Exactly How It’s Supposed to Be

Sometimes I’ll be hauling children into my house and fighting with them about whether it’s playtime or naptime and stumbling over toys that are left in my formal living room and the pillows that are not left on the couch like they OBVIOUSLY should be and I have to run after my son who is using my family heirloom dining table as a racetrack for his firetruck and my husband has left his dirty nasty underwear on the floor for the…well, how many days have we been living here?th day straight and I am struck by the thought, “This is not how it’s supposed to be.”

I’ve known I was going to live in my house for a long time. When I was pretty young I knew that it would be mine. And then when we spent a year fixing it up it was done expressly with the plan of my moving in. It was my house. I knew exactly what I wanted and where I wanted it and it was my house.

My being the operative word.

I was single. Really, really, really single. I hadn’t ever really had a boyfriend. I dated only occasionally because most people bugged me. The one guy I was interested in left me at a Starbucks because he was contemplating the priesthood. (So I got that square on Catholic girl bingo.)

I was in a profession where people either got married super late or not at all, and even if they did their fates were tied to whatever university would hire them. I was seriously limiting myself professionally by swearing to stay in Milwaukee, and I couldn’t really hope to find the perfect guy on top of it, right?

I was going to live alone in this house of mine. If I allowed myself to picture my life there, it was definitely alone. I would jump out of my car by myself and walk unhindered into my house. I would not have to brush away the tiny flying bugs that might be on the porch because my children are terrified on any bug at all (It’s summer. Get over it.) I hang my bag in the empty, clean closet and walk through my clean living room to make myself coffee or pour myself a glass of wine, depending on what time of day it is. The kitchen is of course spotless, because I only had to put away my healthy breakfast dishes in the morning. I flip on the TV to some ridiculous cable channel that I still know exists, and sink down at my clean desk that is in no way colored on to see if there is anything pressing that requires my attention. After relaxing and enjoying the evening I replace what little detritus there was from one person relaxing for an evening and go up to my bedroom that is decorated exactly how I like and painted gray without anyone whining about how “gray is such a depressing color!” and definitely doesn’t smell like adult male bottom. Just…all the time, I don’t know why. There is no lingering scent of diaper or little girl lipstick or whatever in the air. Because I have a library/office and a guest room/exercise room. Why would I keep diapers or crappy makeup in either of those?

I fall asleep spread out in my own bed, with the light of the timed candle in the window making the room all cozy and warm. Ahhh.

This is how it is supposed to be. This is what I expected.

(Ignore the fact that without my husband and his chemical engineering degree/job/ability to provide for us, I would be lounging on a futon I found on craigslist and my bonus rooms would be furnished with whatever I managed to steal from my parents’ house. Because I was underemployed in the way that only a Catholic girl with advanced degrees in Jewish Studies can be.)

But…not really. There have been a few times over the years we’ve lived here that I’ve come close to living this fantasy. My kids are in bed early, my husband traveled for work, I was essentially on my own. Yeah, there was the lingering ammonia diaper smell, but I could ignore that. I’m writing this now in a quiet, clean house while my kids are at a movie with their grandma(s.) It’s delightful. My coffee is hot. If I could still afford cable it would be on, but I’ve got Netflix going on in the background. No one is touching my throw pillows.

And I’m overwhelmed with the thought that…this is not how it’s supposed to be.

The fantasy I had at 20 when I was single? Is not the fantasy that 24-year-old married Kathleen had and certainly not the one that 29-year-old mom Kathleen has. As annoying as it is to admit to myself, I would not ever want to live without the diapers and the lipgloss and the cars and the pillows tossed away so we could cuddle and my desk drawn on and covered in pictures my daughter has left for me. I wouldn’t want to live in my dream bedroom because my husband wouldn’t be there with me. I wouldn’t want to have a spotless kitchen because that means I didn’t spend the evening relaxing with my husband and drinking G&Ts instead of washing the dishes. Heck, even the stupid candle I don’t like anymore because my husband has trained me to sleep in complete darkness over the last five years.

I guess my life isn’t what I thought it would be. I guess no one’s is.

And that’s exactly how it’s supposed to be.