When Annie Ridout told her husband she was concerned about how disorganised she’d become, his answered surprised her. He said he was pleased; that he prefers her now that she’s forgetful and messy. Here’s why…
For my entire adult life, I’ve been an Organised Person. I’m never late for an appointment or meeting – in fact, I’m usually the best part of an hour early. I remember birthdays, important events in people’s lives, Christmas presents are bought and wrapped well in advance.
After the birth of my daughter, I’d always have at least two bumper packs of nappies in stock. I never ran out. The nappy bag was packed well in advance. I remember when my daughter was a few weeks old, we were leaving the house with my mum and she said: have you remembered the nappy bag? I laughed. Of course I’ve remembered it, I said; do you think I’m a complete idiot?
But then I became pregnant again, two years later. I didn’t want to find out the sex of my unborn baby, as I liked the idea of a surprise. But I kept thinking: it would be very helpful to know if it’s a girl or a boy so that I can source new clothes, or relax in the knowledge that I have everything I need already (if it’s another girl).
My beautiful son was born, and then when he was a few days old, I was sat on the floor sorting through clothes. Pulling out the unisex stuff, re-packing the girly stuff. It was a faff. And not what I wanted to be doing, while looking after a toddler and a newborn. I thought: I should have found out the sex.
And then when he was a few weeks old, I was back at work – writing articles from the sofa, or my kitchen table. I had a lot going on, and felt anxious and stressed most of the time. Attempting to work nearly full-time while mothering a new baby full-time and a toddler all but two days a week – all on very broken sleep – was too much.
But I couldn’t see another option.
And then more recently, I decided to start delegating more. My husband is already good at dividing house duties with me. I polish and hoover, he mops and cleans the bathrooms. This is the weekly clean. Between this, we both cook and prepare food, and clear up afterwards.
In terms of paid work, my husband has the luxury of leaving the house at 8am, Monday-Friday, knowing that I’ll take care of the children. Two half-days a week, my son has a childminder but other than that – I look after him. I drop my daughter at nursery every morning and collect her every afternoon.
My husband then returns home around 6pm and the kids will usually be fed, and ready for a bath. I freelance from home – during the childminder hours, nap-times and in the evenings – which allows me this flexibility. And it works, for both of us. After all, I want this time with our children and my husband doesn’t. (JUST JOKING)
But having two working parents means that everything else needs to be split. Like ‘life admin’. And yet I was taking on the lion’s share: paying bills, responding to nursery letters, arranging holidays. So I asked my husband to take over the holidays: thinking, planning, booking. We only go on one a year, so it’s not much work for him – but it feels like a big weight has been lifted. It’s one less item on my ‘to do’ list.
I also asked him to liaise with his side of the family and mutual friends when we’re arranging a visit. This has always fallen to me because I’m the Organised Person but actually, it just adds to my mental load. It’s something – and someone – else to think about. I find planning stressful, I don’t enjoy it. So I’m deflecting this plan-making to him. And he’s taken it on with gusto.
And the other stuff; clearing clutter, ordering nappies in bulk, big food shops? I just don’t do it. These days, the house is often a bit untidy. We regularly run out of nappies and have to hunt through cupboards to find a spare one. We often leave the house with no nappy bag, no wipes, no spare clothes.
Our meals consist of whatever vegetables we bought from the shop 10 minutes earlier. There’s no planning involved. I’ve tried batch-cooking (once), and didn’t get on too well. It was lovely to have all the meals cooked for the week, but I’d wasted an entire evening at the hob. I’d rather be watching a good BBC drama.
Nursery slips will be handed back crumpled, at the last minute. The lawn goes un-mowed. Lightbulbs remain unchanged. The dishwasher has broken and instead of getting it fixed, we’re just washing up in the sink. Sometimes, I just delete my entire ‘to do’ list and let serendipity determine what happens and what doesn’t.
Letting go of the constant planning and organising means that I have more time on the floor with my kids. And the rest of the time, I can get my work done – write my book, edit articles, pitch ideas. Sometimes our home-life feels chaotic, but often it feels quite relaxed.
So when I said to my husband:
“I feel like I’m so disorganised these days. I used to be really good at organising things.”
And he said:
“Yes, you are – and I like it.”
At first, I didn’t understand. Surely he liked me being an Organised Person; staying on top of everything? And then I realised that being super-organised requires meticulous planning and creates stress. Reducing my mental – and physical – load makes me more relaxed. And happy. And less stressed. And that makes me a lot more fun to be around.
How about you: are you more or less organised since having children?