motherhood

The Gift of Exhaustion

I work from home, which happens to also be the place I live and care for my 11-month-old baby. When I first had him, people told me that newborns slept for 18 hours a day. 18 hours! I can get so much done, I’d thought. They didn’t tell me that would only be true if I held him for the entire length of time.

So I strapped him into the Ergobaby and played rain noises on my phone, and we walked around the yard till he dozed off. Then I sat at my computer and wrote with him snuggled against me. We could have an ocean in our backyard by now, with all that rain.

The Jackcific.

We live in a society where things are automated. Where we develop systems to help us do things quickly and more efficiently. My husband works in IT and loves optimizing processes. When we got married, I expected companionship, teamwork, love, but I also got organization, systems, and a label maker. We developed a schedule for dishes and bills and storing seasonal clothing.

And so, I’ve learned to automate childcare. Is that not what child-proofing is? A guarantee that you don’t, in fact, have to be watching them every single second?

We have our outlets covered and the stairs gated and we generally do our best. Jackson explores the below-knee world. Coffee tables, rugs, the bases of chairs and lamps.

But still, he demands more attention now. A fact that he alerted me to by dropping my car keys into the toilet the day after we “baby-proofed” the whole house.

I wake up every morning with a to-do list, including my work assignments, the projects I’ve assigned myself, and a litany of laundry and housework. Taking care of the baby is assumed. It never goes on the list.

But there comes a point every single day where I am too tired to watch Jackson and. I can no longer switch between cleaning and watching Jackson. Or writing and watching Jackson. Or arguing on the phone with my health insurance company and watching Jackson.

There comes a point when all I can do is watch my baby, and it feels like failure.

I read a study that said every time we switch back and forth between two tasks, we’re burning glucose, which is of course why we crave cookies when we’re multi-tasking. We think we’re saving time, but it takes inordinate energy.

I step back from my desk, slump cross-legged on the floor and roll a ball to him. He lights up. We are playing a game!

I’ve never been good at taking a sabbath, but sometimes it takes me. As suddenly and forcefully as if I’ve been blindfolded and kidnapped in the middle of my day.

Some days I read him half a story, or as much as I can manage before he wriggles out of my lap. And some days I’m so tired I just lie on the floor and let him crawl over me, and this too, he thinks, is a special delight.

It’s the moment I give up. It’s the best moment of my day.

Top image: Bekah Russom via Unsplash 

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