My friend Susannah once bemoaned (yes, bemoaned, because sometimes you’re just that tired) that staying at home with your children basically just means you’re always doing some form of cleaning up. And she’s right: wiping tushies, cleaning counter tops, washing laundry–they’re all the tasks we do constantly. All day long. Every day. But I realized something tonight: my day is food. Either preparing it or eating it, food rules (well, you know that already, but bear with me here. I’m on a bit of a rant). I breastfeed, then get breakfast together for the girls…then nurse some more, then get a snack for Saoirse…then it’s time for lunch, and another snack and dinner and…well, by the time I add in all the time I’m cooking or cleaning up, no wonder the laundry gets backed up.
When I look at my day, my week (and my weekend, because if you’re at home you know there’s no difference between weekends and weekdays anymore), I am very aware of how much of my life is the minutiae: the tedious stuff that keeps our lives in motion. I worry that too much of my time–even too many of my conversations–are concerned with laundry detergent, and cleaning the high chair tray, and emptying the diaper pail. My personal time, or what I call sit-down tasks (like managing the checkbook, or checking my email, writing this post, even) are shoved to the hour I have in the afternoons while the girls nap (and by nap, I mean Quinn sleeps while Saoirse jumps up and down on the bed in the next room singing “Pop! Goes the Weasel” in her best soprano) or now, at 9:30 at night, when I would really love to settle down with a book, or maybe even get to bed before 11:30–or, I should admit, open up that checkbook and get to work. It’s strange, the lack of time one has when she’s supposed to have all the time in the world.
But back to eating. I love to cook. Granted, Dave often works late, and my young clientele doesn’t exactly always appreciate what I’d really like to put on the table (“Mom, I don’t liiiike this taste. It’s too spi-cy.” Saoirse says this about avocado.), but I do. Well, I did, back in the day when cooking meant turning up some Billie Holiday and pouring myself a glass of wine before I’d settle to the chopping and simmering. Now preparing meals usually involves stepping around a toddler riding some sort of toy on wheels through the kitchen, placating a baby banging on an overturned steel bowl (why do I always give her the metal? Shouldn’t I have learned by now that plastic is quieter?) while she grunts “ggggnnnnnahhh! GGGGNNNAAAAHHH!” in her hungriest voice, and trying not to let the boiling pot of pasta water bubble over while I pour milk and chop up Quinn’s bites. But watching those girls sit down to the food I prepare (even if it is spiii-cy) does make me feel like, okay, I’m doing my job. Because food is safety, and warmth, and love. Those meals are, essentially, creating a home for our girls. I mean, I hope so, since all we do at home is eat anyway…
So I need to remember this, especially tomorrow night, when Dave’s at work on a conference call, and Saoirse has asked to be excused because she doesn’t like the look of basil on her noodles. I need to think about the importance of these meals when I’ve been sitting next to the mighty Quinn for a solid 55 minutes as she gleefully tears into whatever grown-up food I’ve given her (by the way, she makes this giddy “nyum nyum nyum” sound the entire time she’s eating, which would possibly drive me nuts if it were from any other child, but oh my golly, it’s just the cutest thing). Because dried up carrots all over the baseboards isn’t gross. Tofu in the dog’s fur isn’t nasty. Spinach in a baby’s belly button isn’t awkward. It’s love, man. And it’s there all day, every day.