Dancing Down the Drain
I have to schedule bath time. Not in the sense that I have a daily routine that I keep, but in the sense that I set alarms and reminders throughout the week to ensure that it happens. Otherwise, my children go out in public dirty. There are worse things, I’m sure, but when you’re the mother of the dirty children it doesn’t seem like it.
The roles “homemaker” and “mom” have been squeezed and forced into my shell of a Type B body until it feels like nothing but methodically checked off lists remain. You won’t find a neat planner in my purse, highlighted and color-coded with post-its strategically stuck on important dates. My planner is a running list in my mind that consists of 2-3 things at a time. If it’s not on the list, I’m not thinking about it. Today it’s 1) get chicken at the store, 2) vacuum during naptime, 3) read the last few chapters of the book on my bedside table. I’m kind of a simple girl.
I have more to do than what’s on my list, but those things get accomplished fortuitously and my day looks a lot like a bathtub. The water slowly disappears, leaving behind everything caught by the drain – toys, dirt, shampoo bottles and loofas. Oh wait, didn’t we have a marble in here? Lost. Gone forever as it slipped through the sieve. Sometimes my brain just can’t hold it all.
Play dates are a reprieve during the day – relational, fun and a visual reminder that I was the only one that day who didn’t get a shower in. At least it’s not a fragrant reminder; I did walk through a cloud of perfume before heading haphazardly out the door to meet my clean friends.
Who are we kidding, it’s been almost a week. My husband is a saint for turning a blind eye most days, and yet, I’m gently pulled back to the reality of my self-neglect when he softly asks, “Honey, when is the last time you took a shower?”
I can barely take care of myself; what will I do with a baby? I had always said I wanted to be pregnant by thirty, and yet here I was staring at my second set of pink lines for the day because my eyes didn’t trust the first ones. Twenty-seven, married just over a year, a new mortgage, a down-payment on a puppy, and now this. My to-do list was coming alive and threatening to take over the casual existence I had been leading. I was terrified as I held the phone with my shaky hand, “I’m pregnant.”
“Are you sure?”
My husband manages construction projects and has a new list every week, sometimes hundreds of items long. He is meticulous about writing things down to keep his memory sharp and make sure he’s planning well for what’s next. He likes to eliminate the element of surprise with careful preparation. I look at those lists with disdain and envy, feeling like they oppose every fiber of my being and yet admitting that I rely so heavily on him and them. When he married me I don’t think he realized that my list maxes out at three. I need him. He has a better drain.
Admiration and anxiety share room on the stage when I’m in front of a Type A. She just took out her planner. Look at that outfit! She’s looking at me, asking me what I did today. She must know I forgot about the chicken. I’m jealous of the time she had to prepare because she was so organized. I want to take her planner home and study it, hoping to somehow conform by osmosis of her lists. Maybe I should just take her home. She probably showers every day.
I leave her presence vowing that the first thing I’m going to do when I get home is indulge in some self-care. I forgot the chicken anyway, making room for one more thing to traipse around my brain. My ruminating is interrupted by my daughter when we arrive at home. With twinkles in her eyes, she shakes her hips and shrugs her shoulders, communicating to me the best way her 20-month old mind knows how. She wants to dance. I get lost in the music and the delight in her eyes, and another item on my list is sucked down the drain.
Babies are the great equalizers. No matter how much we prepare, they enter our world screaming at the top of their lungs, drowning out our thoughts, making waves in our relaxing bath water and tearing out the pages of our day planners. My laissez-faire approach to life has a chance with this one; we are all laying in labor and delivery together in dumbfounded bliss holding our tiny little newborn, unaware that chaos is dancing into our lives and about to collide with everything we currently hold dear. The impact is beautiful.
I balk at order because I find beauty in the mess. When our daughter arrived, we had no expectations to satisfy or quell, no disappointments to deal with and no idea of what things “should” look like. Looking back I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Looking forward, I see a growing pile of laundry and toys and dog hair. I see two children with the possibility of more, unsure about how to plan for a pregnancy – something that has already happened twice without strategy. I see myself in the mirror and reach for my deodorant.
There’s disparity between the importance of “making more babies” and “picking up the dry-cleaning,” and yet these lie side-by-side on our mental lists and in our catalogued planners. Here, time is the great equalizer. I envy and dread the thought of ordering these by level of importance to methodically tackle them one-by-one. I’m okay watching some slip down the drain, but my life demands a little more structure right now, so I channel June Cleaver and pull out a notepad. Someday I might have the notion to conjure up some preparation for baby number three, but for now, I reach for my pen and write the first and most important action-item on my list.
Take a shower.
Sarah Elizabeth Finch is a wife and mother of two children under two. She is passionate about uncovering beautiful stories in seemingly mundane moments. Some of her life-long goals include getting an MFA, running a marathon, writing a book, and seeing her children know Jesus. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @sebstuff.