Easily one of my favorite jokes ever on The Office. Anyway …
Both of the grownups in our household have been crazy-busy lately. As I look around the state of our abode, it’s a grim predicament. It’s not just messy. It’s gross. It’s dirty. “I should really clean that congealed yogurt off the rug before the babysitter gets here” I think to myself as I scrounge around amid the tumbleweed-sized dust amalgamations for a missing toddler shoe. I can’t remember the last time I made dinner for us. We’re scrambling to keep everyone in clean underwear. You know you’re in the weeds when your sense of smell becomes a paramount resource in making decisions.
We’re leaning hard into the ramshackle childcare network we’ve built and asking a lot of tolerance and flexibility of our two year old. My husband leaves his day job 10 minutes early and hopes beyond hope that his train isn’t delayed because he knows that I’ll be standing at the back door, bag already slug over my shoulder, having hugged Ida, set to jet as soon as he crosses the threshold. I’m grateful for a solid marriage, as lately it’s being held together by text messages and high-fives in passing. It feels a little (lot) out of control.
Sometimes Ida is frustrated that we’re not all together as much as we have been in the past. I worry that us being so busy and the inevitable things that are falling through the cracks are adversely affecting her. I don’t think it will be this way for long, but she’s not 2 for long either. I’m struck by my responsibility to be there for her – my desire to be there, and the difficulty of balancing that with bringing my whole, fulfilled self to the table. A self made in part by participating in these busyness-making activities outside of my family life.
I used to fear being busy like this. I figured that a hectic schedule was something that had to go by the wayside when I became a mother and at first, I welcomed that shift. And while I’m pleasantly surprised that this craziness is almost working for us right now, I don’t imagine that this level of chaos will become our new normal. But I do notice that my ability to hang with schedule-mayhem for the sake of work I love has increased tenfold since becoming a mother. It seems as though my capacity to spread myself out has grown. On good days, it doesn’t feel like I’m being spread too thin, it feels like I’m thick as ever, and just covering more ground. On great days, it feels like magic. On bad days, it feels like absolute ass. I should probably mention that
In conversations with the mostly child-free folks I’m working with these days, the phrase “I don’t know how you do it” comes up from time to time. This is a close tie with “OMG, Your life sounds so awful and hard. I’m so glad I don’t have a kid” for the top slot on my list of “things that childfree 20somethings say that aren’t nearly as endearing as they might hope.” After I confirm that it is, indeed, challenging at times, I have a beautiful moment all to myself wherein I acknowledge that it’s also easier in a way. I’m almost unflappable now. I’m patient with frustration, with hunger, with tiredness, with so many challenges that wiped me out in the past. I’m more positive and grateful. I’m just a lot tougher than I used to be. I bet you are too.
I’m not sure how much longer we can go on like this, but for right now it seems to be mostly, albeit sometimes just barely, manageable. At the end of the day (which yesterday was 2AM. Yeash), I’m proud of us for being so giving in supporting each other. It occurs to me that this, more than any of the other stuff we’ve done together in our time (almost 9 years of marriage for my husband Nathan and me, 2 all together with Ida), makes me feel the most like I’m part of a bonafide family. Sometimes taking care of each other doesn’t have as much to do with dinner and clean clothes as I thought.
ALERT! SHAMELESS PROMOTION! And just in case you happen to be reading in Chicago/a Chicago-adjacent zone, come see my sweaty face and ample upper arms on stage at Second City over the next 5 Thursdays (June 28-July 26) and find out why I’ve been so freaking busy lately. Tickets and info here (scroll down to shows in the DeMaat Theatre and find New Day, New Underwear – a Revue on the Rules of Adulthood).
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