Monday, February 26, 2007

House routines

Routines. I find myself strangely dependent on them now that I'm a stay at home parent. It's great when Brett is home unexpectedly for a few days, but even so, I find myself feeling oddly relieved when things go back to "normal". And when we have visitors or someone's sick or some other factor arises that throws routines entirely to the wind for more than a couple days, I find myself coming just slightly unglued. Is this a common new parent thing? I'm guessing that maybe it is.

I've never been the queen of consistency and order, at least not at home. (My former employees would probably say I am, though.) But now there's a rhythm to my days that I like. We have a set order of activities when she gets up in the morning that takes us gently from waking to naptime, and from naptime to lunch. After lunch we usually go out and do something for a couple hours, either Gymboree or coffee with a friend or grocery shopping or visiting grandparents. Then late afternoon playtime and book reading, then get dinner ready, listen to music, dinner, and bed. Of course this varies, and there's no set schedule to it, but this is a pattern we seem to have fallen into and that we both like.

Routine is good for infants, say all kinds of books and experts. They help baby know what to expect, and to move calmly through her day. Funny how they do the exact same thing for me, though. It's soothing; when she moves through her day more peacefully, so do I. And the lack of chaos lets me carve out a little, precious amount of time for myself - a half hour here or there to retain something of my former interests, to write, or just to relax.

In the evening I clean the kitchen, reverently, like a call to prayer, and I find it meditative and calming to set it in order for the next day. Clearing the counters, washing the table, starting the dishwasher, sweeping (especially sweeping) - it calms the soul. That half hour of quiet setting the house to rights before bed gives me such a deep sense of satisfaction that it's become hard to go to bed without it. I turn out the lights when I've finished and head upstairs full of peace and ready to get up tomorrow and start over again.

This probably sounds obvious to many people, but it's new to me to discover that there's something deeply satisfying about caring for a house, especially a house you care for deeply. This modest little house still bowls me over with happiness from time to time - it's my first true house-love since the house I grew up in. (I documented that love many years ago, in this essay.) I have a soft spot for the house across the street, of course, but I moved into that when it was already Brett's. This house is mine as much as his, and I can't imagine that I'll ever love a house as much as this.

A quote I love that comes close to what I'm feeling these days:

"If you sweep a house, and tend its fires, and fill its stove, and there is love in you all the years you are doing this, then you and that house are married, [and] that house belongs to you." - Truman Capote, The Grass Harp

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