Thursday, March 7, 2013

With Urgency, Not with Haste


I linked to this post on here and on Facebook awhile back and I've been thinking about it since.

Someone on Facebook mentioned that we live in a "culture that worships productivity".

I'll be the first to say I struggle with being "productive". In a given week, I have as many non productive days as productive ones. And that's a good week.

But I do get in a hurry. We'll call this "haste". I do things hastily, and often, incompletely. [See: the closet clean out that should take a few hours and somehow has taken a few months.] I wrote once that mothering two (espesially a, at the time, newly busy toddler) had given me a taste of what Peyton's ADD feels like. I was finding it almost impossible to complete a minute task without interruption. And that was hard because I'm kinda a control freak (about some things). It was really growing for me, though, and I gained a lot of flexibility from it. Sometimes, now, though, I worry that I've let the pendulum swing too far in this direction. During the kids mealtimes, I'm almost always doing other chores and trying to simultaneously get them fed. I always try to do something "productive" while AP takes a bath. I think some of this is good, really. I obviously only have so many hours, so multitasking is essential. But some of it is selfish; I'm rushing around like that so when they take naps or go to sleep I can have time to myself. And I don't think that's a bad thing, either, really. Writing here and reading other blogs brings a lot of pleasure to my life and as I explained to some friends recently, it's partly how I maintain a "sense of self" apart from mothering. Obviously, carving out time for conversation with Peyton is really important for many reasons, too.

And it feels good to get a lot done while simultaneously managing basic childcare responsibilities. It just does. You'll never hear me say I'm super mom, but when I cook a couple of meals (something that is, for whatever reason, really difficult for me) I feel pretty accomplished. On days when several things like that end up happening, I feel like it's been a good day. But there are other times when Bud is holding up a little board book and whining one of the few words he says with consistency ("READ!"). I know that going ninety miles a minute and ignoring everything in my path and not giving myself a break to take one sip of my Coke or check my phone that keeps beeping is the only way I'll accomplish all the things on the elusive to-do list that haunts me. But I do stop. Because taking a break for myself is vastly different than taking a break for him.

For some reason, this is not natural for me. Which I would have never thought, previous to becoming a mother. My mom was particularly good at turning a blind eye to an atrocious mess that seemingly needed to be attended to that minute in favor of the greater calling to love us well. That's not to see we didn't live in a neat, clean home. It was well managed and tidy. But when it was a choice of what came first, her priorities were clear. I just assumed I'd be just like her. But unless it's the first early hours of the day, I feel like I constantly need to be doing, in addition to spending time with the children. Lately, I think it's become more of a problem because until relatively recently Graves hasn't been great about playing independently for any real length of time. He can do that now. What's more impressive is that he can play unsupervised with his sister for more than what amounts to a potty break. And while I recognize this is a blessing and part of growing up and it's definitely a good thing, I also don't want to take advantage of it too much . I've said it before, but my primary intention in staying home was not so my house can be cleaner.

Anyway, I've had to decide to be intentional. Sometimes that means going outside for half an hour when I really need to be inside with the laundry pile. Sometimes it means saying I'll work on a task for ten minutes and then we'll work on puzzles for ten. Sometimes it means that when I finish emptying the dishwasher I'll read a book to each child before I start loading it again, even when everything in me wants to finish the dishes and I feel like I could come undone walking away from the freakin appliance.

More than anything, this means intentional dialogue with them when I'm in the same room even if I'm otherwise occupied. This is another thing Minnie excelled at. It's easier with AP because she's constantly engaging now, but I'm trying to be very intentional with Graves. Moreover, it means involving them in the tasks at hand. [Which, OMG, with the ceding control and letting the preschooler unload dishes. And OMG with the toddler cleaning up a mess WHILE MAKING ANOTHER ONE.]

Sometimes it means making sure I have sufficient margins in my life, as Sarah Markley speaks of. For me, this mostly means I insure I have adequate time in my own house.  For example a while back, I was having a particularly busy (for me) day: Drop off AP, volunteer at the CPC, home to visitwithPeyton/dodishes/takeoutrecycling/emptycompost/tidydisasterhouse/startlaundry, pick up AP, home for naps and a few things I wanted/needed to do on the computer and folding that laundry, a Junior League meeting, and then bedtime for Annie and Graves and time to breath for me. Anyway, I ended up staying no more than twenty minutes late at the CPC. However, lunch was rushed, hardly time for a conversation. I spent a few minutes typing out the start of a blog post that was itching at me and then Graves had a dirty diaper and it was time to go. I was frazzled. Margins help make sure this day isn't my every day.

Finally, it means being less selfish with my time and making choices based on that. It means sometimes shifting things I could do while the kids are playing to during naptime/ after bedtime and then not staying up ridiculously late to accommodate things that really aren't important for me to do every day (like play on Facebook).

In the end, the list does get done. And if it doesn't? Nothing on there was of eternal significance anyway. Nothing on there was even of relational significance.  But I go to bed in peace, knowing I made the right choices that day. Picturing in my mind's eye my children in my lap with stacks of books surrounding us, amongst the bigger mess that is a lived in house. A loved in house. A house where the inhabitants are blessed by the mess.

I have to love these children with urgency, not with haste.


Bech and Marley Evans said...

This a great post! I needed this. I am an OCD, planner, cleaner, organizer, etc. I always let my husband sit in the bathroom and bathe Jack while I do laundry, get out tomorrows clothes, wash dishes...and on and on and on! I need to take more time to just relax and play with my son! Thanks for the reminder!

Mallory Pickering said...

Ugh. I get anxiety just reading this. I am such a task-oriented person, and I am trying to becomes the flexible and also more "together" at the same time.
Did you read Lisa Jo's last post? Same sentiments. She seems a lot better at being a free spirit than I am.

Lucy Marie said...

This is perfect. Just perfect. This totally nails it on the head. Exactly what I was thinking when I posted that photo of Eva gluing random feathers to an egg this morning. There has to be a balance somewhere, right? Just how to find that is the question ....