All this past weekend I couldn’t stop thinking about schedules. The word schedule comes from the Latin schedula or “slip of paper,” a diminutive of scheda, from the Greek skhedē, meaning “papyrus leaf.” I like that its origins have to do with plants and paper — and writing.
If you read my last post (Take your twins to work — every day) you know that I’ve been struggling with balancing writing and twin-care. The twins are on a pretty set schedule — wake up, bottle, play, nap, breakfast, play, walk, lunch, nap, play, dinner, walk, play, bottle, bed. Could I sum up my day in the same simple way?
Right now it’s like this: wake up, shower, tea, morning pages, set up breakfast for twins (the twins have been with their dad or napping through all this), then … the twins are up!
Change twins, feed twins, clean up after twins while twins play, play with twins, put on twins’ jackets, get twins in stroller, stroll, de-jacket twins, set up lunch while twins play, change twins, feed twins, clean up after twins while twins play, put twins down for a nap.
Breathe. Make a fresh pot of tea. Sit at desk. Open a piece of writing. Think, I’m too tired. Close a piece of writing. Check blog stats. Respond to comments. Follow links. Doodle around Facebook. Scan e-mail. Move to couch. Read about Sylvia Plath or Ted Hughes or North Korea or whatever happened in the Sunday New York Times that you haven’t read yet. Check clock. Sigh. Set up dinner while the twins are still asleep.
The twins are up! Change twins, feed twins, clean up after twins while twins play, play with twins, put on twins’ jackets, get twins in stroller, stroll, de-jacket twins, play with twins until their dad comes home. Ah.
But then — prep their last bottles, set out their tooth brush, lay out their sleep sacks, make sure there’s a pacifier in each crib, restock diapers on the changing table, clear a path through the chaos of toys so we don’t break our necks if we come in in the night, set up little pyramids of blocks or stacks of rings for them to discover in the morning. Feed last bottles. Help brush teeth. Help put in overnight diapers. Either read or let their dad read three bedtime books. Kiss tops of heads. Check thermostat. Turn on white noise machine. Turn out the light. Wave good night. Leave door cracked. Ah.
But then — wash bottles. Wipe down high chairs. Sweep and/or mop floor. Time for dinner (mine). Ugh. A bowl of cereal? Sure. Do I want to read? Maybe. What’s on PBS? What’s on network? American Experience? A show about whales? The Bachelor? Great. [Zone out.] Check the clock. Sigh. Brush teeth (mine). Wash face (mine). Read one bedtime book (mine). Turn out the light. Good night.
Then — all too few hours later — get up and do it again!
Before I wrote this post I had been wondering what makes twin-care so hard. Each individual action isn’t so hard — but it all adds up to exhaustion. It’s constant — and non-negotiable. In contrast, my writing is sporadic and highly negotiable, which is one of the reasons my writing will lose out to twin-care or, when it’s really needed, self-care.
So I’ve been thinking about setting a weekly schedule — sort of like the way Ma did in the Little House books: “Wash on Monday, Iron on Tuesday, Mend on Wednesday, Churn on Thursday, Clean on Friday, Bake on Saturday, Rest on Sunday.” (Although I’ll be skipping Ironing, Mending, Churning and, for the most part, Baking.)
Last week I declared Friday a domestic day. I wouldn’t fret about writing. I’d do a little tidying, unpack a few boxes from our recent move, maybe make something slightly more elaborate than a peanut butter sandwich to eat. If I read it would be purely for fun — not for any project I was brewing up. And it was delightful. I’m thinking about having a couple of domestic days each week.
I’m also thinking about rereading the Rule of St. Benedict. Really? Yeah. Way back around the year 500, Benedict got fed up with sloppy monastic habits and wrote a rule for monasteries. It’s divided up into daily installments that were to be read out loud at mealtimes so all the monks could hear — and obey. While this might not sound relevant to 21st century life, the commentary in the edition by Joan Chittister (The Rule of Benedict: A Spirituality for the 21st Century) makes it so.
But until I can find that book on whatever shelf it’s on — or box it’s lingering in — I will take heart from this quote from Cheryl Strayed, which I found on one of my Facebook prowls:
Don’t lament so much about how your career is going to turn out. You don’t have a career. You have a life. Do the work. Keep the faith. Be true blue. You are a writer because you write. Keep writing and quit your bitching. Your book has a birthday. You don’t know what it is yet.
What kind of schedule do you keep? Mom or not, writer or not, I’d be interested to know! Feel free to leave a comment below …