Monday, July 25, 2011

Expectations, Acceptance, and...Laundry

I dread laundry day. It's not so much because of the hassle of doing the laundry, but because of how I behave. Granted, laundry day is a major event because we don't have a washer or dryer. You'd think that by now I would have adapted, knowing that with a toddler in tow no task goes uninterrupted. When it comes to laundry, I have failed miserably in this regard. The problem is that I get fixated on the idea that I just want to finish the damn laundry and it leads to all kinds of negative fallout. I've been hung up on what I see as the only benefit of using our apartment complex's laundry facility: I can do multiple loads in under 2 hours!

This singular benefit has been severely compromised by my drive to fulfill it. I get flustered. I lose my patience. I raise my voice. I feel resentful because Munchkin's needs repeatedly interrupt me. I become insensitive and set unrealistic expectations for him. I feel angry that laundry is such a pain in the butt. The worst of it is that I keep making the same mistake over and over again, every laundry day. So I need to figure out why. I need to figure out what I can do differently because I really can't take this anymore. And Munchkin certainly doesn't deserve my frustration. Over laundry!

To address this issue, I started by writing about the process of doing laundry. It sounds mundane, but going over the details of this task allowed me to see that 1) it's understandable why I find it frustrating, and 2) I have the power to reduce my frustration. I figured out the specific points in laundry day during which I feel the most aggravated.  It turns out that my desire to complete the task in 2 hours has been causing me to lose connection with Munchkin -- and myself. 

I thought I had planned laundry day in a way that met both of our needs. During the wash and dry cycles we run around outside with the dog, collecting pine cones, rocks, and flowers. In reality, our 2 hour adventure is punctuated by sorting, loading, hanging, and transferring clothes. I've been doing these myself, only allowing Munchkin a few token moments to assist. No wonder he is so demanding while we're in the laundry room. No wonder I get so irritated. No wonder we end up in a pile of tears and apologies larger than the stacks of unfolded laundry!

I've been selfishly unaware of Munchkin's need to work together. I've been hogging all the fun to myself in the name of time and efficiency, and then getting annoyed because he feels left out. It's not like brushing my teeth or pooping where I really need to do it myself. I can find ways to have him more involved so we can stay connected while doing laundry. For instance, I can hold him up to insert the coins or push the start button. He'll love that! Laundry may take more time that way, but if it means less tension and more fun for both of us, then it's worth it.

My new laundry sorter
Next, I figured out that with some better planning, I can avoid some of the almost comical missteps that were getting me bent out of shape. Step 1: I went out and bought a 3 bag laundry sorter on wheels. I've got a few other logistics to work out. I'm also working on a Laundry Day Plan with more flexibility and time to complete the task.

Finally, I realized that my biggest hurdle, and the one that I have the most control over, is my attitude toward laundry day. Yes, it's a less than an ideal domestic situation, but I can't change that right now. What I can do is accept my situation and let go of unrealistic expectations. For now, laundry won't go as smoothly as I'd like, it's going to take longer than I want it to, and clean clothes are going to sit around for awhile. And really, it's OK for wet clothes to sit for an hour or two before they are hung to dry, and a cart piled with clean, wrinkled, unfolded clothes sitting in the middle of our hallway isn't nearly as important as our emotional well-being. I'm going to think about that next laundry day instead of how to be more efficient. I may never grow to actually enjoy laundry day or Zen out over it. I will, however, make a concerted effort not to ruin another potentially wonderful time to connect with my son. This connection could turn out to be the true benefit of doing laundry without a washer-dryer, a benefit I have finally begun to see.


  1. You are amazingly aware of how you are 'dealing with' the laundry and how it is affecting your emotions.

    If you lived next door, I'd let you use my washer. :-)