I am, by nature, a taskmaster doer. I like to get things done, if for no other reason than the feeling that my busy, anxious little mind can rest (momentarily) in the doneness. I know, of course, that I am not alone in this…. and I know, of course, that there are upsides and downsides to being a person who can’t rest until the work’s done.
First upside: I get a lot done!
In the course of a typical day I get myself and 3 kids dressed, fed, and out the door – complete with mood adjustments – by 8:30, I follow a screeching 1 year old around a store of some sort where I buy food or toilet paper or birthday presents for the party that weekend while she insists on pushing the cart, I pick up a 4 year old from preschool and try to remain patient while she and her 4 year old friends scream and chase each other around the parking lot, I make lunch with one hand while holding the now-overtired, hungry 1 year old, I put the 1 year old down for a nap, I thank my lucky stars for Max & Ruby who provide me with 30 minutes of alone time so I can work out, I bake cookies, do art projects, play “baby”, read books, readjust 4 year old moods, prep dinner, attempt to clean up, get kids ready for soccer or gymnastics, hang out with neighbor kids, attempt again to clean up, do homework, make dinner (one handed – see above), convince kids and husband to eat the dinner I made, get 3 kids ready and in bed, clean up – for real this time, and stay up way past my bedtime…Why?? Because I always feel like there’s more I need or want to do. Sick, I know. Hard to believe these are the upsides, huh?
And what about the downsides? Well, the downsides are much less tangible or listable. They’re more likely to hit me in the moment…and it seems that the moment almost always involves my kids. Like last night, around 7:00, when I realized homework hadn’t been done and I immediately shifted into crazed taskmaster doer mode. Homework! Teeth! Baths! Jammies! No crying! It’s BEDTIME!! And somewhere, in the midst of this, for no apparent reason, Greta started crying. (I thought I said no crying…!) She asked me if, when Ellia and Nora are all grown up, she will get to be an only child, because then she could have my undivided attention. (Ellia quickly pointed out that Greta gets the most attention of any of them because she and I have mommy/daughter time every day…. but Greta wasn’t listening.)
And that’s when it hit me. Being a doer is hard on my kids. When I am constantly shifting from one task to the next and expecting my kids to keep up the pace, they miss my attention. They miss my just being and my allowing them to just be. A definite downside to constantly doing. In that moment, it felt simple. STOP DOING! And so we did. We stopped in the middle of whatever it was I thought we were accomplishing and I held Greta and told her all the things I had noticed about her throughout the day- the way she had practiced drawing people and writing letters, how nicely she had played with her cousin and been willing to apologize when she made a mistake, how much fun she seemed to be having at gymnastics, how gentle she was with Nora.
It’s amazing how sometimes we need a moment like this to remind us that not everything has to be task-centered. It’s okay (and maybe even more productive) to sometimes just be.
I had a moment like that recently, when I stepped into our front entryway and realized just how tasky it felt, with its overstuffed wicker baskets that were too full to be functional and its single small lamp with a burned-out bulb. In my efforts to make it a space that worked for us (I had envisioned the baskets somehow being a great organizational tool) I had taken the joy and the fun out of it.(Hmmmm… I’m sensing a theme here…) Not to mention the fact that it was boring and cluttery and not actually serving any real purpose…
Luckily, I was able to step outside myself long enough to envision something that might be more welcoming, more joyful, more fun. And… as it turned out, the new space is infinitely more functional than the old! It all started with this chair, an original treasure given to us by Grandma Roz:
Shortly into the revisioning process I picked up this basket at a church rummage sale for a measly $3. Perfect for holding the millions of shoes that somehow make their way out of closets and into our lives on a daily basis:
And this set of hooks that had been sitting in a closet since we moved in? They are now functioning as a perfect place (at the perfect height!) for kids to hang their coats and backpacks:
One of the final pieces for this entryway corner was these baskets, each purchased for $1 from various locations and made into hanging decorations with the help of a hot glue gun and these sawtooth picture hangers (no, they do not actually serve a purpose):
And the finishing touch – a funky pillow from the Target clearance rack:
I love a lot of things about our new entryway, but what I love most is the fact that it most of it is not 100% functional. Sounds funny, I know. But it serves as a daily reminder to me that the function isn’t everything. Sometimes I can, and should, just let things be 🙂