My mom’s group has their own Facebook page. It’s private, something we use to communicate just between us: come on over for a last-minute playdate, should I be concerned about this rash, what kind of diapers does everyone use, share a favorite recipe. Last Friday someone posted a check-in. How are things going, share a high or low in your week, a picture...anything!
I paused. How had our week gone, anyway? What on earth did we do? Certainly nothing out of the ordinary had happened. Everyone was healthy, we hadn’t taken any trips, there had been no appointments. Seriously, what did we even do? The usual, I guess. Music time and grocery shopping, a park playdate and a morning at school, an errand or two, gymnastics, and an emergency viewing of Moana one afternoon when the babysitter sent a text that she wasn’t feeling well.
So why did I feel so exhausted?
I guess it’s the busyness that is life with three small kids right now. Even without any additional chaos, the day-to-day of keeping three kids under the age of four alive and healthy and happy and occupied with all of their nearly boundless energy is a lot to keep up with.
Busy isn’t even the right word. I don’t actually feel like life is busy right now. I was busy in a previous life. A life that involved a full-time job and appointments, one that also included a part-time job for awhile, demanding my time in the evenings. Meetings and small groups and dinner and lesson plans and always someplace to be. Busy connotes a bustle of activity, a lack of downtime, a need to be at this place at that time.
We actually do have plenty of downtime. Afternoons, the post-nap hours from 2:00-5:00 can seem almost endless in their need to be filled. Mornings bring a few obligations: school on Wednesdays, gymnastics on Fridays, those things we can’t miss. Grocery shopping on Tuesdays is nearly as set in stone for me. The entire week is off if that all-important task doesn't get completed. We have other things on our schedule that are nice, but not necessary: music time on Mondays, maybe a playdate or two. Otherwise, our schedule is pretty much our own.
So maybe not exactly busy, but life is full. We might not have places that we have to be, that we need to be, but it is FULL of activity.
Full of toddler questions and toddler chatter. How are you old? (Translation: how old are you?)
Full of an uncommonly active 14-month old. I’m asking you to stop moving for all of five seconds.
Full of activities. Building choo-choo tracks, coloring pictures, playing at the park, stacking blocks, putting things in containers and taking them out again, and again, and again.
Full of clean-up. Toys. And crumbs. All the toys and all the crumbs. Seriously, how did you guys take out so many toys and create so many crumbs?
Full of battles with three-year olds. Take off your clothes. No, you know how to do it yourself. Okay, now put your underwear on. No don’t run around just PUT THE UNDERWEAR ON ALREADY. Pick out a book. No, you don’t need to pull out all the books just to find ONE book. Pick one book, please. A SINGLE book.
Full of dishes, laundry, sweeping up those aforementioned crumbs, and coffee. #caffeine
Full of hours, or minutes, to fill with activities for two busy toddlers and a baby. My 14-month old is still a baby, okay. He just thinks he’s also a three-year old.
Full of too much to do and not enough time to do it, and also simultaneously too much time to fill and not enough to fill it with. The difficulties of completing any meaningful task with three little people around.
My fellow moms of small children will understand, but it’s hard to explain exactly why life is so full on any given day. Yesterday I spent a solid hour and fifteen minutes just keeping the 14-month old from unrolling the toilet paper, opening the patio door, getting into my jewelry drawer, putting his hands in the toilet, pulling everything off every shelf he could possibly reach in the pantry, and then comforting his hysterical cries when I removed him from each situation. An hour and fifteen minutes. Seriously. That’s all I did. He bounced around from one forbidden activity to the next, a deranged yet kissable bundle of mischief. An hour and fifteen minutes of failed attempts to keep his little hands occupied elsewhere, while also cleaning up the resulting chaos and tears that streamed down his cheeks after each intervention.
I remember, though, not really enjoying many of those meetings that took up my time in my former, busier, life. Time spent on things that I wasn’t convinced always mattered all that much. I remember having evenings taken over with classes and plans and work, when I really wanted a break. An endless to-do list for the next day’s work that always seemed so urgent. Emails that snuck up on me at 9 pm, demanding to be answered.
But now? Once the kids are in bed? My time is my own. To work if I want to, to clean up if I need to, to sit on the couch with a good book or Netflix streaming in the comfort of my own living room. I’m done with my obligations for the day. There might be three loads of laundry on the docket for tomorrow, appointments or play dates to get to, but even when taken over by the demands of three small children, my time is mostly my own in a way that it never has been before.
I’ll take full. Full is fine. Full is great. Full is wonderful. What is that (admittedly cheesy) saying? If you think my arms are full, you should see my heart. I’m not sure that I want to go back to being busy ever again.