I wrote a to-do list yesterday. It took up an entire A4 page.
Unfortunately it’s the tip of the iceberg. Just the imminent, pressing tasks. Like organising a 4 year old’s birthday, and weeding my wasteland of an allotment. Buying food, emailing friends. That sort of thing.
Obviously this is totally separate to the ‘House To-do List’. Which is separate again from the ‘Fun-things-to-do-to-the-house’ list. Which should probably be renamed the ‘you’re-never-going-to-have-time-to-do-this-so-why-are-you-even-bothering-to-write-it-down’ list. Not so snappy.
I run my life by lists. They’re the only way I ever remember the errands I’ve promised to run, what I’m doing on Tuesday, or the fact that I haven’t actually finished Elvie’s school uniform shopping until I’ve bought name labels.
There’s only one problem.
That A4 page list is intimidating by itself. Even if we ignore the other two completely. Which, to be fair, I do.
But the reality is that most of my day’s activities aren’t even on that list. Those are extras. Useful extras – the kind that mean children get birthday presents and Elvie’s socks can be retrieved from the lost property bin, but extras nonetheless.
Most of my day is taken up with a slightly mindnumbing process of repetition.
Make food. Serve food. Clear leftover food from the floor. Repeat. Three times a day. Every day.
Collect clothes from the washing basket / floor / trampoline / bath. Wash clothes. Hang clothes out. Fold clothes up. Move coathangers between wardrobes depending on who has the most clean clothes. Repeat.
Check nappy. Change nappy. Throw old nappy away. Restock nappy box. Repeat.
Sweep floor. Kill ants. Curse at discarded food under the table. Sweep up ants, and escaped food. Throw in bin. Repeat.
Bath children. Rinse off mud. Clean their teeth. Search for the lid of the toothpaste after mistakenly allowing them to prepare their own toothbrushes. Brush hair. Story. Prayers. Put them to bed.
Collapse. Repeat. Every night. Sometimes multiple times.
That’s plenty enough to fill a day. Right there. Without even touching the lists. Or the rest of the house. Suffice to say that the phrase ‘deep clean’ doesn’t get used much around here.
I’ve always used lists. Even before the children arrived. There’s nothing quite like crossing through the final item with a glorious, slightly-smug flourish.
That doesn’t happen anymore.
Now I transfer the unfinished jobs onto a new list, hoping to fool my brain into believing that I’ve completed something. That it’s a job well done.
It’s slightly unsatisfying. To say the least.
I wrote a post a while ago about how, as mothers, we need to be prouder of the little things that we achieve. The fact that we made it through to the end of the day with the house still standing. Or that we covered most of the mud up with a nice outfit for the birthday party. The little things. That almost always feel enormous.
It’s easy to prioritise the things on the lists. Nothing wrong with that.
But it’s also way too easy to despise the mundane, everyday, several times a day constants. The dull, monotonous beat that makes up the rhythm of our day-in, day-out life.
Honestly, in the utterly chaotic world of two under-fives, it’s often those off-list, routine, repetitive processes that keep me sane.
The endless loads of washing. The ever-present hum of the dishwasher. The cooking. And sweeping. And folding. And tidying. And collapsing in the evening with an enormous mug of tea.
They’re safe. Predictable. Tidy. You know where you are with a washing machine. Or a kettle. Which is more than can be said for a toddler.
They’re not the kind of things you can put on a list. Mostly because, as soon as they’re finished, they need doing all over again.
But they count. They really do.
Lists are great. I love them. They get stuff done. But it’s off-list that the real magic happens. That’s where homes are built and children are cared for. That’s where real love is shown. Over. And. Over. And. Over. Again.
There will come a time for deep cleans and finishing lists. But that time is definitely not now.
Now is the time for pairing socks and making sandwiches and breathing deeply whilst counting to 10.
I’ll see you on the other side.