I’m nothing if not a list-maker. I make lists of books I want to read, movies I want to watch, and recipes I want to try— I live and die by my lists! Having a to-do list makes my chaotic world feel ordered and neat. Checking off items from the aforementioned list gives me a sense of accomplishment.
Having a toddler means that my to-do lists are a big fat question mark. Maybe she’ll nap, thus lending me a generous two hour block of time to accomplish the many tasks at hand. Or maybe she won’t. I won’t know until I’ve tried to put her down for a solid hour, only to have her mightily reject her crib. Maybe she’ll nap for 15 minutes, giving me just enough time to become immersed in a project before waking. Some days, the pain of teething or a brutal cold mean that Leila will need me more, and we’re in for a day of cuddling and rocking.
Having a toddler is also time-consuming. Breakfast alone is a ritual that takes a good chunk of the morning (convince toddler that sitting in high chair is necessary, place toddler in high-chair, prepare food while distracting toddler from hunger, make sure toddler has eaten enough, clean toddler, clean chair, clean dishes.) She’s active and she’s bent on destroying herself along with everything else in her path if left to her own devices.
Sometimes I forget that the to-do list doesn’t contain my most important jobs. In the midst of all the diaper changing, I keep my to-do list in the back of my mind, missing the real work right in front of me.
My list can tell me about the laundry that needs to be folded or a project that needs to be pitched. But it can’t give me the exact number of snuggles that need to be doled out or how much time to allocate for swinging at the park. It can’t quantify the amount of love and nurturing care that I offer this wee person— which are just as important as the meals that she eats and the naps that she (occasionally) takes.
It is good and important and freeing and fun to spend time with my toddler. It can also be exhausting, especially when there are things that are left undone while I sip away on my pink plastic cup of fake tea.
Sometimes it simply feels easier to check tasks off of a list. Orderly, neat, accomplishable tasks. Motherhood, on the other hand, is neither orderly nor neat, and it rarely leaves one feeling accomplished at the end of the day.
Loved, yes. Needed, absolutely. But accomplished? Not always. Motherhood is a constant process which often lacks the satisfying feeling of completion. At the end of a long day a parent can rest assured that there will be diapers to change and baby food-stained onesies to wash tomorrow. As I lamented to my husband after a particularly trying day, no one’s going to offer me an award for making the baby food from scratch! There is no boss to witness your efforts.
But that small child does see. With their watchful eyes, they take in those moments you set down the laundry and laptop to sit on the floor and play with them.
The checked boxes can always wait for another day. In the meantime, I pray that I’ll become a mom who remembers the impact that a few rounds of peekaboo during a hectic afternoon can have on a young life.