Putting Mise en Place to Work

Engineering my summer Project Three: Making family life less painful

After an entire month of May extolling the virtues of the life-alteringly simple process of Mise en Place, I had a startling revelation: There is Mise en Place that I used to do and that had made my life easier. For some reason, I had stopped doing it.

As a quick reminder, Mise en Place, as we know it here on Lily Fields Challenge, is the process of deciding in the evening what you are going to wear the next day; it is the act of getting it out of your closet or drawer and putting it in the place where you are going to get dressed in the morning.

I have written odes to this simple life hack. I have credited it with being the first step to realizing that I was suffering from post-partum depression.

Now, I am hanging my summer hat on it in the hopes that it can make my family life less unbearably complicated

Not just for the closet

At its heart, the concept of Mise en Place is actually about facilitating cooking (haha, funny. I hate cooking.) It’s about getting out all the ingredients you need based on the recipe you are preparing, measuring things out as you will need them before you ever get started.

Without ever calling it Mise en Place, I used to practice this when I had two babies, particularly in the big handful of months when I had two under two. I made a habit of getting our “going out” bag ready at the end of every day. Diapers in all the sizes we might need. An extra onesie for each scalawag. Extra socks (Mamas know why.) A plastic bag for trash, a plastic bag for soiled clothes. A sippy cup to spare. Snacks (always bring more snacks than you think you need!) Baby wipes. A bottle of water for Mama.

Without planning ahead, I would have been incapable of going anywhere, because just the act of getting on all the shoes and socks and hats, then having one baby have a blowout just as we were getting ready to leave, dealing with that then having the other do likewise…ugh. If I had to think about everything we needed to take with us, too, I would never have gone anywhere. At least our bag was ready.

Boiling a frog…

Inexorably, time passes. The boys grew out of that painfully urgent phase where everything depended on me. I remember the first day my eldest put his shoes on all by himself for the first time. I do believe we popped the cork on a bottle of champagne that night.

I started to get used to their independence. A few months ago, my youngest started reliably getting dressed and putting on his own shoes. (Although when I say “getting dressed by himself”, I do still mean he puts his pants on backwards. Every. Single. Time.)

I love their independence. I love that all I need to do is bring snacks when I go to pick them up from school.

That said, it is summertime again. And so far, in the very few days that summer has provided us, I have found myself overrun with the panicky feelings I used to get when they were little.

They may be bigger now, but we still need stuff. Going to the skatepark requires helmets and kneepads and skateboards and scooters and stunt bikes. Plus, it is smart to have the bike and skateboard tools (to be heroes for the other kids at the skatepark!), not to mention a first aid kit, because you know what? You never know.

Going to the pool requires sun block and sunglasses and swim trunks and towels and water wings and a change of clothes and snacks and water. Ugh.

Going to the park requires its own paraphernalia.

What I am saying is not surprising. What it is, though, to me, is overwhelming.

Idiot-proofing our summer

I have said this a dozen times, but menopause is doing a number on my ability to think clearly. The number of times today that I have forgotten why I went into another room is embarrassing.

Add this brain fog to the general jumble of craziness around the time my family of scalawags tries to go anywhere and there can be shades of unpleasantness, ranging from impatience to irritation to frustration to anger to rage.

Yes, in the last week, I have growl-shouted with zero self-awareness at my children, “We are going to the zoo, and you are going to like it!”

How did I get to the point that I was growl-shouting? I let the little things get away from me. I tried, in the moments before we were going to leave, to pack a lunch, put together everything we would need and get all the documents printed for our new zoo passes. The boys got impatient and started fighting, because waiting and doing transitions are not yet on the palette of life skills they have acquired.

So much of this drama could have been alleviated with Mise en Place.

Hacking Mise en Place for menopausal brain fog.

I used to have checklists. As an event planner, I lived off of checklists and To-Do lists.

I started doing checklists for the pedantic activities of parenthood after I heard a podcast from Hidden Brain, in which it just seemed obvious that if brain surgeons and airplane pilots used them, then I should be too.

Somewhere along the line, the checklists became out of date for all the things we needed to take with us on our outings, and I never got around to making new ones for the new activities we undertook. The fact that something became “routine” did not ever make it less complicated. When we didn’t have an extra pair of socks in the bag because a little boy ruined his, it was nonetheless unpleasant. I would remember, maybe that once to add an extra pair. But beyond that…

Nope. I just never esteemed it important enough to start again.

But now, with the menopause brain that has set in and the fervent desire to give my little boys tools to help them become organized, industrious members of society, I need to revive the checklist.

The hardest part is just to get started

Obviously, the part of me that wants to write novels scoffs at the foggy-brained mom who needs to get her stuff together by making a “going to the pool” checklist.

I am sitting here literally dreading the idea of getting out a pencil and paper to start writing it out. I know for a fact that my indulgent husband is going to have some kind of remark about the fact that I need to do this. (I’m not yet sure he gets it that my brain fog is real… although he cannot deny that the rage is real, especially when it is directed at him.)

So. I am going to sign off right this very instant and the next time you hear from me, it is going to be with my summer checklist in hand.

I just need to get started.

Published by Lily Fields

I am passionate about contentment. This is a challenge, because I am equally passionate about progress. I get up at 4:00AM to chip away at a solution to this monolithic problem: how to make progress on my contentment. Born and raised in the USA, I married a French philosophy teacher in 1999. We have lived in France since 2007. We stayed young and carefree until life threw us two curveballs in the form of little humans one after another in 2015 and 2017 respectively. Now I am a slightly older, slightly more exhausted version of myself, but with mystery stains on my walls and a never-ending pile of laundry.

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