Family, friends, and strangers all chime in with thoughts, advice, wisdom -- cheerful, gloomy, or in between -- when they find out you are having a child, thinking of having a child, or considering not having a child.
Of the pearls I was given -- shiny, misshapen, sinkers, floaters -- I don't recall any impressing upon me the colossal, monumental, gigantic all-consuming task mothering would be. At times it is pure task, including laundry and food preparation.
And each task on the list is multi-dimensional, whether you're a worried and melancholy mother but mostly somehow excited, cheerful, and accepting at the same time and occasionally grumpy, overbearing, and moody (nobody told me mothering was completely contradictory as well) like me.
When I say laundry is multidimensional I don't mean delicates versus towels, lights, darks, and hand washables (my mother did tell me that most things can go in the wash despite what the label says. Thanks, Mom. You are right about that and many other things, too.).
I mean laundry is multidimensional when you are a mother. Probably when you are a father, too.
Here's the laundry decision tree in snapshot form:
- Can you get the laundry on the line prior to or after the child* wakes up?
- If the child is awake can you get the laundry on the line in a timely enough manner to allow it to dry?
- Will the machine wake the child?
- Does your child still fit in the laundry basket and find that fun?
- Do you or do you not attempt to remove spots?
- Do you care about spots, does your child care about spots, do those around your family care about spots?
- Will your child (like mine) be insulted that you find his clothing dirty enough to launder?
- Do you have time to do laundry at all?
Everything requires strategy. Balancing the household's time with the household's will and temperament. Who's out of underwear? Who has a tissue, shell, peach pit, or broken glass in their pocket? What has greater priority - gritty sheets, smelly towels, or work clothes?
And then there's food. Who likes to eat when and what? Can a trip to the market fit between naps and your partner's precious return from work? Do you head to the market alone or take the children with you to give your partner time at home alone? Is a trip to the market even feasible?
Talking about being a stay at home mom a friend told me, "I should have this." She said she felt she sometimes feels that she should have a clean house, dinner on the table, and happy kids. "Why do you feel that way? Because it's your chosen profession?" I asked.
Becoming a parent is natural, sometimes accidental, and commonplace. That doesn't mean it comes naturally. Despite some parenting books telling us otherwise, families are not made of blocks that can be moved from one slot to another. Conveniently and consistently from waking to retiring. Nah. Rubick's Cube is complicated, but it has nothing on family life.