Time to Play
By Melissa Face
have been inundated with parental advice from the moment I first announced my pregnancy. Friends and co-workers offered me tips about diet, daycare, and health insurance long before my precious bundle made his entrance
into the world. The most popular piece of advice came at me from nearly every direction. “Sleep while you can,” people repeated, as though women in their third trimesters of pregnancy really sleep soundly. But months later, I knew exactly what they meant.
When I returned to work from maternity leave, co-workers kindly asked me how I was adjusting to motherhood. “I just feel like I can’t get anything done like I used to,” I told them. “My house is a disaster; the bills are piling up, and I haven’t had a moment to myself since Evan was born.”
“Welcome to motherhood!” they laughed. “You will never get things done like you used to. That’s just the way it is.”
Feeling less than comforted by the conversation, I started to head back to my work area. I felt someone grab my arm, and I turned around. Another teacher named Vicki told me to follow her.
“I know you probably get plenty of advice,” Vicki began. “But I just want to tell you one thing that I wish someone had told me.”
“Go ahead,” I encouraged. “I’m definitely open to suggestions.”
“Let the dishes pile up,” she said. “Let the laundry accumulate. Do less housework than you ever have before, even though there is more to do than ever before.”
“What?” I asked, flabbergasted. I thought she was going to give me some sort of magic formula for getting everything done.
“I’m serious,” she continued. “Let go of the housework and spend time with your baby. I spent too much time worrying about laundry and dishes. Those things just don’t matter.”
As summer break approached, I became more excited about spending ten weeks with my toddler. I was looking forward to day trips, lunches, afternoon naps and mornings at the neighborhood pool. I wanted to sit on the floor and play with trucks, tractors and trains. I wanted to watch Clifford, The Cat in the Hat and Curious George. I knew it was going to be a great summer.
I thought about Vicki’s advice from earlier in the spring and decided to shrug off my domestic duties, at least temporarily. When I put Evan down for his nap in the Pac n Play one afternoon, I thought about the dishes, the laundry and the dirty floors. I could easily get those things taken care of while Evan napped. But I decided not to. Instead, I climbed in my bed next to Evan’s Pac N Play. Today, we were both going to take a nap.
“Hi, Mama!” Evan squealed. He turned to watch me lie down and adjust my pillow. “Play?” he asked, hopefully.
“No buddy,” I told him. “It’s naptime. Go night night.”
For a few minutes, he turned and squirmed, attempting to make himself comfortable. After a while, he seemed to forget I was in the room. Then, he twirled his blanket around his hand and his voice became softer and softer. He repeated, “tractor, truck, big truck, yay! tractor, truck, big truck, yay!”
I was thrilled to be in that moment and hear his sleepy baby monologue. And at the same time, I had to hide my face in the pillow in order to keep from laughing.
Eventually, Evan fell asleep, and I did also. We both woke up a couple of hours later, happy and hungry. We had snacks and played and watched Barney videos until my husband came home from work.
That night, once we put the baby to bed, I picked up the toys and books that littered the floor. My husband and I cleaned up the kitchen and discussed our day. I told him about naptime with Evan. And while a small part of me wished that I had taken better care of the house that day, a much larger part realized that I had done exactly what I was supposed to do.
I was fortunate to receive a really great piece of advice several months ago, and I have thought about it every day since. Right now, there is a blanket of dust covering my entertainment center, and there are tiny fingerprints on my sliding glass window. I need to clean the house, but it will have to wait. Evan is pulling the trucks out of his toy basket, and I am taking time to play.
About this writer
- Melissa Face lives in Virginia with her husband, son and dog. Her stories and essays have appeared in Chicken Soup for the Soul and Cup of Comfort. E-mail Melissa at firstname.lastname@example.org.