How to be a Control Freak – and Still Have Kids

If you are a control freak, don’t have kids.  If you have perfectionist tendencies, keep the condoms on the bedside table.  If you’ve Marie Kondo-ed your knicker drawer and, like Beckham, line up the cans in your cupboards so it all looks perfect, then for goodness sake don’t allow sticky-fingered monsters into your life.

I’m a complete control freak.  And I’ve ignored my own advice and have two gorgeous sons.  And I struggle hugely with the mess they create.  Plastic tat everywhere, most of it battery powered, because obviously all the charming wooden toys their doting godparents have bought them are ignored for something with an irritating tune and the ability to be trodden on. Not only will this plastic outlive them, but it gets everywhere.  Weaning is an utter nightmare, those gorgeous white onesies are stained with pesto, raisin-dribble and squashed satsuma segments.  I was a fool and decided to splash out on Farrow and Ball paint in the kitchen.  It’s a first world problem, but pesto leaves marks on walls too.  And after scrubbing them down for the eleventy-billionth time, and soaking the onesies in river-polluting stain removers, and picking the socks up, and clearing the cat flap of matchbox cars, and trying to get THOSE BLOODY TOMY EGGS back in the box with all the pieces present and correct and with the blue lid on the blue egg I realised I was quietly and tidily going insane.

But it’s really hard to break the habits of a lifetime.  Being an independent woman for my 20s meant I lived alone and LOVED IT, partly because the towel was always hung up neatly and partly because 2.5 year olds, foul beings at the best of times, didn’t smear bogeys under the sofa.  (Seriously guys.  That’s gross).  But it didn’t prepare me for living with an adult male, let alone two tiny humans who can’t control their bladders, let alone their toys.

So what’s the solution?  Well, I would love to return to an immaculate home, devoid of all signs of children, but I don’t have a housekeeper, and I also know that much as I long for Kelly-Hoppen-like interiors, you don’t get that with kids. It would also be sad I think, to live in a home with no sign of the smallest inhabitants – but whilst I know that to be true it’s also very appealing. I’ve tried to embrace the chaos, but I’ve trodden on too much Lego for that (and omg it HURTS).  I introduced a tidy up song, so we could all skip merrily around the kitchen retrieving plastic dinosaurs.  But the kids ignore me and continue to put miniature stegosauruses in the cat’s bed.  Fortunately I’m incredibly lucky and am married to a man who accepts that 50% of the dinosaurs are his responsibility, but the mess definitely affects me more than him.

So I’m trying to just live with it.  To let the kids wear odd socks so I don’t have to bother pairing them (therefore creating more time for gin-drinking).  To kick some bits under the sofa rather than frantically scour for the missing bit of jigsaw that is unlikely to ever emerge again.  To accept that prams are SUPPOSED to be encrusted with raisins and croissant crumbs (don’t even ask about the state of the car.)  And when that fails, I invite my mum to stay, and as I’ve inherited my control-freakery from her, I am smugly sure that she’ll fix the jigsaw, mop the floor and bleach the bathroom.  Perhaps I should be grateful that this is a family trait after all.

By Celine Bell

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