Since the birth of John four months ago, I have developed a whole new appreciation for the monotonous. I’ve always loved routines and schedules, but the daily life of a mother brings it all to a whole new level. In the past weeks, the ins and outs of my life have settled into a fairly predictable schedule, even if the exact time frames differ from day to day. We wake up, and I give John his first bottle. I eat breakfast while he plays on his mat; then he has tummy time and plays in his Bumbo and bouncy seat until he starts to get fussy. Depending on the weather, we might take a walk around the neighborhood while he naps in his stroller; otherwise it’s off to his bedroom for a bit of rocking and shushing before he falls asleep and I go back into the living room to work out or answer emails. By the time he wakes up, it’s nearly time for his second bottle of the day, after which he goes back to playing for another hour or so, moving from place to place. Then it’s back to his bedroom for another nap while I shower. This cycle repeats itself again and again until it’s bedtime. Andrew and I work together to bathe him, dress him in his pajamas, and give him his last bottle of the day before lights out. It might seem like a very monotonous existence, but I love it.
As much as I have always loved predictability and scheduling, I have also enjoyed a bit of spontaneity from time to time. Though my color-coded planner has always been the most important item that I have ever carried on my person, I didn’t mind a surprise event from time to time. While I was in college, I really loved just going with the flow. If I got a text informing me of a Wawa run in ten minutes, I was waiting by the curb with my wallet and cell phone in eight. If a friend stopped by to invite me to a spontaneous basketball game, unless I had an assignment due in the very near future, I was dressed and already playing in fifteen. Some of that spontaneity admittedly faded during grad school. As I attempted to balance school work, classes, and two jobs, I rarely had time in my schedule for pick-up games or last minute diner runs. At the very least, I needed to know about an upcoming event at least a few hours in advance if there was a good chance of seeing me there. Life had gotten a bit too complicated to squeeze in spontaneous activities.
Now spontaneity has a whole new meaning for me. Spontaneity is having to change a poopy diaper in between mat time and tummy time. Spontaneity is waking up with your infant at 5:15AM because he just doesn’t want to sleep until 6:45AM like he used to. Spontaneity is deciding to take a trip to Target with John because it’s too hot to go for a walk outside and there are a few random items that I could pick up. Spontaneity is blasting your favorite music while you clean the bathroom and your baby boy grins widely in his bouncy seat as he watches you- just because you can’t stand the hair on the floor or the smudge of toothpaste on the sink for a minute longer. That’s my new version of spontaneity, and I must say that I do like it.
Life with an infant almost requires that you accept a lack of spontaneity and a degree of inevitable monotony. Your days of just jumping into your car and driving to Starbucks are over. Now you have to convince your husband to watch your child, or you need to arrange for a babysitter at the last minute, or you have to load your baby in your car so that he can come with you. But if you go with the latter choice, you also have to make sure that you are bringing a fully-loaded diaper bag with you (the last thing you want is to find out that you forgot to restock your bag with diapers and wipes when your bundle of joy decides to leave his own bundle of something far less pleasant than joy in his diaper for you) and that your child is properly clothed and properly loaded into his car seat. There are no more spontaneous date nights for just the same reason. Everything requires a certain amount of planning once you have a child. Spontaneity is no longer about what you decide to do with you time, but about responding to your family’s decisions concerning what you should do with your time. Spontaneity ceases to be about what you do, but what is done to you.
But I’m okay with this new type of spontaneity. I’m okay with the monotony of my day-to-day life. I’m okay with knowing that the hours of my day will be spent wiping spit-up from every surface of my house, mixing, warming, and giving bottles to my stubborn son, changing countless diapers, and making the same sounds and faces over and over again just so that I can see my boy smile one more time. Because this new life is beautiful. This new life brings me comfort. It brings me joy. It brings me fulfillment. It is the greatest gift that I have ever been given. It might not be the idyllic existence that we dreamed of as teens and young adults. While we dreamed of cuddling with our newborns, gazing down lovingly into our firstborns’ eyes, and pushing our toddlers on a swing at the local playground, we often ignored the less charming aspects of motherhood- diaper explosions, rivers of spit-up, and cradle cap, just to name a few. Now that we have crossed the threshold, now that we are mothers ourselves, we understand something. There is beauty in every aspect of motherhood- the good, the bad, and the gross. That is the power of love.
Mary Help of Christians, pray for us!