My in-laws are coming this week. They are coming to help run the house while I will be away on business travel. Awww…that is very nice you might say. While I am saying “OH MY GOD!” Not because it isn’t nice (it is very nice of them…but don’t give them too much credit – they are totally psyched about getting their time in with the grandkids). But the mere thought of having them in my house for a week without me here strikes panic into my heart. Why?!? You don’t really need to ask if you are a wife and your in-laws are coming for a week. But for the men reading this or for those of you who live next door to your in-laws and have already adjusted, let me explain the inner workings of my neurosis.
You see, if my in-laws come while I am away they are likely to see what my house REALLY looks like. They are likely to uncover the secrets hidden away behind the closed doors that even those in my “village” don’t get to see. Like the fact that I still have presents from my cub scout banquet in February hanging out in my office, or I have twenty pairs of summer shoes sitting on my spare bed waiting to be transitioned into my closet, or the fact that my pantry looks like it has been ransacked by the Pittsburg Steelers defensive line!
I spend a considerable amount of time crafting the image of a put-together business owner/mother/friend/sister/wife/coach/whatever-I-need-to-be-today. And all of that might be undone in one 7-day visit when they realize that I am really not put-together at all. That it is all an illusion. And when they find out that it is an illusion, they will most certainly JUDGE ME! And that, of course, would be the worst part of it all.
Then I realized that perhaps there was another way to look at this. I mean I don’t keep a pin-perfect house for a reason. Because it is a choice that I make (because trust me, my mother certainly taught me how to be neat and tidy). It is a very proactive choice that I make to focus on other things in my life instead of spending time making sure every nook & cranny is squeaky clean. To coach my daughter’s soccer team instead of cleaning out the guest room closet. Or to write a book rather than make sure everything in my office is in its place.
So what if my mother-in-law comes and finds that there are some shirts that need buttons sewn on. You know what she’ll probably do? She’ll sew them on! And so what if my father-in-law notices the banister than has been loose for the last 6 months. If he is bothered by it he’ll probably repair it (thank God – because it has been driving me nuts for the last 6 months).
And I have a very conscious choice on how I can react to any acts of kindness that they may commit while they are here. I can either take it as a judgment – a feeling that they think I am not doing a good enough job for their son and/or grandchildren. Or I can embrace their giving ways and be glad that someone is doing the things that I can’t get to.
My decision is already made. I have plenty of room in my life for anyone who wants to help out. Please – feel free (I can even send you a sign-up genius request if you’d like). Step right up and clean off a counter, stuff a dishwasher, or take a kid to practice. I won’t mind. I won’t feel judged. I might even reward you with a tasty margarita when you’re done. I can use all the help I can get because I am spending a lot of my time carefully crafting the image of a put-together business owner/mother/friend/sister/wife/coach/whatever-I-need-to-be-today.
And that makes me really tired.
Disclaimer: My in-laws are truly salt-of-the-earth people who are not at all judgmental. All of the neurosis portrayed in this blog can be 100% attributed to the author. Just ask Richard – he will tell you.
And here is an aside. I am going to try to finish my blogs with a little take-away. A little something that you might apply to your life. Pretty much the moral of the story (so you don’t have to work that hard to figure it out.) If you like it great, if you don’t, well as I was told as a child, “If you don’t have something nice to say, then no one really wanted to listen to you anyway.” I am going to call them my “Scrap the Crap Tips”. It works today – who knows if it will work for every blog…guess we’ll all find out together.
Scrap the Crap Tip: Identify your own priorities, and then don’t feel bad about skipping the stuff that just doesn’t make your list. When others step in to fill in the gaps, don’t spend time worrying about WHY someone did something nice, just accept that they did it, and thank them for their kindness and for their help in your life.