Before I had my oldest little girl, I had the natural assumption that I would dominate parenting and that this little sweetheart would be a mere ornament on my path to a fulfilling and productive life. Ha. It took a whopping 7 hours to realize what an idiot I was and that my life (as others had warned) was getting flipped upside down where I would land in survival mode for perpetuity. As all parents know, this survival mode translates across all areas. Survive the night. Survive the day. Survive the teething. Survive the diarrhea. Survive the biting during nursing (okay, so I don’t know much about that one). We wake up early, fight the morning battles, proceed to daycare, work all day, manage a dinner, fight the nighttime battles, and go to bed. Another day down that we sheepishly call a ‘win’ because the roof remains overhead, the kiddo is still alive, and the last sliver of our sanity has somehow held firm for one more day.
Alas, that is not what this post is about. We are all familiar with survival mode and the frantic lengths parents go to in order to manage day by day. However, there are these rare moments when the clouds part and the miraculous happens: we have some free time. It’s the miracle 3 hour nap, siblings playing together peacefully, a spouse taking the kids off for errands…it’s what guilt-ridden dreams are made of! Naturally, when we have these moments, it’s the perfect time to lay down, sit back, shut the eyes, watch a movie, read a novel…NO! NO! NO! THE BUDGET NEEDS REDONE! THAT DAMNED OLD FENCE IS MISSING BOARDS! THE CARPET HASN’T BEEN VACUUMED IN 9 MONTHS! SHOES NEED TO BE BOUGHT! OTHER SHOES NEED GARAGE SALED!
The truth is those precious moments of peace and relaxation do not seem to ever come to this family. I, being the noble head of household, must use these times to continually work towards better finances, squeezing in a workout, cleaning, etc. etc. But what did I find myself doing this past week? Debating the proper organizational structure of the pebbles surrounding our front porch. Could I sort them by color? By size? Should I clump them together in the most visible area and leave the edges as dirt? What would these pebbles bring on the garage sale market? Should I barter these pebbles away for sand and cacti? The truth is that whenever I am overwhelmed as a parent (hint: always and forever), I search for every possible excuse to avoid what needs to be done over what can be done. I ignore the budget because the closet shelf has not been cleaned and organized in a year. I avoid taking a personal step or two in my career because that clover spot in the front yard isn’t going to kill itself.
I often feel like I’m running around in circles as a parent and winding up right back where I started. I’m really good, however, at finding distractions and diving headfirst into rabbit holes rather than proactively fixing my problems. We drive 400 mph as parents trying to keep up with life that we often put all of the other stuff on pause. Unfortunately, time and tides wait for no man and there’s no magical pause button when the toddler’s fever spikes or the kid’s got a sports tournament out of town for the entire weekend. There are always distractions and excuses to be found.
We tend to seek control and clarity in the minutiae when we can’t find it in our daily lives. One of my goals as a parent and mostly-functioning adult is to accept that clutter will inevitably invade my life no matter what I do and that if I want to move the needle in my parenting, in my finances, in my health, or whatever goal I might have, I need to buckle down and work towards that objective. But I suppose I can procrastinate the procrastination stories for another time, right?