Since I became a mom, I started keeping a to-do list on my iPhone. I like to believe that it helps me stay organized. Plus it’s easier to keep track of than a post-it note, which my daughter Emma would likely mistake for a sticker.
Some of the items on the list seem attainable, like “get a haircut” and “call the roofer.” Other tasks seem impossible. “Clean out the garage” has been on my list for a year. Our garage is full of paint cans, which no one seems to know how to dispose of. To clean it out would require a whole day and lots of sweat. This is unlikely to happen. I don’t have free days. I’m a stay at home mom.
In those first few months after Emma’s birth, I could never get anything done beyond the bare essentials. All I wanted to do was sleep. I managed to stumble through life and accomplish a few tasks like getting dressed and doing some laundry, but that was basically it. I couldn’t even get to the store. I’ve never been more thankful for amazon prime, although I did not have to time or energy to take apart the shipping boxes which quickly began to accumulate in the mudroom. One afternoon my mom and sister dismantled all of the boxes. I cried with gratitude.
After a few months, my life began to settle down. Emma started sleeping, and I felt human again. Gradually I was able to accomplish more things, like going to the market and getting out of the house for a walk. I celebrated these accomplishments.
Now, Emma is a year and a half old. She is my heart and my world. Thankfully she is also a great sleeper, so I am usually relatively well-rested. However, I still struggle with how slowly I accomplish the tasks on my list. Simply getting out of the house can take forever; I need to gather her snack and water and shoes and hat, and then she poops as we are heading into the car. We rarely accomplish all of our daily errands. My to-do list grows each week.
I need my evenings to write, make beauty products, prepare workshops and get organized for my clients. Some nights I am so exhausted when I put Emma to sleep that I immediately lie down with a glass of wine and need an hour to decompress before I can do anything else. By the time I finish cleaning the house, making dinner and throwing in the laundry, it’s almost time to go to bed and I will sadly realize that I haven’t done any work.
Will I ever get through my to-do list ? Probably not. Odds are that my garage will only be cleaned out if I hire someone to do it.
In these moments, I think about how much I do accomplish each day. Last week I took Emma into the ocean and we jumped waves. I chased seagulls with her on the beach. We counted the dogs while out for a walk. I witnessed her saying a dozen new words. We held hands and looked at our neighbors flowers. I tickled her and she laughed hysterically. I laughed with her. She gave me kisses afterwards. Bliss.
The to-do list on my iPhone grows each week, but I am so grateful for these little accomplishments that fill my days. On those evenings when it seems like I have done nothing, I look at my daughter’s face and I know that I am exactly where I am supposed to be. The paint cans in my garage can wait. Everything on my to-do list can wait. Sometimes we can accomplish the most by ignoring the list and just enjoying the present.
This belief applies to many situations other than parenting. Perhaps you spend the day alone, recharging, or with your pet, basking in his love. Maybe you spend the day zoning out in front of the TV in your pajamas. It’s okay to have days like this. How can we not? If we are always looking ahead and checking off what is on our lists then we will miss all of the beautiful moments that make up our lives.
So, I let my to-do list continue to grow. I dream about having more time to write. Some days, I shower. Other days, I don’t. Things get done, slowly. Enough gets done. I remind myself that this is the life that I chose and I am grateful that I have the choice. I wonder if I will ever be able to start my natural beauty products business. People tell me I should. I sigh every time I see the paint cans in my garage. Then I take a deep breath, let go of all notions of what it means to be productive, and go about my day, enjoying every moment.
Becky Tountas, Certified Holistic Health Coach and group fitness instructor