Where Does the Time Go?

Way to monopolize your mom’s time, children…

Since my last post, I have become a mother of three- seventeen days ago, to be exact. Before Baby #3 (or Alexandra, as she would probably prefer to be called) was born, I went out and bought her a baby book, as I had for my other two. As a third child myself, I was determined not to short-change my youngest daughter  when it came to recording the memories and milestones of her infancy. In the day or two after her birth I spent some quiet moments in the mother-baby unit filling in the first few pages with details of my pregnancy and her arrival. Since then, despite my best intentions, I have allowed it to sit in a corner of my kitchen amidst a steadily growing pile of junk mail and pre-school drawings.

There are some people who refer to this time as the “Fourth Trimester”. Personally, I think “The Forgotten Weeks” would be an apt name as well. My mind is foggy from sleeping in 2-3 hour stretches. My waking hours often feel like a struggle to survive. Just this evening, while waiting with all three kids for my husband to get home from work, I was dealing with a one-year-old who fell down the steps of the deck face-first and a newborn who pooped through her diaper. In the meantime, dinner was adamantly refusing to cook itself. The days can feel endless, yet somehow the days get away from me. They will continue to get away from me, I know from prior experience, until my newest daughter is a month old, and then two months, and then a year. And so on.

Anyway, in order to answer the question so frequently and hypothetically repeated by parents – “Where does the time go?” – I documented a recent twenty-four hours of my life, then typed up the results in an Excel spreadsheet, then made a pretty pie chart (see below). Because clearly I have time for that.

I learned that nearly a third of my day is spent with a baby physically attached to me, and that I now categorize using the bathroom, showering, and going to Target to purchase cleaning products as “me time”. In fact, aside from treating myself to the luxuries of errands and basic hygiene, none of my time is truly mine.  Turns out, I’ve been asking the wrong question. It isn’t where the time goes that matters, but who I give my time to. I learned, in short, that I have good reason for not finding the time to update the baby book. Scratch that- three good reasons.

Why I Can’t Put My Feet Up

I knew this would happen. I would make the decision not to return to the classroom after spring break, and my due date would approach with no sign of a baby. Instead of filling my days with meaningful human interaction, distracting myself with my teaching duties, I have ended up with a whole bunch of time on my hands. I did this with my first pregnancy as well, and found myself sitting around for a week and a half feeling, well, expectant.

People keep telling me to enjoy this time. Put your feet up. Take naps. No one thinks you’re a slacker for taking a few extra days off of work, especially when you’ve decided not to return after the baby is born. A third child will change everything soon enough, so focus on your family. Shower them with affection. And don’t feel guilty about doing something that YOU want to do for a change.

It’s good advice- brilliant, really- and I wish I could follow it to the letter. But let’s face it, relaxation does not come easy to us moms (particularly when said relaxation cannot involve a margarita). I first observed this quality in my own mother, well before I had children of my own. When she’s in full-on Mom Mode, she doesn’t sit down. As soon as she finishes eating dinner she begins clearing the table, regardless of what progress others have made. Many times I have had to remind her that it’s not particularly easy to enjoy a meal when someone is hovering around me with a damp sponge waiting to wipe crumbs from my area.

Can I blame her? Every night after putting my girls to bed I want so badly to sit on the couch with my husband and let go of the stresses of the day. But what do I do? I spend at least twenty minutes collecting items from the floor and attempting to find a place for them; taking care of the dirty dishes in the sink so I don’t need to look at them tomorrow; glancing at the mail and checking school bags for important papers. If there was ever a time when I had an excuse to not do these things, it’s now, but instead these mundane tasks have taken on a new urgency. Each sweep I make through the house could be the last time I pick up before the baby arrives. Each item I check off my to-do list is one more pat on the back for me, one less task that would have taken my mind off my new little girl once she is here.

But there may be something else to this frenzied “nesting” that we go through before welcoming a new addition. Maybe it’s the way we mothers avoid facing the real fact that control is an illusion. No matter what I do in the meantime, how many loads of laundry or bills that are sent off and paid, baby girl will come when she is ready, not when I am. (And let’s be honest, I’m never REALLY going to be ready.) My life will change, again, and I won’t know exactly how or what to expect. If I put my feet up, if I empty my mind, I may just have to contemplate these thoughts- and that’s scary.

I’m not good at waiting, particularly when the event I’m waiting for is so exciting and life-changing. (And painful and terrifying.) I’m trying, though, I really am. In the last few days I have purchased a new camera in preparation for lots of family photos, and have been having a blast learning how to use it. I’ve gone shopping for an extremely impractical but incredibly “aww”-inspiring outfit for the new baby. I started and finished (!) reading a book just for pleasure.  I’m currently sitting outside on a beautiful spring day with a cup of half-caff and an empty plate with the remnants of a Panera cinnamon crunch bagel (if heaven were a carb, this is what it would taste like). Ceci and Maggie are at daycare and school. My house is in the process of its last cleaning-service deep clean before we become a family of five.

In a couple of hours it will be time to go pick up the girls and be mom again, trying to figure out who took what toy from who and settling disputes over stolen yogurt raisins. Despite my physical state I will need to chase after Ceci when she doesn’t want her diaper changed or put Maggie in time-out if she speaks to me with a little too much sass. So I’m going to go home to a clean shower and enjoy the fact that no one is screaming for me while I wash my hair. Maybe, while my husband isn’t home, I’ll even watch an episode of Downton Abbey on DVR (the better to free up recording space for Pardon the Interruption and really bad 90s sic-fi movies). I might as well try to enjoy it, because tomorrow, everything could change.