Yesterday was one of those days when I felt like I was swimming upstream. Actually, most days around here are like that right now. I looked at the same bowl of hard-boiled eggs approximately 18 times throughout the day before I was able to peel them and make the egg salad that I wanted to have on hand for my six-year-old (it’s one of his favorite snacks – go figure). There was always something more pressing that needed to be done, or I’d try to put the baby down and he would protest. And peeling eggs just really requires two working hands.
These days I find myself straddling the line and wavering between acceptance of the never-ending to do list and resistance to it. It feels like my husband and I could spend all day hacking away at the responsibilities and still not feel accomplished or done by the end of the day. And then, of course, there are the big kids who are home with us all the time and who want and need our engagement. And we truly want to be with them too, spending time doing the things that bring them and us joy. When I’m feeling especially resistant to the realities of life and taking care of kids and our home and all the rest of it, I sometimes find myself reminiscing about how much easier it felt before the baby was here. Things got done, I had two hands at my disposal all the time, and there seemed to be plenty of time. But, perhaps I’m just remembering it through rose-colored glasses. I’m sure I probably felt overwhelmed at times then, too. I think it’s part of our nature to wish for things to be different or easier and to forget the harder parts of the times during our histories that we wistfully remember. And when I start down this line of thinking, I’ve recently been stopping myself and reminding myself why it feels hard now. We have a baby. A joyful, sweet, happy, healthy, and perfect little package of love who has filled our family’s life with such sweetness and utter joy. He’s this whole new person that we get to love, to know, and to watch grow. There’s no single task or no amount of tasks that matters more than that.
And so, I’m trying to let go a little bit more every day. I thought my threshold for what needed to get done each day was set. It is what it is. If I don’t get x, y, and z done, I won’t be able to relax and enjoy. But I’m realizing that maybe I was wrong about that. Because, as trite as it may sound, I just know that I won’t think back on these days and wish I’d kept the kitchen just a little bit neater or organized the toys just a little bit better. There is a chance, though, that I’ll wish I’d spent more time enjoying my family and drinking in exactly who my kids are at this exact moment. I didn’t understand this when I just had my first baby, but I’m starting to now. When I look at pictures or watch videos of my older kids when they were babies and toddlers, my heart almost can’t handle it. They change so fast, without me even really noticing it while it’s happening. And then all of a sudden I’m watching a video in which they’re mispronouncing words that they can say perfectly now, or they’re toddling unsteadily around the last house we lived in. These small moments are the juiciest stuff in life. I’m sure of it.
I’m trying to change my mindset and I’m working on being mindful and present. When I find myself getting frustrated with the mess, or overwhelmed by the to-do list, or upset because the baby wants me to hold him and there are so many things to do, I take a deep breath. I ask myself, “can I realistically accomplish any of these things right now?” Usually the answer is no. And if it is, I choose to be present. I find gratitude for this perfect baby in my arms. I go find one of my boys and choose to be present with them. The moments I could lose by standing grumpily in the kitchen wishing I could do more will add up over my lifetime. I’d rather spend them appreciating my family, connecting with my children, and finding peace amidst the chaos. It’s a work in progress and I don’t always handle it the way I want to. But every time I’m confronted with the overwhelm, I know I have a choice and I can keep trying to choose happiness and gratitude.