Elusive Bliss Teases Moms as Laundry, Chores Grow

Suburban Mom Nirvana is different from the states of enlightenment or freedom from suffering associated with Eastern religions. You can't achieve it by learning some universal truths or developing some sort of karmic understanding.

In fact, Suburban Mom Nirvana is an elusive state of consciousness. Although no one has ever actually achieved this feeling of bliss, we Suburban Moms believe it would be ours to enjoy if only there were a few more hours in the day.

Just what is Suburban Mom Nirvana?

It's the exact moment of complete freedom when all the laundry is washed, ironed, folded and put away in dresser drawers that contain no stray spoons, no loose DVDs from the sleepover two weeks ago, no ticket stubs from the Cineplex; simultaneously, the house is clean, the garage swept, the bags of old clothes stored in the basement are delivered to the Salvation Army, and the cranks on all the windows have been found and replaced.

In Suburban Mom Nirvana, there is food in the cupboards — nutritious food, not just Lucky Charms — and there even are homemade entrees in the freezer awaiting a night when Suburban Mom is too busy to cook from scratch. Also, in this perfect state of being, there is shampoo in the shower and not just an empty bottle turned upside down by someone who thinks this trick will magically produce more shampoo.

Suburban Mom Nirvana is not complete unless there are clean sheets on all the beds (with pillow cases to match). For some Suburban Moms, the pillowcases would need to be ironed for nirvana to be achieved, but I'm not one of those.

For me to achieve Suburban Mom Nirvana, the floor mats in my car would need to be clean, if not replaced, and the whole car would need to be vacuumed and washed inside and out, with an oil change and a full tank of gas, and the 45,000-mile service completed as well.

In addition to all of these things, Suburban Mom Nirvana requires that Suburban Mom's desk be cleared of clutter and piles of stray sticky notes (that no longer stick because they are weeks old and yet are still relevant), and as well, her back-to-school tasks are complete, and she is already done assigning potluck dishes to the committee she is leading for the open house.

Suburban Mom has at least a part-time job, of course, and in nirvana her work is complete — she's not even remotely behind on a marketing plan or a freelance assignment — and moreover, her e-mail is answered and filed in the appropriate folders in her computer.

Suburban Mom Nirvana naturally includes a calendar that is up-to-date, but not just current — for bliss could not be achieved unless Suburban Mom has mapped out her family's life for the next four months (encompassing the balance of the calendar year and including the Christmas holiday season). In this joyful existence, Suburban Mom already knows which photo she will use for this year's Christmas card and she has a timetable for printing the labels, writing a clever and inspiring message, and assembling the greetings for a Thanksgiving weekend mailing.

That's it. That's nirvana.

Oh wait. I forgot — the weeds are pulled, the lawn is mowed, there's a seasonal flag flying out front (for the appropriate season) and there are flowers — live flowers.

Now, if you are a man and you read the paragraphs above, you are thinking, "Nirvana? Give me a beer, a bag of chips, a flat-screen TV and a satellite dish." For reasons women can't understand, men are able to achieve oneness with the universe without ever considering the accumulation of dust bunnies under the chair in which they sprawl slothfully in front of the TV. Men spell nirvana E-S-P-N.

But we women, arguably possessing a greater sensitivity to our spiritual selves, know that a state of complete bliss is simply out of the question if the freezer still holds an empty popsicle box and there is an inexplicable stickiness on the chairs around the kitchen table.

The contrast regarding nirvana between the genders accounts for a startling number of conversations such as this taking place in suburbs across America:

Husband: "Why don't you sit down and watch the game with me?"

Wife: "Because. The attic is a mess and school starts on Tuesday."

Husband: "Does the attic have to be clean before school starts?"

Wife: "Did you change the light bulbs in the basement?"

This illustrates a fundamental difference between husbands and wives. The husband is really saying, "Honey, I am enjoying nirvana. Want to join me?"

The wife is saying, "You are a buffoon and you wouldn't know nirvana if it settled on you like fog in a bog. Nirvana requires fresh light bulbs."

Well anyway, my quest for Suburban Mom Nirvana continues. I spent the summer thinking I could achieve it because I'd have four children around the house to do chores such as cleaning out the junk drawer in the laundry room and matching the stray socks that have collected since March (both essential in my perception of perfect bliss). Unfortunately, I discovered once again that children actually impede progress toward Suburban Mom Nirvana.

But then again, school starts this week. I'm thinking my bliss is just around the corner.

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  • Guest

    This is great, Mary Beth! Thank you for sharing!





  • Guest

    I disagree.

    This has little to do with mothers versus fathers.  It has to do with personality types.  Type A personalities are never quite satisfied.  Type B never pay quite enough attention to detail.

    I think it is a mistake to cast things like this into some war of the sexes.  Marriage can be the best taste of heaven in our earthly life. Or it can be as difficult as we make it — even without witty articles with neurotic mega-moms calling their complacent husbands buffoons.

    We can do better.

  • Guest

    This is funny!  I used to be like that – looking for nirvana when my idea of perfection would be met. Well, perfection never came, and as I became older and another child arrived, and then another, etc., I gave perfection the raspberries in order to preserve the happiness of our home. The house is not in order, in fact last night's living room campout is still all over, and the pancake batter spills are still on the kitchen counter.  I don't care…the baby and her tummy are satisfied as I sit here with her, and the little ones are still having fun w/the blanket tents.  Years ago I would've made sure all was in order before sitting down to nurse, (yes, i really did) and the kids would get stressed along w/me. So, here's another round of raspberries to my old idea of perfection = nirvana…..ppppfffffffffffffttttttt!!!

  • Guest

    I admit to striving for that state of nirvana.  But that is my own pride.  All that matters is that I struggle toward perfection – not that I actually achieve it.  And not because I want the state of nirvana, but because I want to do my best for others, for God, for the sake of the kingdom.  God deserves the best, not second best.

    PTR, I didn't see this article as putting forth a battle of the sexes…I agree with what i perceived from the article.  Dads tend to be more willing to enjoy the peace (as short lived or chaotic as it may be) for as long as it lasts.  Moms tend to over-do things.  Here, the irony is that the wife will be more likely to label the husband as a "buffoon" because he is more willing to accept the temporary joy of life at the moment.  In reality, it is the wife that ends up the buffoon because of her lost perspective.

    I have leard a lot from my husband's "different" perspectives.  It is a good, complimentary thing.

  • Guest


    For what it's worth, I'm in agrement with you.  And with Marybeth, if that is in fact her point. 

    I did not get the message, "It is a good, complimentary thing" from the article.  I got, "Happy husbands are buffoons. Well anyway, my quest for nirvana continues."

    Perhaps I misunderstood?

  • Guest

    All I can do is say that I bring my own biases to the table when I read articles.  I don't know if that's what she intended.  It's just what I heard.  🙂

  • Guest

    After reading Marybeth's articles for years, I am quite sure she doesn't think her husband a buffoon, and I'd guess what lpioch "heard" is probably pretty well on target.  I noticed myself trying to achieve this nirvana thing today, too.  School starts tomorrow, and, gasp, I didn't scrub the kitchen floor.  As I read Marybeth's article, I realized how silly it all is, and that we moms can indeed learn from our menfolk.  There's something to be said for kicking back and watching sports.  Perhaps I'll try it next weekend–I'll need that type of bliss after filling out 900 school forms this week and getting back on the school time schedule!