The dog has been barking at the back door for 20 minutes and I’m not letting her in because her paws are muddy and I can’t wipe them off because I’m holding the baby.
The kids’ noses are runny and I let them run. I step on the same pieces of the same half-assembled toys as I pace the length of the living room with that rhythmic bounce only motherhood teaches you (the one you find yourself doing in the checkout line at the grocery store, even when you’re alone with no baby to soothe).
I’m not putting away dishes. I’m not returning emails. I’m not listening to the preschooler asking me to guess which hand holds a wadded up Kleenex. I’m letting the house crumble into multicolored plastic chaos because I’m holding or rocking or nursing or wearing or changing the baby.
And it’s maddening after a while. It’s just a little bit like torture to see and smell and hear the thunder of life moving forward with all its messes and small parts and dings and beeps and barks and whiny pleas and not be able to do anything about any of it.
I know. This is the part where you say, “Go easy on yourself, crazy lady. You just had a baby. The dishes can wait. You just need to lower your expectations of yourself a little.”
And now this is the part where I tell you very clearly: my expectations are already really low. I have no intention of making wholesome homemade dinners for the foreseeable future. I have no delusions that the house will be, or should be, spotless during this nutty time. I get that it’s okay if my kids leave the house with snot on their cheeks and that I get a free pass to rock the McDonald’s drive-through (and the Starbucks drive-through) as often as I want for the next couple of months.
So I don’t think I’m being excessively hard on myself. And still, even with these right-sized expectations and a heaping dose of self-love, the things I’m not doing threaten to undo me.
The laundry I’m not folding. The sleep I’m not getting. The pictures I’m not taking and the blog posts I’m not writing and the ever-loving tiny pieces of construction paper I’m not picking up off the floor. The patience I don’t have with the people I love more than anything in the world.
Because these aren’t things I feel I ought to be doing, held over me by some external ideal that I’m not living up to. These are things I want to be doing, things that make me feel basically functional and human.
I know (again). This is the part where you tell me that this is what I signed up for. That nobody said it was supposed to be easy. That this, too, shall pass.
And this is the part, again, where I tell you: I know. I know that logically. No one ever went clinically insane over forty-two gazillion construction paper hearts. Or a barking dog. Or an overgrown inbox. I also know that this is an extraordinarily first-world lament – a cherry on top of the upper tier of the first world lament – a righteous whine-fest the likes of which would annoy me if I weren’t the one doing the whining. I know.
But that doesn’t make it any easier when I am thirsty but not drinking, hungry but not eating, tired but not sleeping.
Five weeks in, the things I’m not doing sometimes roar louder than the things I am doing. And I don’t like it. Because at some point in the future – soon or forever? – this will be the thing I’m not doing:
And this will be the bath I’m not giving:
And she will be the one I’m not holding and rocking and nursing and soothing and responding to and choosing over the mess:
And all the things I’m not doing today will become easy and mindless and boring, and these three will be the ones whose absence makes my heart ache for construction paper confetti and a carpet of legos: