Is it just me or does parenting multiple kids sometimes feel like a game of Whac-A-Mole? I just can’t ever seem to get everything running smoothly: as soon as I get the one really really difficult child to finally get it together - pop! - there’s another one ready to issue a new challenge. And it’s not just the big stuff, it’s the day-to-day stuff. It’s always something. Someone always needs something. Be it one of the big kids, the baby, my husband, my friends, my dirty house, my piles of laundry, it seems like there’s never a dull moment.
And the thing is, I don’t mind being busy. Multitasking is my M.O. and I thrive on doing three (or thirty-three) things at once. What kills me is what I’m not doing. Since there’s one of me, and I only have two hands (and half a brain, it seems), there’s always something that gets ignored. Someone is always getting the short end of the stick. Either the baby gets yanked out of bed, only halfway through her much-needed nap, or the preschooler is late because I just had to let the baby sleep today. Either dinner doesn’t get on the table in time and we’re late for gymnastics or I neglect to give more than a passing glance to my kindergartner’s prized art projects as she pulls them lovingly from her backpack. Either the laundry piles up into a mountain range of wrinkled, barely wearable (should I just throw it back in the washer and start all over at this point?) clothing or my son doesn’t get help with his reading or a partner for Baseball Strat-o-matic.
And that’s just at home. I also feel like I’m neglecting some of the people in my world who mean the most to me, my friends and family, just because they live far away. While it’s certainly not out of sight, out of mind, I sometimes wonder if they think that. They can’t see the piles of half-written notes, and “Just thinking of you” Hallmark cards, much less catch a glimpse of those moments when I pause and smile because a treasured memory gets me through a tough moment. If it weren’t for Facebook, I fear I’d have lost many friendships (not that FB is a reasonable replacement for “real” connections, but at least it’s something.)
And even my friends right here, right down the street, sometimes face crises big and small at times that just, well, aren’t quite convenient. Of course that’s not how I feel, but I am sick at the thought that I may be giving that impression to the women who make Stay-At-Home-Mom-Hood a life that’s meaningful, not only in the obvious ways of getting to rear my own children full-time, but who allow me to feel like a complete person: “Becky,” not just “Mom.”
And there’s my husband, who’s clearly facing a mid-life, not crisis, but transformation. It’s a beautiful thing to witness, seeing this man who I adore rediscover his strengths and prioritize himself as he finds meaning in his career...while also seeming to suddenly need to prize each and every moment with his children.
And, of course, there’s this blog. And my other blog, the whole 80/20 Raw Food transformation I’m hoping to make for my family in terms of their nutrition. I wholeheartedly want to be a mom who cooks, who makes wonderful food for her family, who teaches her children about the beauty of eating whole, nutritious foods and thereby exemplifies (especially for her three daughters) having a healthy relationship with food for a lifetime.
And. And. And. You see, there’s always something. Always something. And the trick is to be able prioritize. Triage. To be able to stop, in the moment, not get overwhelmed, and use my common sense (what’s left of it after four babies seemingly sucked out all my brain cells) and choose the right, um, mole, to whack. Or to hug. What’s more important, my crying five-year-old or the fact that I just have to finish this dinner so we’re not late for basketball? The kid obviously. But in the moment, I’m ashamed to say, I’m having so much trouble always recognizing the obvious.
I’ve found myself thinking a lot about a homily recently given by our church’s pastor. In it he talked about how a priest’s work is never done, because he is always getting interrupted by phone calls: parishioners are always calling him for prayers, sacraments; he’s needed at the school, etc. But he knows that these interruptions are really the important stuff, not the day-to-day minutia he’s trying to accomplish. As Father put it: God is in the interruptions. He then challenged us, especially parents, to recognize that God is in the interruptions when our children are constantly getting in the way of the tasks we are trying to accomplish. Real life IS the interruptions.
One of my (many) idiosyncrasies is that I hate disorder, clutter. I crave living in a house where everything is always in it’s place. I cherish those rare moments when the hampers are empty and all the clothes are neatly folded and put away. I relish those moments where the morning get-out-the-door routine runs like a well-oiled machine. And the thing is, those moments are rare. And really, doesn’t a house full of dirty laundry indicate that their are people in it, going out and living? Doesn’t a messy kitchen indicate that meals are being prepared and enjoyed there? Isn’t a little bit of chaos to be expected when you have a house full of children with vibrant personalities?
In my busy life. In the face of what seems to be some sort of adult-onset ADD (made worse by months and months of interrupted sleep), I am having trouble seeing the obvious, divining REAL LIFE from FLUFF. But I hope, I pray, that I can remember interruptions are the wake-up call to pay attention, clue in. Maybe the goal here isn’t to get everything Just So. Maybe the point isn’t to try to develop the skills necessary to be successful at the game of Whac-A-Mole but to be better at the game of Life.