing and puffing from me. And passive aggressive sighing. And ultimately ultimatums and full on rage. Coupled with exhaustion. And the fact that I still hadn’t really eaten because I’d been so busy filling up water glasses or wiping up spills or negotiating peace.

A lot of the problem, though, was pretty cliché married stuff.

But it bears saying anyway.

I simply forgot to ask. I forgot that Peter doesn’t actually have mind-reading capabilities. And I let my goal-oriented tendencies rule me right into the ground and an epic meltdown.

I felt myself going there tonight. I felt the mind-meld coming upon me after pickups and dinner and kids playing in the rain and bath time and homework and then, still, the clean up of all the red spaghetti sauce.

I felt my shoulders start to knot and my frustration start to sigh out of nooks and crannies of my face and I looked up at Peter and was about to unleash when instead I looked down at my hands and asked myself, “What am I doing right now?”

And I said, “Self, I’m doing the dishes.”

And then I asked, What do I WANT to be doing right now?”

And I thought and I knew right away, “Self, I want to be cuddled up in bed next to Zoe watching a movie.”

And I said it out loud to Peter. And then he said something radical. He told me, “Well, do that then. Leave the dishes.”

It’s weird how hard it is to walk away from a sinkful of dirty dishes, isn’t it?

Like there’s this magnetic pull to stay and finish. To create clean kitchen closure.

But you know what? Kitchen closure is also closely related to kitchen meltdowns.

So tonight, I left a pile of plates right there in the sink<—- RADICAL!

I refused to make eye contact with the glasses left on the table and the stains of spaghetti sauce on my beautiful new sink or on the table top.

I put it all down. I turned off the water. And I walked down the hallway to my daughter.

And you know what? It was a freakin’ relief.

A relief to choose the thing I wanted and that I truly needed over the thing that is a compulsion. A bosy, mean-spirited thing that will give me a clean kitchen at the cost of a snappy heart and a home inhospitable to my people.

Pete will likely load those dishes later. Or I will. But there will be more where those came from tomorrow. Tonight I need to build in rest. I need to refill my tank. I need to sniff my daughter’s hair and I need to catch up on that movie I’ve been meaning to watch right here under my cosy duvet while the rain comes down outside.

It’s taken me years to learn to build in breaks.

Because if we’re not careful we moms will just keep on going and going faster and faster and madder and madder until we ride right over top of everyone, resenting them all the way.

There are no clean kitchen police.

There are no dirty dishes police.

There are no rules for giving yourself a night off. You just have to take one. You’re the grown up. Give yourself permission to leave things undone.

Make yourself a cup of tea. Sit down. Ask for help. Tell your husband exactly what you need to unwind. Say it without whining or screaming. I predict he’ll be so relieved not to be on the receiving end of one your death glares that he’ll happily oblige. (Or maybe that’s just how it looks in our house). Delegate.

And then just let it go.

Friend, your kitchen is not the boss of you.

Put your feet up early tonight. I’ll be right here next to you.



{ Leave a Comment }
  1. 1

    Wow I LOVE this! As a mother of a 4 year old daughter who just started Full day kindergarten and an energetic 1 year old daughter, and working full time outside the home, I totally feel this! My girls need to be in bed by 6:45-7 every night otherwise meltdowns happen. I feel like each night is a race against the clock, and leaving the kitchen “unfinished” after dinner is almost impossible for me! But I have to remind myself, they want us to come and play. And so, the clean up waits until they are tucked into bed. But there are many nights where that kitchen begs me stay, for just one more dish, instead of go play! ;) thank you for a great reminder, and the beautiful writing!

  2. 2

    Last year in April I got this REALLY bad pain, which came and went and came back again for 7 months before I went to the Doctor, which led to seeing 4 specialists! The end result? Stress is giving me pain – finding my weak points and giving me “I am about to throw up” pain. So, as a result, I tell ALL women to exercise and relax! Deal with your stress before it becomes more than you can deal with! Today’s work can be done tomorrow – approach everything in bite-sizes, don’t try to take the world on every day!

  3. 3

    Thank you Lisa Jo! So many well meaning people and wonderful bloggers give us endless perfect photos of de-cluttered kitchens and how to run the perfect household and make your evening routine smooth, etc…and it can feel so disappointing. I have actually had to avoid those blogs….Because real life happens and is not always smooth. Anyway, tonight I’m snuggling on the couch. No dishes for me ;)
    P.s. we have the same dining room table! And ours was custom made so that’s weird! Xoxo friend!

  4. 4

    Love it, Lisa Jo! My hubs is constantly saying, “I am not a mind reader!” I am trying to learn to ask before the melt down, too. Thanks for the reminder:)


  5. 5

    I am in tears right now reading this because I so needed this blog at this exact moment in my life. We are in a moment of overwhelment and I so need to rest and read a good book and not let the chores boss me. I am a stay at home, homeschooling mom and sometimes I don’t get to spend time with my kids because I am so caught up in the responsibility of teaching, caring for them and preparing meals that I forget to breathe. Thank you for the reminder that it is okay to just enjoy my kids and to rest for a moment. I really like your blog and your honesty. Thank you for both.

  6. 6

    As always, I am so glad to hear I’m not the only one : ) I’m thinking this is a lovely suggestion for this evening, as i am running on empty and hubby is out for a movie with a friend. Yes! No dishes and a movie instead sounds perfect to me. Now, if only I could get my 4 little ones to put themsleves to bed!!

  7. 7

    Hmmmm… wish I had read this earlier. It is almost midnight and yes, I stayed up late to clean my kitchen, organize the kids playroom, pack my husband’s breakfast and lunch for the morning, fold two loads of laundry and put the cloth diapers through a rinse. I have six children, five of whom are ages 7 and under. It’s busy in here but my goal has been to slow down and enjoy it. Tonight, like most nights, I pushed through the exhaustion to keep chugging through my list as I muttered to myself (outloud of course). Ugh! Why do we do this to ourselves. Thank you for your transparency and for sharing the wisdom of building in breaks. It resonates deeply. I think tomorrow night I will forgo the cleaning spree and snuggle up with my precious souls who call me “Momma” rather than suds. :)

  8. 8

    Yes! Dishes don’t grow up and away from you, but children will…and all while you’re busy washing up.
    Another tip: paper plates.

  9. 9

    This made me laugh out loud, because it could have been me writing it! No matter where you are in the world, our struggles are the same, and so is the compulsion to pretend that they aren’t so that we won’t be “judged”. Three cheers for REAL!

  10. 10
    Grace from London says:

    Delegate. Get help. Train your children so they have the life skills to clear up and get themselves ready for the next day. My dear husband is a very willing helper in the home as we both work out of the house but he is not a mind reader!
    However, as I read, I can’t but feel that there is a personality thing here. I will find it really stressful to leave a dirty kitchen and sink full of dishes and then have to deal with it the next day at breakfast! The way I see it is that all I am doing is doing my future self a favour by having clean dishes and bags pack for the next day…
    And LisaJo, have you thought of batch cooking? I hate the “Oh what’s the dinner?” “Oh I don’t know” enough to always have something that I have precooked in the freezer. All you have to do is to cook extra, enough to freeze for another meal! That’s all. A firm believer of cook once, eat twice! That way, it saves you feeling drained and hungry while doing the evening shift of getting everyone to bed!

  11. 11

    Love, love, love this!! Thank you!

  12. 12

    Amen!!! So very true, every last bit of it!


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