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Jewish World Review
Sept. 12, 2007
/ 29 Elul, 5767
Elusive bliss teases moms as laundry, chores grow
By Marybeth Hicks
Another day in suburbia, another day I did not achieve Suburban Mom Nirvana.
Suburban Mom Nirvana is different from the states of enlightenment or freedom from suffering associated with Eastern religions. You can't achieve it by learning some universal truths or developing some sort of karmic understanding.
In fact, Suburban Mom Nirvana is an elusive state of consciousness. Although no one has ever actually achieved this feeling of bliss, we Suburban Moms believe it would be ours to enjoy if only there were a few more hours in the day.
Just what is Suburban Mom Nirvana?
It's the exact moment of complete freedom when all the laundry is washed, ironed, folded and put away in dresser drawers that contain no stray spoons, no loose DVDs from the sleepover two weeks ago, no ticket stubs from the Cineplex; simultaneously, the house is clean, the garage swept, the bags of old clothes stored in the basement are delivered to the Salvation Army, and the cranks on all the windows have been found and replaced.
In Suburban Mom Nirvana, there is food in the cupboards nutritious food, not just Lucky Charms and there even are homemade entrees in the freezer awaiting a night when Suburban Mom is too busy to cook from scratch. Also, in this perfect state of being, there is shampoo in the shower and not just an empty bottle turned upside down by someone who thinks this trick will magically produce more shampoo.
Suburban Mom Nirvana is not complete unless there are clean sheets on all the beds (with pillow cases to match). For some Suburban Moms, the pillowcases would need to be ironed for nirvana to be achieved, but I'm not one of those.
For me to achieve Suburban Mom Nirvana, the floor mats in my car would need to be clean, if not replaced, and the whole car would need to be vacuumed and washed inside and out, with an oil change and a full tank of gas, and the 45,000-mile service completed as well.
In addition to all of these things, Suburban Mom Nirvana requires that Suburban Mom's desk be cleared of clutter and piles of stray sticky notes (that no longer stick because they are weeks old and yet are still relevant), and as well, her back-to-school tasks are complete, and she is already done assigning potluck dishes to the committee she is leading for the open house.
Suburban Mom has at least a part-time job, of course, and in nirvana her work is complete she's not even remotely behind on a marketing plan or a freelance assignment and moreover, her e-mail is answered and filed in the appropriate folders in her computer.
Suburban Mom Nirvana naturally includes a calendar that is up-to-date, but not just current for bliss could not be achieved unless Suburban Mom has mapped out her family's life for the next four months (encompassing the balance of the calendar year and including the Christmas holiday season). In this joyful existence, Suburban Mom already knows which photo she will use for this year's Christmas card and she has a timetable for printing the labels, writing a clever and inspiring message, and assembling the greetings for a Thanksgiving weekend mailing.
That's it. That's nirvana.
Oh wait. I forgot the weeds are pulled, the lawn is mowed, there's a seasonal flag flying out front (for the appropriate season) and there are flowers live flowers.
Now, if you are a man and you read the paragraphs above, you are thinking, "Nirvana? Give me a beer, a bag of chips, a flat-screen TV and a satellite dish." For reasons women can't understand, men are able to achieve oneness with the universe without ever considering the accumulation of dust bunnies under the chair in which they sprawl slothfully in front of the TV. Men spell nirvana E-S-P-N.
But we women, arguably possessing a greater sensitivity to our spiritual selves, know that a state of complete bliss is simply out of the question if the freezer still holds an empty popsicle box and there is an inexplicable stickiness on the chairs around the kitchen table.
The contrast regarding nirvana between the genders accounts for a startling number of conversations such as this taking place in suburbs across America:
Husband: "Why don't you sit down and watch the game with me?"
Wife: "Because. The attic is a mess and school starts on Tuesday."
Husband: "Does the attic have to be clean before school starts?"
Wife: "Did you change the light bulbs in the basement?"
This illustrates a fundamental difference between husbands and wives. The husband is really saying, "Honey, I am enjoying nirvana. Want to join me?"
The wife is saying, "You are a buffoon and you wouldn't know nirvana if it settled on you like fog in a bog. Nirvana requires fresh light bulbs."
Well anyway, my quest for Suburban Mom Nirvana continues. I spent the summer thinking I could achieve it because I'd have four children around the house to do chores such as cleaning out the junk drawer in the laundry room and matching the stray socks that have collected since March (both essential in my perception of perfect bliss). Unfortunately, I discovered once again that children actually impede progress toward Suburban Mom Nirvana.
But then again, school starts this week. I'm thinking my bliss is just around the corner.
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JWR contributor Marybeth Hicks, a wife of 20 years and mother of four children, lives in the Midwest. She uses her column to share her perspective on issues and experiences that shape families nationwide.
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© 2007, Marybeth Hicks