Thursday, October 27, 2005

Priorities II

Hi all. I'm cheating a little today. I've decided to use as today's post an essay I wrote a little more than a year ago, when Sweetie was 1 1/2 years old. It talks about how difficult it was/is for me to organize my time.

(I just now realized that this is similar to an earlier posting I did on priorities- but I think the message bears repeating anyway. Organizing/prioritizing I think is one of the most difficult tasks for any mother. Maybe someone reading this can relate - I'm betting many of you can.)


"Sleep when the baby sleeps." That's the well-intended, seemingly sensible advice all new mothers are given, helping them ease into their new world of diaper changes, midnight-feedings, and baby talk. And as a new mother, I appreciate any bits of advice and wisdom I can get in regards to what lies ahead. However, this staple of sane mothering just has not worked for me. More to the point - prioritizing baby's needs, household chores and my own need for self-preservation is, as (Sweetie) toddles ever closer toward the Terrible Two's, a major bone of contention in my life.

The first several months – heck, the entire first year! - were very challenging for me. As a disabled mother, it was difficult for me to do anything but tend to my daughter when she was awake. Because of my weak legs, I wasn't able to carry her around in a pouch on my belly, taking her with me as I swept through the house cleaning and dusting. Therefore, the only time to really take care of the house was when she napped. Likewise, I found the only time I could do anything for myself - whether it be a quick nap along with her or to catch up on my reading and writing - was when she slept.

While the thought of snoozing sounded like heaven whenever (Sweetie's) head went down (and her cute little bum went up), I just couldn't stop thinking that there was laundry to do and dishes to get into the dishwasher (my first Mother's Day gift. The best gift I've ever received. Seriously!). So I’d inevitably set off on my "wifely", and now "motherly" duty of keeping house. The moment would soon come, though, when this pre-baby, self-centered spirit would return and say to me, "You know, Amy, the baby’s sleeping. Why don’t you sit yourself down with a hot cup of tea, a good book or magazine, and just relax for a bit." Taking the spirit’s advice - laundry and dishes be damned! - I would put down the detergents and sponges and set the kettle on high, picking up the latest issue of “Oprah”. What does she have to say about the best ways to prioritize and live a happy life in your impeccably clean house, adorably well-behaved children playing quietly at your feet?

Thankfully, (Sweetie) has always been a very happy, self-contented baby. So she is able to play unattended for short spans of time. This has allowed me to scoot away for a minute to get a load of laundry going or put the last plate into the dishwasher to run. But as a new mother, I am totally in love with my baby and want to spend as much time with her as I can - if not interactively playing with her, then at least watching as she plays, learns and explores.

I so love spending time with my Sweetie that, upon returning to a full time career outside of the house, I found I could not get home to her fast enough after a long day's work. I live for the evenings. My job is such that I cannot leave until everything is completed each day. If computers or machinery break down, I have to stick around until all is fixed and done. Before (Sweetie), this was not a big deal. I didn't mind (too much, anyway) staying to work out any problems that arose. Once I became a mother, though, if I am at work even five minutes passed quitting time, I get fidgety and stressed, ready to get the heck out of there and go get my baby. I yearn for the weekends, when I can spend two whole days with her.

Ironically, this leads to another point on this crazily spinning pinwheel called motherhood. In (Sweetie's) first several months of infancy, whenever those precious weekends came around I’d often find myself wishing (she) would settle down for one good nap so I could take care of some other things. In fact, there were more sleepless Saturdays than I'd like to admit where I'd end up calling my mom in tears, asking her if she could baby-sit that evening so my husband and I could get out on our own for some time. And then my hormonally crazed self would continue to cry because of the ridiculousness of it all - wanting to be with (Sweetie), but wanting her to sleep so I could do my own thing at my own pace.

I remember one evening in particular when, after a rough, no-nap day, my mom did watch (Sweetie) for us. I was excited to go out on a nice, grown-up dinner date with my husband but, as soon as dinner was over and he suggested that we go shopping, I was crying again because I had had my rest and now wanted to be with my daughter again!

Things have started to get better. She is 22 months old now – her own little person. I think I have finally gotten a handle on prioritizing - more or less. I find that I must get chores done immediately upon putting her down. Then by the time she settles herself into dreamland I can, perhaps, sit down too. I have tried it the other way but too many times I get so wrapped up in the luxury of my rest time that by the time I finally get up to do some real work, she's waking up and I'm mad at myself that "I never have the time to get work done in this place!"

Above any other lesson motherhood has taught me so far is this: learn to live life in 2 to 3 hour increments, letting the baby lead the way. Just go with the flow as best you can. She will tell you when and if you’ll get housework done or a rest in for yourself. And, if things don’t go as you had hoped they would, well – maybe “the boss” will appeal to your needs tomorrow… on second thought, better TiVo Oprah for the rest of the week and program that new Roomba I just got for my birthday. We’ve got many a board book to read and lots of play dates to keep.

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