If you walk around barefoot in my house you will collect this week’s activities on the bottom of your feet. Oats, crumbs, uncooked pasta, cat food. This will all be held nicely together by the sticky popsicle juice. These are all things that Jack likes to play with. I try to clean about once a week, but it usually happens about every other week. I like a clean house. I am not one of these messy-by-nature people. If you follow my blog you will know that I come from a very rigid place. I like things neat, clean and in their place. Since Jack was born one of the many opportunities for growth has been how to let that go a little bit. I throw toys in baskets at the end of the day and load the dishwasher. That’s a successful day for us.
I am not showing you these pictures to show off some sort of carefree attitude, some holier than thou “fuck it, I have my priorities straighter than you, look at the dirty hippie that was hiding inside me” jab to the gut. I am showing you these pictures because as Moms we often think that all the other Moms have it figured out. We imagine the Mom next door having an immaculately clean house, never getting frustrated with her kids, sitting in a circle singing songs while everyone helps to fold laundry. I am showing you this so that you know that there is at least one other Mom out there who can’t do it all. I cannot keep this house clean, cook, run errands and take care of Jack all at the same time. Maybe some people can, but I can’t.
I choose to put my time with Jack first and everything else a distant second, third, and so on. I don’t know much about being a Mom, I am new to this, but I do know that I will not sit around when I am older thinking about the oats on the carpet and wishing that I had vacuumed them up more often. I do know that the times that I have put Jack second will haunt me. I know that they will leave a painful scar on my soul that can never be healed. I know that each time I put Jack second it will eat me alive and bring my aging spirit to gut-wrenching sobs.
I do not remember much from when Jack was a newborn. That was a chaotic time! I don’t remember what the house looked like, what we ate, or what I wore. Except for the time I went grocery shopping with my pants inside out. I remember which pants I was wearing then. I remember our long walks, trying to figure out how to use the Moby, taking turns trying to make Jack laugh, rolling him in the stroller over bumpy grass, and his gummy smile. I take this as a sign that I will not remember this mess in a few years. I will remember running around the parks with him, swimming, cuddling him, breastfeeding him and watching him explore his world.
I will remember the times that I put him second and it will hurt me. I will regret it. I will look at him with shock at how fast he has grown. I will sit terrified that those things in the future that scare me the most, like him going off to college, not coming home for Christmas, or moving with his partner to a faraway city are coming up fast. I used to roll my eyes at that cliché “it goes by so fast,” but now I sit humbled by how much time has already gone by. Time I can never get back. Situations I can never re-do.
I will never stray from this philosophy of life with Jack. He comes first. I don’t care what my house looks like. I don’t care what my neighbors say. I don’t care what other people think. This is life. Jack is life. Not that ugly Ikea carpet. Because if you step back and take a look at the bigger picture the crumbs and oats fade away and you can begin to see the real message. Love.
Abby Theuring, MSW