Now that my son is a year old, checking my TimeHop app brings such sweet memories. Today, a picture popped up of the first bath we ever gave him. He’s in a tiny pink bucket that we stole from the hospital, which is small enough to fit into our sink. His forehead is wrinkled and his arms are skinny and shake with those newborn jitters. Looking at the photo, it’s so strange to think that my crazy, wild, always busy 1-year-old was not so long ago such a small and feeble thing.
Since becoming a mother, I often hear the phrase “the days are long, but the years are short.” This phrase feels both so totally true – a child goes from a baby to a toddler in the blink of an eye, and yet there are often many days that feel like they will never end and we’ll be stuck in a fussy, sleepless stage forever. Overall, this year felt long, with me often daydreaming about when Ezra would meet his next stage of development. I constantly looked forward to his next milestone: when he would smile, be able to hold his head on his own, say “mama” for the first time, and start walking. I think that maybe, I’m just not much of a baby person, and instead prefer the stages of childhood that allow for interaction, exploration, and communication. So, during this time at least, the days feel long and the year feels long.
With that said, I tried to remember this oft repeated phrase, “the days are long, but the years are short,” and use the phrase to guide my daily thinking, so that I can appreciate where we are in life, knowing each phase will be over soon. With this mindset, I was able to appreciate the hour it used to take to rock him to sleep every night, knowing that he would not always need it. Though I often thought, “Please just fall asleep so I can finally relax and eat some dinner,” I was also able to realize that once that phase passed, it would be over forever and I’d never be able to get it back. This thinking allowed me to find joy in the midst of my fatigue and gave me the gift of soaking up the moment while I could. Now that he can fall asleep on his own, I don’t look back on those nights and miss them, because I know I appreciated them fully while I had them.
This thinking has also helped me to prioritize what’s important to me – most notably, not worrying about keeping the house clean. In the weeks following Ezra’s birth, our house definitely accumulated some dust and clutter. It was never disgusting, but certainly not up to par with how clean it had been prior. However, with the understanding that my time was precious now, especially after going back to work for a short period, I just found it really hard to care. Babies leave very little free time, and I didn’t want to waste the moments I had worrying about water spots on the bathroom mirror or dishes in the sink. Those things get tended to eventually, but caring for my child, my marriage, and myself takes priority. I think being a woman, and especially being a SAHM, there’s an expectation that if we’re home all day, then our house should be spotless. And maybe that’s the case for some moms. But for me, if the years are short, I want to be doing more with them than making sure the rug is always vacuumed. I want to be going to the park to play with my son. During his nap time, I want to be working on a craft project or reading a new book. When he goes to bed, I want to be talking to my husband about his day. There is plenty of time in this life for doing the chores and worrying about responsibilities. But there is not always plenty of time to be fully present in our relationships with others and with ourselves.
So instead of immediately putting laundry away after getting it out of the dryer, instead of always picking up the toys that will inevitably make it out again, instead of polishing silverware, I’ll sit. I’ll sit on the floor with my son and love him, I’ll sit on the couch with my husband and love him, and I’ll sit at the kitchen table with a book and a cup of coffee and love myself.