I don't know how childrearing and housekeeping started getting assumed to be possibly concurrent occupations, because I'm finding it well-nigh impossible to to both. To wit: a) Babies want to be held, like all the time. Even if they're asleep and you try to set them down, they know. b) Holding the baby precludes doing much else with one's hands (even if the baby's sleeping and one's attention is otherwise free). c) Put the baby in a sling carrier, you say? That gives you a free hand or two, but forget about bending, reaching, or doing much in the kitchen. d) Offload the baby on someone else? Sorry, you are the Mom Café, and besides, you feel guilty about going back to work 30 hours a week, so you're determined to spend every moment you can with him.
Hence, the burnt-out light bulbs, the stacks of laundry yet to be put away, the unopened mail, the weeds starting to dominate the plantings outside, the notice that the water bill has not been paid.
And you know what? I couldn't care less. Being immobilized by a nursing or playing baby is the best thing ever. We've spent so many deliciously "unproductive" hours together.
A friend recently brought this poem to my attention:
Advice to Myself
by Louise Erdrich
Leave the dishes.
Let the celery rot in the bottom drawer of the refrigerator
and an earthen scum harden on the kitchen floor.
Leave the black crumbs in the bottom of the toaster.
Throw the cracked bowl out and don't patch the cup.
Don't patch anything. Don't mend. Buy safety pins.
Don't even sew on a button.
Let the wind have its way, then the earth
that invades as dust and then the dead
foaming up in gray rolls underneath the couch.
Talk to them. Tell them they are welcome.
Don't keep all the pieces of the puzzles
or the doll's tiny shoes in pairs, don't worry
who uses whose toothbrush or if anything
matches, at all.
Except one word to another. Or a thought.
Pursue the authentic—decide first
what is authentic,
then go after it with all your heart.
Your heart, that place
you don't even think of cleaning out.
That closet stuffed with savage mementos.
Don't sort the paper clips from screws from saved baby teeth
or worry if we're all eating cereal for dinner
again. Don't answer the telephone, ever,
or weep over anything at all that breaks.
Pink molds will grow within those sealed cartons
in the refrigerator. Accept new forms of life
and talk to the dead
who drift in though the screened windows, who collect
patiently on the tops of food jars and books.
Recycle the mail, don't read it, don't read anything
except what destroys
the insulation between yourself and your experience
or what pulls down or what strikes at or what shatters
this ruse you call necessity.