November 27, 2007

Busy doing nothing

One of the hardest realities I've had to come to terms with in my life as a stay-at-home mom is also one of the hardest things to explain. At the end of the day, not every day, but often enough, I'm tired, flustered, and cranky. I feel like I've struggled, my body is sore and I can't remember basic words like "pantry" and "telephone".

I feel spent from everything I've spent the day doing. Which brings the obvious question; what, in fact, did I do all day?

Umm... well... I... there was... I started to... aw, forget it. I did nothing. Nothing all day.

The laundry isn't finished. The floor isn't swept. The playroom is a mess. No beds are made up. Dinner is only half prepared and there's a pile of dishes moldering in the sink. I didn't get ANYTHING done, right?

But... we colored 10 pictures and Anna can now stay in the lines. Silvia pushed the toy walker back and forth across the floor for 20 minutes and stands up to it all by herself. There were 2 phone calls to my mom-friends to lament my hair and complain about how sick I am of the Disney Channel, while Anna watches that same channel. There were 3 seperate attempts to move the wet laundry to the dryer, while at the same time keeping Anna from tackling Silvia and Silvia from eating sink cleanser.

There was one disastrous episode of trying to load the dishwasher where Silvia crawled over and got her hands around a knife in the silverware bin and I caught her just in time. There were 8 brief and interrupted attempts to check my e-mail and message board. There was a trip to my mom's, a trip to the grocery store, a trip to the park, a trip to Starbucks. There were 6 trips into and out of the car, shuttling various children, cups and bags up and out and in and around.

Depending on the day, there were music classes, playdates, and doctor appointments.

There were 5 time-outs, 7 potty breaks, (including singing and stories) not all successful, 3 dance breaks, 1 twenty-minute trek out to check the mail and see the squirrel and say hi to the neighbor's dog. There were 3 naps, in non-overlapping intervals, including stories, clothing changes and rocking chair cuddles. There was a silent snuggle to get the sleeping baby from the car to her crib, only to be woken up by her not-so-silent sister on the saxophone.

None of it accomplished much, none of it is tangible at the end of the day. There is nothing I can hold up to say, "See? I did this today! And I did it well and I'm proud!".

Instead, a pile of dishes mocks me and the wet laundry is starting to smell and will have to be washed again. You see, the thing about my job is that the proof of my skill will not manifest for years, maybe many years, to come. The time that I spend interacting and juggling and refereeing and disciplining and laughing and hugging and putting all the "real" stuff aside... there's no real way to measure that value, it's all done on faith and hope.

There is not always a tidy and obvious outcome at that end of my day; a neat pile of folded laundry and a sparkling kitchen with delicious smells coming from the oven, for instance. Still, take a closer look and, on the good days, the days that make it all worth it, you'll probably see something even better.

Two little girls, messy and smiling. One is still small and has a cheerio stuck to her cheek as she waves enthusiastically with a tamborine in one hand, blue eyes sparkling. The other is tall and her brown hair makes a frizzy and tangled halo around her face. She has ketchup stains on her fingers and shirt and is clomping about in my shoes. She is dancing with her own reflection from the (dusty) TV screen.

She is singing.


mosaica said...

Thank you for writing was perfect and beautiful.


grandmem said...

your priorities are entirely straight and the world will be a better place because of the time you spent dancing with your daughters instead of washing your dishes.