For after all, the best thing one can do when it is raining is to let it rain. – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
I recently celebrated the one-year anniversary of purchasing my house. For clarification and emphasis, this would be “the house” built at the beginning of the last century. It’s the first home that I’ve owned that I’m completely responsible for. Prior to this, I either rented or lived in a co-op that had several full-time building attendants, which translated into compete laziness on my part. In entering this new phase a year ago, I sort of set the same goals that I once did when my twins were born:
- Goal 1: Do not cause intentional harm to anyone or anything. Survival of all parties is critical (except if you have more than two legs and don’t bark or meow).
- Goal 2: Accept help.
- Goal 3: Accept that you will not know what you’re doing most of time. Trust your instincts (except when they’re wrong and then blame your spouse).
- Goal 4: Do not kill your spouse.
- Goal 5: Reassess the situation after one year.
In the case of the twins, I reassessed, realized that my boys were still alive, seemed happy, and decided to have another baby. In the case of the house, well, it’s still standing and I haven’t killed my spouse – although I have threatened him that I would. Purchasing a house that came with a coal furnace, urinal in the basement, and linoleum siding would be a challenge for most, but particularly for owners who have never owned a screwdriver (we now own four because we keep losing them). So, what have I learned and why is it that I’m sharing this with you in a column about careers? Well, like most good partners, most good lessons can be found when you’re not actively looking for them:
- Lesson 1: It’s OK to not know what you’re doing, as long as you don’t try to pretend that you do. There must be something in male chromosomes that compels men to try to fix things that they have no business fixing – e.g., electrical wiring, leaky roofs, backed-up septic tanks, etc. Fortunately for me, I’m not married to one. My husband is so cautious that he won’t even change a light bulb – but that’s for another story. There’s the saying “Fake it until you make it,” but who are you faking? If the answer is yourself, then maybe it’s time to get real with what it is you really do need to know and how to get to that goal.
- Lesson 2: When you ask for help, choose and accept the help. If you’re anything like me, you may want others to do things exactly as you would do them. For me, this means long lists (I love lists) with updates. I used to ask my nanny to keep meticulous logs of every burp, poop, wink, grin that my twins would make. She was not the log-keeping kind of nanny and I would regularly be frustrated with her. Instead, she was the kind of nanny who would spend hours singing lullabies, reading books, and taking long walks with my boys. Eventually, I came to the realization that what she offered my family was way more important than these lists that I had demanded of her. I had to choose her for her and for what she did well.
- Lesson 3: Something will always go wrong; plan for it and don’t let it ruin your day. We just finished a very expensive renovation of our basement (bye bye coal furnace and urinal) and, of course, as I signed away the last check, our dishwasher broke. This is the kind of thing that in the past would drive me mad, but now it’s the norm. And, since I can’t have a bad day – every day (otherwise, no one will want to be around me) – I kind of just shrug my shoulders and figure out how to get it fixed or not.
- Lesson 4: Things don’t have to be perfect or look perfect, and it’s actually kind of a relief to accept that they won’t. While our renovations were going on, my house was pretty filthy and disorganized. Instead of canceling every play date and visit, I decided not to care. If people are going to judge me because my house is not tidy, then they shouldn’t come over. And really, no one wants to come over to a perfect house. They want to come over, take off their shoes, grin at the sea of dust shining in through the window, and realize that they’re not alone. That this is a place they can be themselves.
Image on home page via Shutterstock.