Since Elliott’s birth, our friends and family have been deferential about how busy we must be. On some level, they’re right: at points, there has barely been time to shower, eat, or walk the dog. But, busy doesn’t feel like the right word to describe these early weeks. Busy implies that there is a long list of things to accomplish and not quite enough time in which to fit them. Indeed, if we were just living in a state of ‘busy-ness,’ we could perhaps adjust by increasing our capacity or speeding things up.
After years in the workforce, so much of me thrives on busy-ness: its sense of buzzy productivity, the little check marks in boxes, and the haze of meaning that comes from simply getting stuff done. In many ways, I *wish* I could change all the diapers, pump all the milk, and share all my love by just working hard to get them done. Mothering for today? Check, check, check.
On the contrary, with Elliott, there is nothing to check off the list; we feed, diaper, rock, and play with her over and over again. Yes, I have other non-baby items to accomplish, but I long ago realized that days and weeks could go by with nothing getting checked off – and yet, I was constantly occupied. The to-do list of discrete, successive items has been replaced by endless, iterative tasks.
Further, through it all, I haven’t felt a lack of time or a sense of hurry that being ‘busy’ implies; everything is done when it needs to be done, on Elliott’s clock. I can’t change ten diapers by noon to hit my quota and declare myself done for the day. There is plenty to do, but it’s impossible to rush it. Similarly, it’s impossible to run out of time to do what needs to be done.
In sum, it’s less that I feel busy and more that I feel completely consumed. The reality of life with baby is that every moment is spent care-giving in the present. I am challenged to slow down and invest every act with big love. I am challenged to attend to whatever Elliott needs right now, without anticipation or distraction. I am challenged to be less busy and more present.
As she draws me more into mamahood, Elliott brings me more into the moment and more into myself.
Realistically, I still find myself trying to accomplish things according to my old habits; instead of nursing with full presence at 2AM, I sometimes multi-task, teaching myself baby sign language or editing my new book (support the crowdpublishing project here!). But, I’m increasingly finding big meaning in the letting myself be consumed by these everyday acts of childcare. And, I love it.