Someone once told me that when it comes to motherhood, the hours and days are long. But the weeks and months and years fly by.
For me, these long days often start at 5am. At 10am, I've already logged five hours, and it will be 7 hours before JB gets home. By the time the kids go to bed, I've put in 15 hours.
And most of that day can be divided into wannas and gottas.
I spend a lot of my day feeling guilty with all the things I wanna do but can't do because the gottas are getting in the way.
I wanna play with the boys in the train room. I wanna color with my two-year-old. I wanna do a puzzle with the boys. I wanna play hide-n-seek. I wanna throw the Frisbee to the dog. I wanna read books until the kids tell me they are tired of them. I wanna curl up and watch a movie with two kids under each arm. I wanna make a lunch for my littles that looks like the ones on Pinterest. I wanna hold baby more. I wanna snuggle with her until she is tired of me.
But the problem is all the gottas. I gotta do the laundry. I gotta pick up toys. I gotta prepare breakfast. I gotta make snacks. I gotta think of something to make for lunch. I gotta put away clothes. I gotta grocery shop. I gotta keep track of which clothes are too small and which are too old and which are too big. I gotta do the dishes. I gotta empty the diaper pail.
You get the idea.
And the thing is, I can let some of these gottas go, but if I let too many or the wrong ones slide by, then I start treading water instead of swimming. When I am swimming, I am ahead of the game. I am able to intercept disasters and arguments and stave them off. But if I am treading water, everything starts to fall apart. I'm so busy trying to fix something that just happened that I can't be in the present properly.
If the dining room table is covered with coloring books and crayons and markers and crafts because I didn't keep it picked up that day, then when it comes time for dinner, I'm spending twenty minutes putting stuff away. Then I'm getting frustrated because in the middle of trying to clean up the table, the kids are fighting and no one is helping and, well, why are you wrestling with your brother right now?
When the gottas get put off too much, we start losing things. Where is Dad's uniform shirt that he is required to wear to work or I have no idea where your stuffed animal is that you will not go to sleep without. I end up forgetting about an important appointment. Things slip. And slipping doesn't feel good.
Of course the kids can help. And they do. But their help is age appropriate, and that means it is only as good as two five-year-olds and a two-year-old can muster. (Our four-month-old is currently off the hook.) Yes, I have them clean up one thing before they take out another. They put their dishes in the sink. They put their dirty clothes in the laundry. They feed the dog. But this means I gotta oversee their help. I gotta follow-through with rewards and consequences for that cleaning up. I gotta.
And heaven forbid I take a ten-minute phone call in which eighteen new toys are taken out and a dish is broken and a box of cheerios is spilled on the floor (thank God for dogs). Then suddenly I gotta take thirty extra minutes to catch up while all the wannas I had promised to myself and them are totally sucked away in a sea of gotta.
And while I gotta monitor one of them cleaning up, another is doing a puzzle that I wanna help with. Big brother is asking me to read to him. Little sister is saying "hep (help) eee (me) color peez (please)." And I wanna but I gotta.
Truth is, there are television shows made up of people who skip the gottas. They don't clean their house. They don't keep up. They don't organize. And before they know it, they are walking along paths to get to their beds at night. They are calling in professionals to help them dig out because they put off one gotta a day until there are 5,973 gottas and they aren't swimming or treading water but instead drowning.
I spent five years begging God for children. Now I have four of them. I know when I look back on the years I raised my children, I will not remember the time I didn't clean my kitchen. I will not remember those days when the laundry piles crept over the sides of the basket. I will have trouble remembering the state of the dining room table, the dust bunnies dancing in the corner, and the toy box procreating. I will not remember all the gottas that I didn't do.
But I will remember the wannas. Even if I can't bring them to memory, I will feel them in my heart. The hugs. The kisses. The squeals. The tickles. The puzzles and books and coloring pictures. The ice cream cones on the rocks overlooking the beach that left big stains on white shirts.
I wish I could end this post with a magic formula for a way to spend all day doing the wannas and have the gottas magically take care of themselves. Even with a housekeeper, my gotta list is spilling into the next day. (What will I do when I go back to the States and housekeepers aren't as affordable as they are at my overseas military location?)
My formula is this.
Everyday I wake up, I strive to strike a balance between my wannas and gottas.
I try to do just enough gottas to make sure that we can live a healthy, functioning life. I put off any gottas that I can. That might mean the bathroom isn't shining. There are toys on the floor. The laundry is a day overdue. The dishes stack up a little higher in the sink than pre-mom-me would have let them.
And in whatever moment I can, I squeeze in the wannas. And when I don't think I can't squeeze in anymore, I multi-task. I fold laundry while watching a movie. I read a book to the olders while feeding the younger. I sing songs while driving in the car.
It's not perfect.
But it's good.
And that's what this is all about. Not getting all the gottas done. Not being perfect. But getting enough gottas done to have the ability to do the wannas.
That's what I gotta do.