Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Here are my little sprouts at Charlotte's stone, a beautiful spot on the woods along the river. There is a public trail there where we walked a lot when I was pregnant, and so on Charlotte's two month birthday, we put a stone there that Greg had carved with the words, "We love you, Charlotte Amelia". It has been there ever since, and we bring flowers and plant things there and enjoy the river. These two photos were both taken in the springtime when the children were one. (they are each one in the pictures, which were obviously taken two years apart from one another).
I am having this really successful effort at organization which began with my new year's resolution which was, in case you missed this, "I will not be so lazy". My efforts have been to complete tasks. If you are an active mother (this is to distinguish a mother with children living in her home from a mother who might not have her child living with her but is most definitely still a mother) then you know this much is true: you never, ever, ever finish a task. Not ever. You start one thing, you get sidetracked, you start another thing, etc. So I have been trying, in addition to not being so lazy, to finish tasks when I start them. I am also being more planful about what tasks I want to accomplish. I have come up with a GENIUS solution to my problem of being disorganized.
I got a planbook! A daily book where you write down what you are supposed to do? It took me four years of motherhood to figure out that I actually need this MORE than I did when I was teaching kindergarten. Just like I had to write down what reading lesson I was going to do, and what time snack was at, and what day we had music, I still need this, and more! Because I have found that if I have a list, I do what's on it. I spend less time wandering around the house relocating things that have been moved and more time on things that give me a sense of satisfaction.
Now what, you may ask, particularly those whose only children reside in the stars with my firstborn, could be more satisfying than drinking in the beauty of motherhood 24 hours a day? Not much, really. But it is surprising, even from my vantage point of having lost, how quickly I realized that I have been conditioned to real, measurable feedback for my accomplishments. I became used to feedback from my boss, from parents, from watching a child learn to read, to see the to-do list in my classroom all ticked off. There was a strange point where I felt unsatisfied with my stay at home life because there is nothing to measure. You nurture your children, you play with them, you keep them clean, you feed them, you help them sleep, you sweep the floor, you do the dishes, you do the laundry. Really the housework is all about supporting the kids, making them a nice, clean place to play, making their food, cleaning up their dishes, washing their cute little clothes and diapers (I still love folding cute little laundry, because I am so damn happy to have somebody to wear it). But every task that you do isn't really an accomplishment, because it gets almost immediately undone. We've discussed this before. You sweep, they smoosh crackers. You wash dishes, you eat lunch. You do laundry, they spill milk. This is how the wheel turns, and it's a-okay, but you can't ever really feel that sense of wow, job completed, on to the next task. It's just circular. And with the kids, the center of the wheel, you love them, you adore them, but there are days when they are cranky and whiny and there isn't much feedback from them, either. Kids rarely say, "Wow, you are a great mom." And the other thing? How many times have you heard someone say, "What a great dad." People are ALWAYS complementing men (especially my beloved) on being great dads. But I hope I don't sound whiny when I say that it is very rare for people to comment on how wonderful a mom is. And I don't just mean this in the form that people don't directly compliment me, which of course I don't expect, but I mean to say that even women hanging around together don't tend to do this. They say their friend's husband is great because he's tender and plays great with the kids and can cook but they don't mention how great the friend, who does the exact same things, is as well. I think perhaps this is because women are just expected to do the things they do and men who perform equally as well seem to look superhuman because we still haven't raised the bar from when men used to come home and have a gin and read the paper while the wife did it all.
Which is all to say that my planbook and my list, and my goals of being more organized and completing tasks have been enormously fruitful, and when I'm not blithering away my naptimes writing on this blog I get a lot accomplished and feel like I am more present for my babies when they wake up and want me to play play play. Which I do, happily, and without distraction.


Rixa said...

It's so true how we drool over men who do things that women do everyday, all day. Women's work is largely invisible. I suppose that will only change if we start speaking up more, telling our own friends how amazing they are...

There is an older lady at my church who always comments about my mothering: to me and to other people. (Good stuff, thankfully!) And you know what? It does mean a lot to me. Not that I do the things I do to try and get attention, but it makes me feel great that someone has noticed how totally crazy in love I am with my daughter.

charmedgirl said...

when i read from those that lost their first child, i wonder if they ever realize that when you have living children when one dies, it's almost like you see them, finally, for the first time. you stop seeing all the schrapnel of their craziness (like in the matrix where they slow it down so much you can see the bullets whizzing by their faces) and see THEM. i am trying not to be as lazy this year, too. but i am mostly just trying to keep seeing my alive kids..