I'm sitting alone in a quiet, empty house. It is a revelation. The revelation is not only the fact of these hours today but that this will happen again later this week. And again next week. For the first time since early March 2020 my weeks will have some predictability, routine, and, most importantly, consistent time to myself. I think it's the beginning of a new season.
I don't think I've ever experienced such a long stretch of time with so little dependable time to myself. Simultaneously I've been navigating demanding emotional and physical challenges. There's been the anxiety over a (continuing) global pandemic, online school until we couldn't any more, Maeve's challenging sleep and naps, and then being cooped up during the hot summer. I feel really depleted. I described to Chris that without a little quiet time every few days to collect my thoughts I'm left feeling like my brain is littered with papers and clutter. To feel like myself I need time to file things away and to tidy up.
Even while the past few months have been especially challenging there is still so much good in my life. Maeve is a joy. The boys are growing so tall and their personalities shine. We had a family-filled trip to Austin including the first in-person meeting of my family book club and really fun Ted Lasso premier party. I'm thankful every day for my health and that of my family, especially now, and for all the luxuries we enjoy. It can be disorienting to feel overwhelmed yet so grateful at the same time.
It was always my plan to arrange for part-time childcare for Maeve by about the time she was one. Or at least that was my pre-pandemic plan. By the time we felt comfortable finding a vaccinated babysitter Maeve was nearing peak stranger danger and leaving her with a sitter felt more stressful than it was worth. So we looked to a daycare center but part-time care was only available for walking toddlers. Maeve, of course, was happy to crawl and crawl until she was nearly 15 months. And so I carried her on my hip and had Taylor Swift dance parties (she requests You Need To Calm Down by demanding "uh oh! uh oh!") and allowed extra Minecraft time for the boys and made all the snacks. Every day a few more mental notes – an idea for a blog post or podcast episode, a notion of organizing my closet shelves, thoughts about growing The Girl Next Door Podcast, etc. – would gently fall on the increasingly untidy floor of my mind.
The past week and a half leading up to the start of this new season is comical in hindsight but living through it was rough. We returned from Austin on a Monday. Maeve was to start childcare that Wednesday. But we all brought home colds from Austin so we delayed Maeve's start. Then the day before her next childcare day she threw up. All over me I might add, maintaining my record of being puked on by each of my kids, thank you very much. Over the next week, which was also the start of their school year, each of the boys got the same stomach bug, one after another and just as we started to think we were in the clear. In the meantime Maeve was cutting four big teeth and clearly wasn't feeling her best. We were up a lot at night, washing a lot of gross laundry, and the goal post of getting everyone to school or daycare stayed just out of reach. That was really hard. But now we are on the other side!
And so what does my routine look like now? The boys are in school (first and third grade!) Monday through Friday and Maeve will be in childcare for full days on Wednesdays and Fridays. During the summer with all three kids at home it didn't feel like there was a lot we could do all together. I felt pulled between trying to engage older kids and a toddler. Now on my days at home with Maeve I can be in toddler-mama mode. I've been enjoying brainstorming toddler activities to do. I've never had this kind of one-on-one time at home with a toddler before and I'm excited about it. Maeve and I play with pipe cleaners, blocks, and kitchen spoons. Maeve tries to put underwear on her head while she "helps" me fold laundry. I think we'll do some splash pad outings and quick trips to Trader Joe's. I'm bummed that COVID continues to impact how we're living. There's no library story time and I'm hesitant to do any toddler classes at this point which I had hoped to do.
During the days when Maeve is at childcare I want to be intentional about how I use my time. I want to prioritize my creative work that takes more time and energy, like writing. I might also want to plan on a bigger home organizing project. On some days I should probably try to take a nap. I don't want to use my childcare days for everyday housework or errands that I could get done while I have Maeve.
Even while I'm eager to "get to work!" I also need to let myself ease into it. I'm starting to feel my motivation and ideas bubble back but just barely. I've been feeling very out of the creative habit and lacking motivation which hasn't felt great. But that's part of the ebb and flow of creativity, of life, I'm sure. I know that some time to breathe and tidy my mind on a weekly basis is just what I need. It's the start of a new season and I'm thankful to be here, waiting to see what blooms.