When Do We Stop Surviving … And Start Enjoying? - The Grace Tales

When Do We Stop Surviving … And Start Enjoying?

I’ll never forget an old colleague of mine who, after promptly logging off at 5pm to head to the pub, glanced worryingly at the host of unticked items on his to-do list and claimed that he was, “Really unkind to the Simon of tomorrow.”

As he jolted off to down a couple of schooners and I stayed back to clear out every email in my inbox, I realised that I was the very opposite. I wouldn’t head out until every last request had been completed. In fact, I would even write tomorrow’s to-do list to give myself one less thing to do tomorrow.

In other words? I was always kind to the Amy of tomorrow, often at the expense of the Amy of today.

While this tendency could undoubtedly be attributed to my own idiosyncrasies, I do think that as mothers, we get this act down to a fine art. We don’t let the dishes soak as we sit down to Netflix – we wait until every last bowl has been washed and put away. We don’t let the laundry basket get too full, because God forbid what it might look like tomorrow. We meal prep and chop veggies and make lunchboxes in advance because the thought of it being just another thing to do tomorrow can almost be too much to bear.

We are led to believe that once all this work is done, then we can take a moment to breathe. Then things will be better.

The ironic thing is – it really never is done, is it? I’ve been powering through my washing diligently for years now, and can confidently confirm that it’s actually never been complete. So why do I feel this uneasy pressure to have it all done at this very moment, before I give myself permission to stop? To relax? To enjoy?

I have been hearing a lot of the same sentiment recently with regard to my new baby. “Wait until he’s 12 weeks,” I keep being told. “Then the hardest part is over, and things will be so much easier.” Similarly, now that I have three small children, I keep hearing, “Wait until they’re all at school. Then the hard yards are over, and you can breathe.”

It has really made me think … When will it all be over? And how morbid is that? I don’t want this to be over!

I’m the first to acknowledge that gratitude in the moment can be insufferably hard. “Enjoying every second” just isn’t a realistic option when you have one baby breastfeeding, a toddler coughing directly into your mouth and another child informing you they’ve missed the toilet bowl.

But even so, is there ever going to be a moment when everything is done? When everything is better?

If so, what would that look like? An empty inbox. A great sum of cash in savings and superannuation. A perfectly sculpted Pilates body thanks to thrice weekly classes. An alphabetised pantry. A cleared-out junk drawer. A colour coded capsule wardrobe – for each family member. Every child sleeping through the night. Every health check up to date and all vitamin levels perfected. All school notes read and filed appropriately. All laundry, dishes, meals and cleaning completed.

What will it take for us to say, “I have done enough?” To move beyond surviving and ticking off lists and waiting until things are better, or different, or done? When can we simply start enjoying?

Perhaps I’m in the minority here, and everyone else is in fact off enjoying their lives while their sinks overflow. But I have a hunch that I’m not. That even if we do take ourselves off to Spain or the spa (or the supermarket – let’s be real), we’re worrying about what will await us when we return.

So what is the solution?

Is it to throw caution to the wind and abandon all pressure and expectations? Something tells me that would make me feel even more uncomfortable. (Just try enjoying Queer Eye as you glance around at your own Lego-strewn living room.)

Maybe it is as simple as a cliched Instagram post would lead us to believe … And we just need to find joy in the micro moments. Because as we all know too well, the days may be long, but the years are short. And I certainly know I won’t look back in 30 years and be proud of my empty dishwasher.

But for now, I’m not sure of the answer. I don’t know when enough will be enough. Perhaps I’ll find out once I finish this last load of laundry.