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“Wife Swap” and the chaos of the middle path

Submitted by on Sunday, 1 June 2008 No Comment

Originally published Jan. 23, 2008, thehive.modbee.com   

I would love to let Jennifer Galvan take over my house for a week, if for no other reason than to titter as the Clutter Beast cowered in a now-immaculate closet.

And I’d enjoy a visit from Melissa Martin-Portala, because it’s always nice to have a refresher in the joys of childhood, to see people play with the guys in ways I’ve either never thought of or forgotten in the midst of the day-to-day grind.

Galvan, a Modesto working mom was sent to the Martin-Portala household in Toledo, Ohio, where the whole family supports dad’s career as a magician. The results will air tonight on the television show “Wife Swap.”

I suspect I could learn a lot from both women. But could I be either of them?

No.  As much as I admire Galvan’s über organization, I cannot live in a world with timers on tooth brushes.

And as much as I envy Martin-Portala’s spontaneity, I couldn’t survive doing laundry with a broom handle.

Instead, I strive for the path between Galvan’s regimented road and Martin-Portala’s loosey-goosey lifestyle. Call it the Magic of Barely Controlled Chaos. And I’ll be the first to admit it doesn’t work all of the time. I fear it’s even a little confusing for the guys.

In my heart of hearts, I’d much rather be Martin-Portala and focus on fun. That’s why I spent this morning crawling around behind Big Guy as his Lightning McQueen raced circles around the house. I was assigned the role of adoring fan, while Little Guy was relegated to a school bus. 

It was a strategic error on the part of Big Guy, who’d forgotten the magic powers of the school bus to grind everything to a halt by popping out its stop sign. You better believe Little Guy remembered and used it to his advantage.

Practicality, though, pushes me toward Galvan. Which is why after a half hour I had to drop out of the race and tackle the hardening remnants in the breakfast dishes. And fold laundry left over from the previous day’s back-yard mudfest.

I’d risk having the house condemned if I said “yes” to every request to play, but I couldn’t live with myself if I rejected them all. The wishy-washiness probably drives the guys mad. “Make up your mind, will you? Are you going to be Fun Mom or Bury Yourself in Chores Mom?”

We do combine the two at times. The guys are more than eager to help with dishes and laundry – it’s all about the water. And the chew-chew choo-choo, with the three of us whistling and chugging down the hall, is the quickest way these days to get their teeth brushed in the mornings.

But, ultimately, there always are trouble spots during the day when we hit the wall of “have to” – have to leave for work, have to go to bed. They protest, I stand firm and we repeat the cycle the next day. It’s almost become a ritual.

I certainly could avoid it if it I would just land firmly on Galvan or Martin-Portala’s side. But, then, picking one way would mean I’d miss out on all the advantages of the other.

The key, for me at least, is reconciling yourself to some degree of chaos. Maybe some people are better at this than I and can have it all without compromising. In almost five years at this, I’ve yet to figure out how to make that happen.

Yes, I’d rather the toys be neatly stowed each night. But would I sacrifice time curled up reading with them in order to make that happen?


Copyright 2008 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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