one room at a time

Last week Ezra, who is, by the way, ridiculously happy so much of the time, was feeling a little fraught in the afternoon and getting somewhat fussy. That happens, I know. Mostly it was because he was tired and having an enthusiastic older sister means that he doesn’t often get long or deep naps.

So we thought we’d experiment this week – basically, for the first three days of this week, I did as close to nothing as possible during the days. Didn’t have any big playdates, no busy tidying of the house or sorting or rushing. Just really laid back, relaxed hours. And the result has been a clear shift in the tempo of this house, which was getting a little bit too full of everything.

Have I mentioned I am terrible at slowing down? Really. Just awful. It’s not my nature. Take for example my approach to watching a show. If I enjoy it, I have to watch it all, right there and then. I’ll happily sacrifice hours of sleep and sanity for the ability to do it all right there and then. (Like how I’ve just watched all 4 and ½ seasons of Breaking Bad in around a month. Or like the time I wrote, and then re-wrote my thesis in 24 hours. Definitely not fun.)

I could just take it slow, just pace myself, but I honestly don’t know how to do things like that. I have to throw myself in wholeheartedly and immerse myself in it until it is over and I can just let it go.

Along with that, I also find it hard to resist a challenge. If something seems intimidating to me, or somewhat overwhelming, I think I maintain a sense of togetherness by tackling it head on. Not because I want to, or think it will be good for me, but because I hate the feeling of not being able to do something.

And so, what happens sometimes, and recently, is that I end up doing too much and for the wrong reasons. Because I think it’s what I should be doing, or what is expected of me. I have a long way to go deschooling myself.

Sometimes, going to the opposite extreme is the only way of then finding middle ground and some kind of balance or whatever comes close. Which is why I’ve deliberately just done very little during the day this week, other than, you know, parenting. Which is definitely not doing nothing, of course.

It’s been nice. Really nice. It’s been easier to see all the things that really don’t need to be done, that can wait until Howard gets home, or the weekend. And when the weekend comes around, and I think to myself of all the things I would like to make, and paint, and tidy and sort and places to visit…well, I’m coming to understand that it is simply not possible, or enjoyable, to fit it all in. It just isn’t.

I tell myself that I will find time in the evening to read, and knit, and do a little bit of sewing, and write another 1, 000 words and then when 9 o’ clock rolls around and both my kids are sleeping, the thought of getting the sewing machine out and everything set up or cut out or ironed is just not that appealing. Because it turns out sleep is nice, sometimes, too. It really is a Mama’s best friend.

Multi-tasking just doesn’t cover what having two children is like, but it’s not the physical demands – it’s the mental and emotional energy you spend trying to be as mindful as possible with two children, all the time, who want and need different things. It’s tough, but also really amazing, enjoyable, and pretty mind-blowing.

I thought of having two the same way I did as having one. In very abstract terms. But it’s not abstract, it’s just another human being that I now can’t imagine being without. It’s Ezra. He fits right in. In fact, it’s so lovely having this little person here now, it doesn’t seem at all daunting to think of having more. Because it will just work, in whatever new way it can do.

The only thing I do find tough is not having enough time to be as creative as I’d like to be, in the ways I love. I have so many things I want to be making. I have writing to do, which has to take priority, but I have list and lists of all the things I want to make, and the knowledge that right now, I just don’t have the time for it.

And thus, I am reminded it might be time to try that steady and slow thing. Little bits at a time, here and there. As much as I would love to finish Ezra’s quilt in one or two days this weekend, the reality is I know it will probably take me weeks, if I’m lucky. The elf hats I’m making for a GP Mama will take days instead of hours. The dresses and birthday presents, the wedding gifts and then, don’t even mention Christmas or Ava’s third birthday.

I read somewhere that multi-tasking is now thought to be pretty detrimental to a person’s mental health, and I wonder if that’s why, at the end of a day, all I can really do is something that requires little brain power. Apparently, doing things one at a time makes for a peaceful mind.

In the sudden and last-minute move back to York over a year ago now, amidst a good deal of unpleasant drama, with the task of packing up all our earthly belongings as quickly as possible looming ahead, a good friend told me that he knew I’d be panicking and wondering how I was going to do it all, and writing lists, and picking things up here and there. ‘Just one room at a time, Kendal’, he said. And that’s a lesson I feel like I really can’t ignore anymore. Keep the things that are important, discard the things that are not, and tackle everything, just one thing at a time.



About Kendal

I'm Kendal Mosley-Chalk. I live in York with my husband and four children.
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2 Responses to one room at a time

  1. mshannahw says:

    Oh man I could relate to this so much! I’m always full of ideas for things I want to write/draw/make/do but am slowly realizing I don’t have time to do them all, at least not as quickly as I’d like. I must admit the aspect of being a parent I find hardest is not having time to be creative (especially as Freddie still has a lot of trouble sleeping, so I don’t even get an evening free – just an hour or so nap time and maybe another hour or so in the evening, by which point I’m exhausted) – it leaves me feeling grumpy/unfulfilled/low on self-esteem. I multi-task constantly as I’d never get anything done otherwise… well, I would, but at an even slower pace. Everything’s a compromise I suppose!

  2. mshannahw says:

    Actually, on reflection what I said isn’t strictly true – I only constantly multi task in my free time. Sometimes when Freddie is awake & busy absorbed in play I try to pick up some sewing or drawing but within a minute he’ll be over trying to see/touch whatever I’m doing!

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