Saturday, September 3, 2011

The List

Ever since I've become a mother, I've become increasingly aware of the to do list floating through my brain at any given moment.  I can't tell you how many times I've wished my brain had an Outlook calendar that was prepared to pop up with a reminder as needed.  Perhaps that's just a sign that I need a better cellphone with calendar capabilities, but quite frankly, I don't want to be beholden to my phone and would rather just have the reminders pop up in front of my face where I can't miss them.  At any given moment there's a dozen things percolating through my head--work, housework, shopping, cooking, child care, entertainment, you-name-it.  Some is vital, some is just anal-retentive...but it's a constant stream of things I need to do, remember, go to, or buy. 

It's as big as remembering a doctor's appointment (and getting up early enough to make it), or as small as clipping Jacob's fingernails.  It's remembering who needs more cereal or that we're out of toilet paper, and having some concept of which items I have coupons for.  It's having some idea of what we're going to eat for dinner, what I still need to buy, and whether or not Jacob will eat enough of it to sustain life...and if not, can he eat something else, suffer through it as a lesson in trying new foods, or do we just put it off until he's a little more adventurous?  Should we eat out, or is it too expensive?  Would there be a more advantageous day to eat out instead?  I strategize with sales before making a big purchase (not quite extreme couponing, but I do what I can), think about how many spare diapers we have in the diaper bag, and plan my yardwork based on the weather.  I agonize over the decisions I make when it comes to dealing with Jacob's behavior, and replay them in my head long after the fact. 

I'm sure there's a lot more that's not coming to mind right now, but you get the idea.  I suppose most of them are first world problems and life is pretty darn good in general, but the constant stream gets to be tiresome.  It's hard when you need to consider the consequences and next steps every time you make a decision or do anything.  I don't think I realized how much that impacted me until this time alone, when I'm constantly trying to plan ahead but suddenly realize that I'm the only one I'll be impacting. 

I sometimes wonder if guys have this running dialog.  Maybe single dads do.  But based on conversations I've had, it seems like it's definitely a mom thing.  I have some theories about why guys don't seem quite as crazy:

1) They're just not as anal about the little things.
2) They have women who take care of the little things for them.
3) They don't think as deeply about the little stuff, so they don't realize what might be missing/easily improved.
4) They don't realize the to do list is so long, so they don't have the urgency to get things done.
5) Relaxing is just prioritized higher for men, either because they physically need more breaks (ha!) or because 1-4 allow them to do so.

Earlier this week we had a fire drill at work, and I spent the whole walk down 16 stories, down the street to our meeting place, then all the way back, talking to a co-worker who has a one-year-old son.  She brought up the lists in her head, and shared a story about when her family went camping a couple weeks ago.  They got to the campsite and did the basic unpacking, at which point her husband pulled out a chair, grabbed a beer and sat down.  And then she looked at him and said, "It must be nice..."...because there was still a lot more unpacking and organizing to do, which she wanted to take care of before sitting down to relax.  Would the unpacking have gotten done eventually?  Probably, but from a woman's perspective it's important to get it done just in case you run into problems later, just in case more gets added to the mental to do list.  I can relate to her issue, because there were a few times this summer when Craig got out of work early (4pm most days) and by the time I got home with Jacob in tow, Craig was chilling on the couch with a movie.  I'm sure there were plenty of other things to do--picking up Jacob among them--but for whatever reason the movie won out.  So, are women maybe a little extra anal?  Maybe.  But could men keep that in mind and meet us halfway?  Yep.

Everyone's been telling me to relax this weekend, but the sheer fact that this list doesn't necessarily have to be running through my head all the time makes it inherently more relaxing than any given day.  And anything I accomplish is a huge weight off my shoulders for days or weeks to come.  I have been productive, but I still have a pretty sizable list.  I wore myself out today with re-caulking our tub and a bunch of shopping, so it might be a low-key evening.  We'll see.  I have plenty of things to do sitting down, too :)  This has definitely been an interesting experience, and I do miss my boys, but I'm savoring the quiet and the ease with which I can get things done.  It'll be over soon enough...

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