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Monday, July 21, 2014

Ask Mother Henn: What Do You Do All Day?

     Well, it is Blogging Monday once again, and it looks like I might actually post two weeks in a row! Woohoo! And today I'm going to embark on a new thing, which I shall call "Ask Mother Henn." Cute, no? Basically, unless people eventually ask me questions, I'm going to pretend that I have an advice column and answer questions I make up, or that it seems a lot of people have asked others elsewhere, and give my opinion on them. 

Dear Mother Henn, 

What do you do when you are at home all day, 7 days a week, with little children? 

     Well, first you do newborn things, like change diapers, feed the little one, sit for extended periods of time because little one fell asleep while in your arms and will wake if you move, change diapers, feed the little one, etc. Occasionally scrape up time to feed yourself, get dressed, brush teeth, and maybe even shower semi-regularly. Depending upon how well the baby really naps, you might even be able to somewhat keep up with housework, but don't count on it. And that is okay; at this time in your life, you are meant to do the newborn things, that is your job. Boring, yes; unfulfilling, a lot of the time; important, always. And so incredibly hard. It is the beginning of dying to oneself on the largest scale possible. It is so hard to let everything that seems to give fulfillment go, for days that seem so wasted, especially if one was particularly good at doing things before (I personally was not). But that is the key, to just let it go. I'm not saying that your life as you needs to be over for the next 20 years or so, but it is a time for your desires to fade into the background a bit, not so much that you die, but enough so that this new little life can blossom. And it will get easier. 
      That little newborn won't stay that way long, and soon you'll have a baby who can entertain himself for significant amounts of time. Yes, even 5 minutes so you can use the bathroom without them crying is a significant amount of time. And then you do older baby things, like chew on toys, try to crawl, giggle hysterically, and even manage to make dinner at a reasonable hour on occasion, in addition to laundry and dishes. You will be able to shower every day if you wish, and never forget your teeth. But though you will have more time, that dying to self is still so present, and even more difficult because of the illusion of time you now have. 
     But those days will pass quickly as well, and then you will be off to toddler things, like spinning crazily until you fall down dizzy, running up and down on a long strip of paper and laughing hysterically because of the crinkly noises, sitting and reading the same book so many times in a row, and finding with awe that he can amuse himself without your direct participation and sometimes without you even in the room! Alas! The temptation to try and get 'things' done is stronger than ever, and tantrums often result when you do. "Why can't you just go play by yourself a little longer!?" you catch yourself thinking, or even yelling, "Why can't I just get this one thing done that will make me feel like a productive useful person?!" Or "Why can't I just be left alone for 5 minutes to read something that is not a child's book?" In your frustration you forget that tickling is important, that vrooming around with trucks is productive, and for this time in your life, your job is to be his whole world. Yes, there is a greater universe outside of you, and you must introduce him to that, but for now it is more important that loud and silly songs be sung than blogs be written and Facebook browsed. It is so hard to let those things go, but the days are so much easier when you do.
     What happens when you have two? Well, you do newborn things in addition to toddler things. You change diapers, feed little one, feed toddler, read out loud lots, occasionally remember to brush your teeth, etc. Feel like you are never going to have it together, forget that you need to let it go, roar at little children for whom you are their whole world, cry, regroup, and begin again. You watch in awe as one day you realize they don't need you to actively play all the time. You watch with tender heart and moist eyes as they amuse each other, the younger lighting up and watching every move of the older, the older delighting in the laughter of the younger. You realize that it will not be this way forever; someday you will be able to do 'you' things again, that there is a light at the end of this tunnel of baby and toddler things. But try not to get too caught up in that glimpse of light, because someday is not this day. This day the most important thing you can do is be their world, and to do baby and toddler things, read The Tale of Jeremy Fisher for the umpteenth time, belly laugh with the baby, and enjoy these days, for the old ladies are right - you will miss these days when they are gone. 

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