A few nights ago, I sat on the floor while Joel played around me and I painstakingly went through every toy distributed among the three (yes, three) baskets of toys in the main area of our home. I started by linking all those little rings together. Then I put blocks back in their buckets and assigned cubes, I even made it harder on myself, pushing the triangles through the triangle slot and the oval through the oval slot, vs. just opening the lid and dumping them in.
I was going all out.
I organized the baskets, placing the larger toys in the first, his books, blocks and Bob the Tomato (his stuffed friend from Veggie Tales) in the second. It bothered me a bit that I had "three B's" in the third basket. I mean, I'm not that OCD (but OCD enough to be aware of what I was doing - ha!), but I really wanted books, blocks and Bob in the second, so that's where they stayed. The third basket was filled with smaller, frequently drooled and chewed over toys.
Today when I picked up his toys and reorganized his treasures, I told myself that I was doing this to keep my mind sharp. That I was giving myself an activity that wasn't completely mindless. I think when you're a Mom you do more and more of these activities. You have to. Or else you'll go mad. Or maybe you go a little mad when you give birth and classifying toys based on whether they light up and play music or whether they are interactive means you're already half-way to crazy.
I prefer to have my glass half full, thankyouverymuch.
Anyway, where I'm going with this is not that you need to be obsessive about how you organize your child's playthings (although I personally feel some organization works best for you and for the child - but I'm a newbie, what do I know?), but that you need to keep your brain active in any way you can (this is how I justify playing Scrabble with his wooden blocks. Try it! It's fun!). If you are a stay at home Mom and particularly if this is your first child, my thoughts are these: learn the lessons and find your coping mechanisms now. As we race towards our son's first birthday (oh my word, how is that even possible?!) and contemplate when to add another bundle to the mix, it feels more vital than ever for me to "get my act together".
What exactly does that mean for me? (These are not in order of importance!)
First, you need to know yourself - that means
your limits, as well as your hobbies. I've recently recognized and confessed that I flip (and not in a good way) when my schedule is too full. One of my best friends jokes, now, every time she calls to schedule a play date, "But only if this won't overwhelm you." She's teasing, but she's also allowing me a graceful space to decline (whether she's doing it intentionally or not) if it's too much. I am finding that it's not a sin to say, "No." or to spend days on end at home if that's what I feel I, and my baby, need.
Second, you need to find a physical outlet. If you were a runner before the baby, become a runner again. If you still hold close dreams from your adolescent ballet class days, then find a way to dance. If you need fresh air, then get out there and walk. But every day, as much as it is possible, move. I understand it's hard with small children, whether you have one or five, but if you can find time for your social network (blogging, emailing, Facebooking, etc.) regularly every day, then you can probably find time to be active. And it'll benefit you in so many ways. It won't just help you get into shape and give you energy, but it will clear your head and quite possibly give you the patience you need when someone throws his sippy cup on the floor and flings milk all over creation. Trust me.
Thirdly, you need a treat for those days when you need a nap just like everyone else, except everyone else won't let you. Sometimes what you need, let's be honest, is some chocolate. I keep a stash of dark chocolate in my pantry and have for months now. Initially I thought having a treasure trove of sweets hidden away in my kitchen would be a bad idea for my weight-loss goals and I may or may not have eaten my first bag in less than 72 hours, but eventually knowing it is there is sometimes just as good as having it there... and on the days when knowledge is not enough, it is there for that mid-afternoon pick-me-up.
Fourthly, and most vital, is nourishing your relationship with God in a new, Mom-friendly/Baby-consuming-environment. In my last post, I talked about how I've had to reevaluate how I "find" God now that I don't have scads of time to sit alone and study. Whatever you have to do in this department, do it. More than the chocolate, more than putting in time on the elliptical.... put in time here. Find it and keep it.
Fifthly, be a grown-up. Go on dates and when you do, get yourself all hot and primped out, just like you did when you were trying to catch his eye the first time. I can count on one hand the number of alone dates my husband and I have had since last March when our son entered the world. This is something that has to become more of a priority for us. Even if it's dinner at a local Mexican restaurant and a walk around Lowe's (this was us a few Saturdays ago!), it doesn't matter. As long as it's just you and him. Also, make friends, keep friends, and be a friend. You don't have to volunteer where you don't have time or heart to give, but love those you love. Choose who is best for you and for the space you are in. You don't have to be everyone's friend. Have dates with the husband and dates with your girlfriends.
And lastly... be present. Don't get lost in your to-do list or your dreams of domestic goddess-ness. If you can do everything and then some and not burn out at both ends, then honey, more power to ya! But I think, for the majority of us, we can't do it all, despite a nagging desire to want to do it all. Many times whenever frustration or impatience boils up inside of me and I start spewing, it's because I have chosen a bad time to not be present with my child. And at the end of my life, what is going to matter more? My goofing off time or how I trained my son? The fact that I blogged consistently or the fact that I read lots and lots of stories about cows that go "Moo" and sheep that go "Baaa"; that I wore out the knees of my pants crawling around the living room chasing our little man just to get him to launch into a set of wild giggles or that my kitchen rug never showed need of a good vacuuming?
I really believe that you have to take care of yourself if you're going to be able to take care of others and be tangibly and lovingly present. You have to care for your physical, spiritual, and emotional health. It's okay to do it for you, because afterall, you are a child of God and He loves you, gave you a body to take care of and not abuse. Just because you become a mommy doesn't mean you stop being your own individual. It's just a little tougher sometimes to find her. But she's there... and you need to take her on dates, workout with her every day and sit her down on the couch with her Bible on a regular basis. And maybe rewarding her with a hunk of dark chocolate every once in awhile wouldn't hurt.
And now, with all that said, I need to go play cars and trucks,....
"She senses the worth of her work,
is in no hurry to call it
quits for the day. She's skilled
in the crafts of home and hearth,
diligent in homemaking..."
~ Proverbs 31, The Message