I used to have a mild case of OCD. And then I had kids and got cured. It didn’t happen overnight, it was a process. When my son was little I practically walked behind him as he was pulling all his toys out of the cupboard and I would quickly put them back as soon as he lost interest in them. If nothing else, I tidied our flat when he was taking a nap, knowing full well that when he gets up the living room will be covered in toys within minutes. Feeding was a nerve wrecking experience – he had strong food preferences and getting him to eat anything different inevitably involved a lot of food all over him, myself and the close surroundings. And I resisted giving him chunks of fruit to eat, especially softer types, I rather blended everything as it was much neater and cleaner feeding him the fruit puree rather than let him make a complete mess. I would happily let him play with anything but paint – his perseverance with one activity was extremely short (and still is, although it’s got much better over years), so I really wasn’t willing to let him create a big mess within 5 minutes that would then take me an hour to clean. To compensate for the latter, I took him to messy play once a week, a playgroup where they put out all sorts of messy stuff, from paint to shaving foam, for kids to enjoy and explore. I was more than happy for him to make a big mess there, as long as it wasn’t me having to clean it up.
Reading this, you probably either recognise yourself or are gasping in disbelief over what a nutcase I am (or was). I really thought I could continue like this but as my son grew, the toys multiplied and when we moved to our house and had our daughter, I basically spent every free moment (which were extremely rare) cleaning and tidying up. If both kids ended up having a nap at the same time, instead of sitting down and putting my feet up, I would start cleaning and tidying up, telling myself that as soon as I’m done, I’ll sit down and enjoy some peace and quiet. About 99% of the time at least one of the kids was up before that happened.
Now my son won’t eat any fruit at home (apparently he does at nursery although I am still waiting for some photo or video proof…) and I partly blame myself and my OCD for that. I wonder whether things were different if I had let him explore food more when he was little. The good news is that I do learn from my mistakes. So when it was my daughter’s turn to wean, I took a deep breath and gave her just about any fruit to eat by herself that I could find. And I loved watching her, especially because she’s been a passionate eater from day one and she absolutely loves fruit. We’re in the phase of learning how to use a spoon and a fork at the moment… lots of deeeeeep breaths. 🙂
I relaxed on other fronts as well… Nowadays I don’t touch the toys until the kids have gone to bed for the night. We do painting and other crafts at home, which is a lot of fun and we even got into baking! Now I am very excited about this coming spring and summer as I have some great messy plans in mind once we can go outside into the garden. I slowly realised that it’s much more important (and far less stressful for me) to let kids have fun and to just have fun with them and worry about the mess later.
And I hired a cleaner. After all, I value my time with my family too much to spend it all cleaning.