Time is a funny thing. We think it’s continuous and certain. But motherhood has shown me otherwise.
Some days seem endless from the moment I open my eyes, stretching ahead of me like some kind of monotonous landscape. Dirty dishes that magically appear as fast as they disappear, overflowing washing baskets, and whining children seem to just keep coming at me and all I can do is just remember to breath so I can make it through. So I can eventually lie down and shut my eyes again at the end of the day. Even though these days seem to crawl along beside me, they also bring with them this panicked sense that there just isn’t enough time to get everything done that I need to do. On these days I don’t treasure every precious moment with my ‘delightful’ children as I am told I should, or stay present with whatever arises, good or bad, as my treasure trove of self-help preach. I sigh inwardly every time the kids tell me they are hungry because I know it just entails more dishes that I have to wash before I go to bed. The mere suggestion of a fourth child on days like these is enough to drive me to drink……even the cooking sherry would do. I snap at them and wish I wasn’t so conscientious so I could just plonk them in front of the TV all day without feeling guilty. I wish these days away before they even begin.
Other days, and I love these days, I wake up with this kind of lightness in my stomach, a bubble of hopefulness. A gorgeous feeling that anything is possible. On these days, time seems to flow from one moment to the next effortlessly. There is more than enough time to get everything done but no rush at the same time. I feel like time disappears somehow. I enjoy the feeling of the soapy water on my hands as I do the endless dishes, I notice a bird in the tree and the wispy clouds in the sky, I play music and dance with my ‘delightful’ kids in the kitchen. We make a mess baking muffins and I don’t worry that there is yet another sink-full of dishes for me to get to before I go to bed tonight. I love being alive on these days and I love being a mother. I joke quite seriously to my partner that is a “four child day today” and watch as a look of teasing horror runs across his face at the prospect of another bundle of “delight”. I wish these days would never end.
And then there are the days that start off a little rushed, harassed and tedious and then transform into something beautiful, slow and meandering. More recently I have realized that I can sometimes actually change this feeling of time within myself. Or rather I can change my endless days of little time into the timeless days I love. I have noticed that on the days which flow, I am not thinking ahead about all the things I need to get done. I don’t rush but somehow there is enough time for everything. I have time to stop every few paces and look at yet another feather or ant that Sully, my 4 year old, is pointing out to me as we walk my eldest son Dash to school and yet we still get there on time. There is a sense that each moment is as important as the next, looking at the ant is just as important as getting my dishes done. So this is what I try to do on the bad days. When I catch myself rushing and snapping and holding on for dear life, I do the opposite of what I feel like doing. I slow down. Sometimes I just sit down on the kitchen floor, amongst the chaos, even though all I want to do is ‘get the damn dishes done’, I sit there and start building a block tower with Sully. Or instead of rushing into the house as soon as we get home from school, I pull a few weeds out in the garden and look up at the sky. Eventually I will make it inside and things will either get done or they won’t. And miraculously my day has changed.
Sometimes it’s hard and sometimes it’s easy to create this change. But when it happens and time disappears for a while that is where life begins and that is the place I am the happiest mother in the world.