By nature, I love efficiency. I like to spend a little extra time planning in order to save myself time executing the plan, I like to expend as little energy to be as productive as possible — I like to maximize both my time and energy. I’m really good at it. I can pack activities, chores and errands into a day as well as I can pack the back of a car for a vacation.
Being a mom, I have to set aside my desire for efficiency. I find, again and again, that maximizing efficiency usually decreases happiness, in both me and my kids (and that’s when it’s even possible to think about efficiency — it often isn’t). I have to plan for ease and simplicity, even if it means more work overall, and that’s just not my natural state.
If we go out to run an errand, it’s usually best to plan to do just that one thing — even if there’s something else we need to do on that block or at that same train stop. Trying to do both will probably result in unhappy kids and a stressed out mom (and we may end up that way even though the second activity doesn’t get accomplished, or is left incomplete, necessitating another trip out at another time, anyway). But even though I know that my attempts at efficiency will probably lead to unhappiness, and maybe even less efficiency in the long run, it’s hard to avoid the desire.
Liam is really good at reminding me of this when I forget. He likes to help around the house: I get out the Swiffer, he wants a turn. I fold laundry, he likes to “help”. A usual morning of “cleaning” around here goes like this: put laundry in machine, clean spilled soap off the floor because while I was putting clothes into the machine, Liam got a bottle of body wash out of the cabinet and opened it; put laundry soap in the machine, turn machine on, pick up band-aids which have been spilled out of box retrieved from the edge of the sink (where they shouldn’t have been left anyway; shepherd Liam out of the bathroom, pick up socks and pajamas off of the floor, carry those into Benjamin’s room, fix Benjamin’s train track that Liam has disconnected; escort Liam out of Benjamin’s room, get Swiffer out, start to Swiffer, clean up spilled water from Benjamin’s sippy cup that Liam found; Swiffer some more, clean up box of toys that Liam has upended, replace Swiffer cloth so that Liam can have a turn. That’s about 20 minutes.
We do make progress. But the continuous need to clean one thing because I was busy cleaning something else and I couldn’t have my eyes everywhere at once is exhausting. My inability to be efficient in my trips out frustrates me. I have to really, really work at not being irritated about that kind of thing.
But I know that really, none of that other stuff matters. Liam likes to help. I’d rather have him tagging along with me, “helping”, than stuck in front of the tv (although there are many days that that happens, too). I’d rather my boys feel like going out to run errands with mom is kind of fun, instead of dreading every time we leave the house. I’m working on it. I know it, I just need to remind myself sometimes.