A few short years ago, before officially becoming a mom, I listened politely as other moms relayed stories to me. Pregnancies, especially first pregnancies, seem to bring out an abundance of solicited and unsolicited advice. In my case, it was about 10 percent solicited and 90 percent unsolicited.
Nevertheless, advice I got. “Sleep while the baby sleeps.” (If you have babies that sleep!) “You just wait.” (Wait, was that a threat?) “Housework will keep for another day.” (No kidding!)
But the thing that made me roll my eyes (internally, of course), was the stories about going for several days without a shower, or a whole day without brushing teeth. Outwardly, I was all smiles and nods, pretending I understood.
But between you and me, I never comprehended how personal hygiene could be on the list of acceptable items to skip during a day’s time. Dishes, sure. Laundry, OK. Vacuuming, no doubt. But teeth brushing? No way!
And then, twice in the last week, I managed not to remember my pearly whites until late morn…I mean, afternoon.
That’s when I realized, with some alarm, that I am one of THEM. I’ve become OK with my girls staying in pajamas until lunch (or maybe through afternoon naps). I’m OK with wearing a T-shirt and athletic shorts every day. I’m OK with missing the occasional shower.
Looking back, I’m pretty sure it’s been a slow-but-sure slippery slope. There’s a tremendous amount of slack cut for moms with new babies. But then, no matter how little (or much) sleep you get, when baby is a couple months old, it’s time to be presentable again.
But this time, I never got back to presentable.
When my youngest was a few months old, my husband and I were preparing to put our oldest on the operating table. No chance of normalcy with surgery looming.
By the time our baby was 6 months old, our family was preparing for a move. What’s the chance of presentable with moving boxes everywhere?
At my daughter’s 9-month mark, we were finally in our new house. And then, once again, people cut me some slack. We’d just moved and were still settling in. My question: “How long can I keep up that excuse?”
Now my daughter’s first birthday has come and gone—by a couple months, even. Still, I feel like life is chaotic. And, I keep waiting for normal, but normal never arrives.
And I wonder, “How far back do I go for normal?” Before I entered college? Before I got married? Before I had one child? Before I had two?
I hated the “normal” of high school, so I wouldn’t ever choose to go back there. I love my husband, and can’t imagine life without him. I adore my daughters, so I’ll keep them, too.
And that brings me here.
“Here” isn’t always presentable. My house, more often than not, has toys strewn about, sippy cups on the counter and laundry waiting to be washed, folded or put away. My to-do list is never complete. Exercise is virtually non-existent.
Most days, I get frustrated, at least once, with whining, disobedience or meltdowns. And then I get frustrated, again, by my lack of patience.
Most days, I wake up un-refreshed after a night’s sleep, thinking, “There’s no way I can do this again.” And then I do.
Most days, I imagine what it would be like to have a more structured routine. And then I get overwhelmed by the enormity of making (and following) a schedule. That’s still on my to-do list, by the way.
Even so, most days, at several moments throughout the day, I look at the smiling faces of my girls and I see the reward of parenthood. I catch my oldest being kind to my youngest and I see a glimmer of the relationship of sisterhood. I hear my oldest “say OK, and then obey,” and I realize my instruction isn’t for not.
So I guess, “most days” is my normal. And on those days that aren’t most days, I bet I have my teeth brushed before my husband leaves for work.