Adding a child to the family is a big event no matter the circumstances. It’s a whole new person to get to know and to care for, and in the beginning, the child’s needs are pretty significant. Even when we adopted Zinashi at age three, and she was already potty trained, there was a ton that we needed to do for her. It’s a big deal to figure out how to make the rest of life work when you’ve got a whole other human being to look out for. With Elvie’s adoption and homecoming, there has been so much that has been unexpected and that has not gone according to plan that I feel like it is all I can do to just keep meeting everyone’s basic needs in a timely manner.
I am a planner by nature, and now I need a new plan, but I’m too tired to make one. So instead, I have begun repeating the only words that make sense to me in this situation, that remind me how to get things done even when I see the piles of clutter and mountains of laundry around me and have no clue where to start. For me, saying this, sometimes out loud, has helped immensely. It’s so simple, but it makes a huge difference in my day.
My new mantra is, “Just do one thing.” That’s it. When I see all the dishes piled up on the table and around the sink, with the dishwasher full of clean dishes that I really don’t feel like putting away, I say, “Okay, Mary, just do one thing.” So maybe I start with putting away the cups (because the entire dishwasher full of dishes is definitely not just one thing), and then if I complete that and no one has an urgent need, I might remind myself again, “Just do one thing.” And then maybe I’ll put away the silverware, or maybe I will abandon the dishwasher and grab something that’s been left in the entryway that belongs somewhere else and put it away. All I need to do is one thing. If I don’t get anything done after that one thing, that’s okay.
It’s working surprisingly well. Sometimes I really do only get one thing done. Having a baby who requires quite a lot of feedings and multiple medications, plus a five-year-old who missed me terribly and still wants to show it in the most dramatic way possible, is quite time consuming. Add to that my desire to simply enjoy both my girls, and you can see how the day’s chores can get derailed, and catching up on things can seem downright impossible. But doing just one thing doesn’t require an hour or even ten minutes. One thing might take ten seconds sometimes, and that is one thing that is done that wasn’t done before.
It will take me a long time to catch up, and some things I might deem too time consuming and just abandon altogether. But I really don’t want to leave all Zinashi’s outgrown clothes in a pile at the end of the bed or never pick up that piece of tape that got stuck to the hallway rug and bothers me every time I walk by it with my hands full. I know that I want order in my house again, and I don’t want to lose all the progress that I have made each day. So when I am not too tired or too busy with caring for the immediate needs of my little family to do something more substantial, I do just one thing. And then I do another, and another after that. When I do more than five in a row, I feel a genuine sense of accomplishment.
Eventually, we will be caught up enough that life feels normal. I know that will come. It happened with Zinashi’s entrance into our family, and it will happen with Elvie’s entrance as well. I may feel frazzled, and I may not get dressed some days, but there will come a day that all those individual tasks add up to us having a normal routine. Until then, I will keep going. I will remember to offer myself the graces that are due to all new mothers. I will remember that this adjustment is hard sometimes, but I can do just one thing, and that will make a difference.