Sunday, April 15, 2012

Musing on Motherhood

I am a hopeless list maker. To me, a to-do list is so much more than an agenda. It is the promise of a gloriously productive day, and a delicious feeling of accomplishment.

I started making to-do lists when I was twelve, jotting everything from homework to wardrobe plans into a spiral notebook that became the map around which I would navigate my day. Every night before bed the list was carefully reviewed, and accomplished items crossed off with dramatic flair, like a knight thrusting the final stab into a smoldering, defeated dragon.

Twenty years and an infinite number of spiral notebooks later I am still making to-lists, although recently they seem to have encountered an insurmountable problem.

The problem now with my to-do lists, is that I am a mother.

Every morning I wake to the sound of my alarm, the sight of a new list, and the motivation to tackle it.

Just as soon as I finish nursing the baby.

Once the baby is fed, I’m ready to go. Right after I pack the girls’ lunches, that is. And fix their hair. And walk them to the bus. I promise myself that I’ll start my list as soon as I get back from bus. And put away the breakfast dishes, of course. And sort the laundry. And comb the gum out of Cal’s hair. Then! Then I’ll be ready to go. Feed the baby again. And pick the playdough out of the carpet. And reattach Barbie’s head. After that, and grocery shopping, I’ll be so productive. Wow, is the bus back already? Let me just get Jolie’s homework started, then I’ll finally get myself started. Actually, I’ll get dinner started. And baths. And the bedtime routine…

I nurse the baby again, and collapse into bed myself. The day has ended, and my to-do list remains untouched. It is not the smoldering, defeated dragon I hoped it would be. Rather, it is still breathing its fire and I am the defeated knight, incapable of rising to the challenge.

Or am I.

I look again at my to-do list, and I imagine it years from now. It hasn’t changed, but everything around it has. There is far less laundry to be done, and no more messy piles of toys. Plastic dinosaurs no longer roam my couch, and my cell phone isn't hiding in a box of Goldfish crackers. Years from now, invitations to tea parties have ceased, and Eddie’s hungry cry has been replaced with quiet. Footed pajamas have been outgrown, bunk beds given away, and outside, the school bus passes without stopping.

Years from now there is no more “Mom, I’m hungry!” “Mom, this hurts!” “Mom, watch this!” “Look at me!” “Fix this!” “Play with me!” “Read to me!” “Change me!” “Carry me!” “Help me!”

“Mom, I love you.”

Motherhood is discovering that when I wake up tomorrow, my to-do list will still be there. But a day in the life of my children will be gone, and I will never get it back.

Margaret Thatcher once said, “Look at a day when you are supremely satisfied at the end. It's not a day when you lounge around doing nothing; it's when you've had everything to do, and you've done it."

Today, I had everything to do.

And I did it.

Today, I was a mother.

26 comments:

dannyhaley said...

I love this post , Katie. You have a beautiful way with words. I feel exactly the same way!

Susan said...

Please tell me this is chapter one and there is so much more to come.

Kristin said...

My list before kids:

1.) Have kids so I don't have to go to work and finish to-do lists all day.

I'm posting this comment so that on those exhausting hard days of motherhood I can look back and remember that I wanted this more than anything. I hope I handle it with as much grace as you do. Your kiddos are so blessed to call you mom!

Jane said...

beautiful Katie :)

Alison said...

This is awesome!! You are such a remarkable mom!!! As I get ready to have two of my kids MOVE into their own digs in the next few months, I can promise you it all happens way too fast!

And, just so you know... my to-do list has things on it like "comb the kids' hair, comb my hair, rinse breakfast dishes, pack lunches for S, P, A and K, morning prayer BEFORE kids leave (I've been known to pray out loud at the mail box), put milk away after breakfast, etc."

Jodi said...

so well written and so true! I'm better now at making lists of things I need to just get done sometime that week. But we accomplish so much in one day, it doesn't need to be written down:)

Lara said...

Love this! You have an amazing way with words and I only hope I can be half as cool as you someday. :)

Marilyn said...

That is a masterpiece!!!

Mike said...

Who are those yo-yo's that denigrate the job done by the mother's of our country?

Great story and truth is revealed through out.

Thank God for the wonderful mothers in our nation. Without them, we are "toast"!

You are awesome!

krissiecook said...

Just having a to-do list shows much more ambition and optimism than I am capable of. If I were to articulate mine, it might say, "1. Keep kids alive. 2. Try to keep kids fed. 3. Try to keep kids under my direct supervision, even while nursing. 4. Oops, thank neighbors for returning stray kids. 5. Forget it. I lost another kid while writing this list."

Jenae said...

I still need that stab the ragon feeling so my list has a few hopefuls but the rest is things like "dinner" and "play group". You know, I aim high.

A few months ago on a particularly hard week of no sleep Seth erased my list and wrote "Keep Eli and self alive". I accomplished everything that day... barely.

jj

Julianne said...

NO WORDS. I'm calling you.

Aileen said...

teary-eyed and wanting 3 more kids!!

Becca said...

Love it and so true! Perhaps now, I'll go and makes cookies with my daughter, per her request!

Daneille said...

You are too amazing for my words. Your words say it all so perfectly. What a tremendous example you are for other young mothers. Love you so much!

Allison Hansen said...

I love you.

And, you made me cry. Being a mom is the BEST.

Henich Family said...

Oh my goodness Katie....that was beautiful!!!!

Kristin said...

I am so lucky to have you as a friend just so I can read your blog. Your words pull my heartstrings and strike a tender chord. I read this last night and it was what I needed to hear after a hectic day. I almost went back into each of my kids rooms to make sure they were really there asleep and not around the corner and down the street as I had found one in particular multiple times. Thanks for sharing your gift of words and love as a mother.

Jeannie said...

So beautifully said, Katie. I will remember this when I'm feeling overwhelmed by life's demands and promise to take a moment to really see my kids just as they are right then.

Michele said...

Thank you, thank you for such a wonderful reminder of what being a mom is TRULY about. Love you!

Jen said...

This is so true and absolutely beautiful. Brought tears to my eyes. :)

Hodnett Family said...

Ah, what a writer you are! But, more importantly, what a great mother!

Cathy Leavitt said...

Katie, loved this post! I'm now where you will be in those years to come. Enjoy those precious little ones while you can, because they grow up so fast ... and then they are gone and I don't get to see them often ... then you see them doing the same things with their own kiddos ... and the cycle continues...

Lisa said...

Katie, thanks to you, my to-do list now includes: "Do not have four children."

Your posts always make blog stalking worthwhile. :)

Tanita said...

Really beautiful Katie. This is why you are a great mom

Mary Martha said...

wow. this is amazing! I love.

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