Why full-time motherhood's not for me

I had some feedback on my superwoman post that hinted about Henry’s days being too much for a two-year-old. So today, a “Mommy-Henry” Sunday (Cory’s working 12-hour day shifts this weekend), we just stayed in and hung out.

It reminded me of why I like to get out and about with him. Staying in should feel refreshing; a chance to spend some lazy time together and catch up on what needs to be done at home. As it turns out, I really don’t like doing what needs to be done at home. I’d rather be working.

I mopped the floors. I’m ashamed to admit this, but it’s a super rare thing that our floors ever get mopped. Cory’s obsessive with the vacuum and we take our shoes off when we come inside so it seems all right, but it has definitely been a long, long while since the last mopping in the Austin-Avon household.

Well, that was an ordeal. In my head, it would go a lot like the scene from the Pippi Longstocking movie where everyone’s having a blast.

I gave Henry a spray bottle with water and vinegar and told him he could spray the floors as much as he wanted. Of course, he sprayed the carpeted stairs, the wall, and just about everything but the floor and quickly lost interest. The floors were mopped anyway, not that they look any better for it, and we moved on.

I made fudge for a friend, which seemed like a good idea until I was stuck at the oven stirring for the better part of an hour and the only thing that seemed to hold Henry’s interest was playing in the sink.

I told myself that all the water we save by being vegans (On average, a vegan, a person who doesn’t eat meat or dairy, indirectly consumes nearly 600 gallons of water per day less than a person who eats the average American diet. — National Geographic) is at least somewhat offsetting all the water that is wasted when Henry demands some sink play time.

It was difficult not knowing what demanded more immediate action, stirring the fudge so it didn’t boil over and coat the entire stovetop in a sticky mess, or Henry dumping water everywhere and being precariously balanced on a chair to do so. I wish I had extra hands.

The hilarious quips that should be the stuff of family legends for years to come just spout from him so quickly that I can’t write everything down, much less remember it to write down. We visited BobbyDeeDee a couple of times throughout the day and Mimi and Poppy came to say hello on their way to Florida.

He fell asleep in my arms at nap time, and I held him for a good twenty minutes just taking it all in, remembering that time is fleeting, and we are never promised any kind of tomorrow that will be exactly like today. I kissed his cheek over and over. He’s still so baby soft. (I also licked my thumb to scrub off some gunk on his face and flicked boogers out of his nose. It’s hard to fawn over your baby when they have a booger staring you square in the face.)

I found myself constantly wandering back in time, missing my little baby. Kissing his soft hair; the softest, sleekest dark stuff he had when he was born, before the light hair he has now grew in. The way he would rest his head against my chest and I could hold his whole body in my arms. But then I try to shake it off.

Because I’m not so far in that I shouldn’t be in the moment — toddlerhood is going to be fleeting too, just as his short time as a baby was. So I tried to take a mental snapshot of his tousled hair, his baby teeth, the way he murmured “Song,” a command to sing him to sleep, right before he drifted off. I had just read him “The Giving Tree.” He likes when I have a happy kind of cry.

Already he’s saying his words more precisely. He can say “Jingle Bells” instead of “Dingle Bells,” “Oh what fun” instead of “Oh what bun,” and has started to say I instead of Henry, as in “I’m stuck!” instead of “Henry stuck” and even “That’s MINE.” But still, there’s the way he says sea anenanenome, and omanent. Every time I teach him proper pronunciation, I mourn the loss of his adorable Henryspeak.

Back to my original topic, though. I came downstairs to a living room full of blocks on the floor, lunch not yet cleaned up, remembering that there’s laundry in the dryer and so much to do that hasn’t been done. The immediate tasks are tedious, but it’s the other stuff that overwhelms me.

Mopping the floor this morning opened a can of worms. Suddenly I notice the pictures I haven’t framed, the broken glass in the other picture frame, the desk I need to get rid of that’s been in our living room for months now, and I think about the fans that should be dusted and the fridge that should be cleaned out and my stuff all over my dresser that needs a home and how my closet’s full of clothes just thrown around and I just want to quit.

The other day I felt a sore spot brushing my teeth and when I shone my iPhone’s flashlight in my mouth I was horrified. My teeth look like the sink that hasn’t been scrubbed in a long time. I brush and floss, but these things are just getting old and worn out. Whenever I catch a glimpse of my face in the mirror and look for longer than it takes to swipe on eyeliner or squeeze something, I have the same impression of myself. I’m so far from being new and it’s so hard to fix what’s wrong.

I have romantic thoughts about an au pair or personal assistant who will just take care of all the things that aren’t being taken care of. Repot the plants, vacuum the insides of closets, go and cash that old savings bond I’ve been carrying around and do something with it. Form an LLC for Advokate, figure out how to do the woman-owned-business certification, figure out why my checking account never balances and give my desk a good wipe down. Do something about my bushy eyebrows, exercise, drink more water, get more sleep. But it’s really me that needs to do all that.

It’s just overwhelming. Right in the middle of picking up blocks, I came and wrote this instead of doing it. I’m just not cut out for housewifery. I’d rather be chipping away at a tangible task list that I know is going to pay off instead of trying to weigh out what’s important on the homefront.

It really comes down to this: I’m so much better at triage with urgent things than with non-urgent things. The non-urgent things freak me out because there are way too many of them. I don’t actually even know what to do with down time.

Now, when I finish writing this, I know that I need to fold laundry, pick up blocks and do the dishes from lunch. Urgent things. Then… do I wash the sheets, mop the kitchen floor, take a shower (with Henry all day it’s not easy to find a minute), clean the upstairs bathroom, deal with the pile of mail on the kitchen counter, go through my closet and straighten things up and get rid of stuff, make dinner, make future dinners to put in the freezer, brush the cats, tidy my dresser, go through my 15-year-old makeup in the drawer, find the plant food and give the plants a pick-me-up?

I could refill the pellet stove, or see about a more thorough shoveling or salting of the walkway, or dust some surfaces. I should look up what to do about lint in your dryer, we’ve been cleaning the screen but I think we need some kind of a bottlebrush thing to clean it out better so it doesn’t catch fire. And I think I have gift certificates I should use but I can’t remember what they are. I could call a friend to see what they’re doing, but Cory will be home at 7 and probably just want to eat dinner and get Henry to bed so there’s not really time. I could paint my toenails, or do something with the eight inches of hair I cut off in August that’s just been in our bedroom lurking around, or figure out what I’m doing with that Adirondack chair I said I’d paint, or figure out what to do for the Small Works show or for the show I have in July. I could draw, I haven’t drawn anything in a long time. But I really should clean up the desktop on the computer and figure out why it’s running slow.

The possibilities are endless. And this tiny bit of down time has me incredibly overwhelmed just thinking about all the things that I’ve never done that I should have done and that are probably too far gone now, or just the sheer number of things there are to get to when I have down time. There’s no way to do it all.

Maybe I’ll just go see if Henry’s up yet. Or I’ll get a little work done, maybe.

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