By 9am today, Sunday, my husband had spent 3 hours at work. By 5pm he had spent 4 hours at work, parented 3 kids, rebuilt our fence and built a sandbox. Within 4 hours today our amazing babysitter had prepared a healthy lunch, made cookies and inked block prints with all 3 of our kids. By 10pm tonight my oldest had been an angel for said sitter, learned to wash dishes, solved our ant problem, put his brother down for a nap, helped the other little brother with his Legos, watered for the neighbors, swept up sawdust and attended the Murder Mystery Night at the Lake Harriet trolley. And, by the time he fell into bed, Wesley had helped our neighbor fertilize 11 rose bushes, watered her gardens, weeded her flower beds, rode his trike around the block, cleaned up tools, unloaded a wheelbarrow of scrap lumber, helped build a fence, learned to block print, made cookies, “mowed” the lawn and consumed many pounds of food. Wilder learned to block print, made cookies, finished a Lego train, watered for the neighbors, took a 2 hour nap, took care of our dog, road his bike around the block 8 times, and invented a laundry shoot pulley system for elevating items to the 2nd floor with his big brother. The bathwater was opaque. The floors were gritty. The house was shredded. The bar of soap, literally, had a bite out of it. I don’t know what that’s all about but it somehow symbolizes this productive day.
By 8pm tonight I had made more messes than I cleaned. All I did before noon was pay one bill and fine-tuned next week’s calendar. I went on a walk with a friend. I called my parents. I talked with neighbors. I did a load or two of laundry. I weeded. I supervised bike rides, gardening and watering. I cleaned the toilets. I wrote a blog post. I took pictures. I kept my 2-year-old away from the saw, the compressor, the nail gun and the creek. I accompanied my son to Murder Mystery Night. But nothing stuck out. By 8pm I was eating ice cream I felt like I hadn’t earned. “Where does the time go?” and “Why can’t I get anything done?” careened about my achy head.
My kids were little farmers today; outside, productive, dirt-drenched. They had great days. The dirtier the bathwater the better the day! They were excited, proud and exhausted. I was not satisfied.
When I was a working mom I proved to my supervisor that I could do my full-time job in 30 hours per week. Done. Productive; fast and finished. Her feedback was positive. Now that I am not a working mom, I have to convince myself each day that my time is “well-spent.” I have a list of things to do a mile long, but somehow its never enough; my feedback is consistently negative, and there’s really no one else here to pat my back. I spend most of my days putting out fires. I prevent things from happening. I reign in energy. I clean up. I chase. I rarely create. I rarely have products I could show you by the end of the day. The list just gets longer and longer and the pile stacks up. The parent I had the intention of being is still just an intention.
But then I look at the ring around the tub. I eat one of their cookies and hang up their art. I kiss their heads. They are alive. They ate quinoa today. They got dirty. Somehow taking an ounce of credit for their ingenuity, their health, their smiles, their manners, their activities, their compassion and their learning is NOT WHAT MOTHERS DO. But the truth is, I made today happen. I planned the weekend down to the trip to Home Depot, the babysitter, the naps and the illusion of free-time. I bought the food. I shopped for their jeans and the soap someone ate, dammit. I took the pictures and I wrote it down when my oldest said “murder isn’t ok. Its pretty much banned” because its funny. So, I am giving myself credit for an itty bit of what THEY accomplished today. Because I get paid in ice cream and kisses. Because its hard to feel accomplished for keeping the poop in the bathroom and the food in the kitchen. Because its hard to feel really, really great for buying everyone’s new shoes when I didn’t earn the money to pay for them. Because I cannot survive this if I continue to devalue my own worth. Because in truth, they appreciate me so much more than I appreciate myself.