Before having kids, I accomplished real things. I had long term goals in career and self fulfillment. As a (technically) civilized adult, I was accountable for a daily to do list. I took care of my body, my mind, my soul, my dog, and my relationships. I simply looked at the tasks to be done, the areas of my life that needed tending to, the hours in my day, and then scheduled accordingly. Very reasonable. Incredibly satisfying.
Since having kids (and putting off any of those real goals to stay home with them) my tasks have changed, and they seem to lack a certain value on paper. It’s far less quantifiable to keep the humans alive and not completely lose my mind, than it is to clock 8 hours. The idea of checking things off of a to do list, completing one project after another in an orderly and largely uninterrupted manner, has become out of the question.
I am mildly complaining here about the ultimate cliché: working all the time and never getting anything done.
Still I try to take my little wins where I can. I write my daily to do list, and steal the satisfaction as I check off clip anyone’s nails, unload dishwasher, and do pom pom drop activity with kids. I add up the completed items, and compile my other little victories (through hard work or by chance) into my own warped version of an achievements section on my resume.
Experience: Stay at Home Mama 2014 – a distant point in the future
Daily Tasks Managed:
- Waking up without any kids in my bed (preferably before they do).
- Showering. Alone.
- Getting everyone out of the house on time, without forgetting anything or yelling at anyone (out loud).
- Finally teaching my 4 year old to walk next to the shopping cart, or stand in the driveway/parking lot without running away.
- Cleaning something (myself included) and having it stay clean for 2+ hours.
- Naps synching, or at least overlapping.
- Preventing the dog, through any means necessary, from furiously barking at the UPS truck during nap(s).
- Overhearing my suggested phrases put to use. “Owen, just tell yourself: it’s time to go but I can do this later” or “thanks but no thanks, Addie.”
- Getting that one task done … checking an email, returning a phone call, scheduling an appointment, paying a bill. The one that has been at the top of the to-do list since last Wednesday.
- Planning and executing activities that go over well with everyone (including mom).
- Embracing the chaos.
- Putting my phone down.
- Calming stormy tantrums.
- Choosing zero battles.
- Employing a new trick, phrase, or routine to solve a mundane but recurring problem. Laundry has been unmanageable? Adjust that rotation. Kids won’t stop fighting? Bust out a new book to help them understand each other’s feelings. Overreactions to every circumstance? Teach them about mountains and fucking molehills.
- Knowing what we will eat for dinner; cooking without uttering the phrase “I am SO over dinner time”; everyone eating their dinner with minimal shenanigans.
- Surviving. Bedtime.
- A day when I don’t have to clean up pee.
I’ll count my blessings in being able to dedicate my “free” time to hobbies: this blog, my 52-books-in-2018 challenge, the obsessive reorganization of closets and drawers. Hats off to the working moms whose “free” time is spent clipping toenails, cleaning up kid messes, and STILL surviving bedtime.
In moments of peaceful contemplation, in the core of my heart, I know that everything I do in a day is working toward my biggest goal yet: raising happy, thoughtful, healthy humans. I also know this phase of my life – when I dedicate every waking moment to their needs – is temporary. In the blink of an eye they will all be off in school, and I will be working a real job, full of important adult tasks, none of which will ever be as satisfying as this particular daily grind.