As the Mobile Turns

When I was pregnant, I went to a designer baby store to look for crib bedding. “Sucker” was probably written across my forehead as I wandered doe-eyed through the aisles and fingered all of the store’s delights. I fell in love with a set called “Velour Animals.” Lions, giraffes, and the like prance around palm trees on a white background with green gingham trim. I wanted everything from the comforter to the window shades, and I especially wanted the mobile. What I didn’t know at the time was that this store, with its high-end prices, produced a low-end mobile. Don’t get me wrong; it looks great. Five plush animals — an elephant, a giraffe, a lion, a zebra, and a brown thing (I think it’s supposed to be a tiger) — dangle from white cord and spin lazily to “It’s a Small World.” The problem is in the mechanism. In a market filled with battery-operated gizmos that amuse kids with song after song, this mobile is the wind-up kind that plays for barely five minutes.

I didn’t get around to opening the mobile until after Elyse was a few weeks old. When I cranked it up for the first time, I was pissed. I had just seen one in a competitor’s catalog that had four or five settings. Just at I was about to snatch it down and put it back into the box, I noticed that my daughter was mesmerized by its lackadaisical action. My daughter slept through the first few weeks of her life, so I was surprised to see something hold her attention.

That mobile, in its simplistic glory, has become my friend during the past few months. It’s a safe-haven for Elyse that gives me a few moments when I don’t have to be within arms reach. And I can get more done in those five minutes than I ever thought possible. Here are just a few examples:

Tidy up the kitchen. I can unload and load the dishes into the dishwasher without sacrificing a single plate.

Laundry. I can put a load in the dryer, start a new load, and bring up a basket of clothes. If I’m lucky, I can even put them away.

Shower and dress. I have to run back into her room after the shower to restart the mobile so that I have time to get dressed. One day, I forgot that the blinds were open. I wonder if that’s why the neighbors don’t wave to me anymore.

The good news is that the mobile has helped me to learn how to break bigger tasks up into smaller ones so that I can finish them. The bad news is that I don’t always know when to slow down, and I rush when I don’t have to. Some nights after my daughter is asleep, I’m still whizzing through the house as if the mobile will shut off at any second. I speed through the supermarket, trying to buy $200 worth of groceries in less than 20 minutes. Or, I cram too much into a time span. Not even The Flash can get up, make breakfast, dress two people, take one of them to the sitter and get to work by 8:30 if he doesn’t wake up until 7:35.

When I was five years old, you couldn’t have told me that I wasn’t going to be the next Wonder Woman. I would spin in circles until I was dizzy, hoping that my stars-and-stripes Underoos would transform into plated armor. I accepted my fate as a mere mortal once I got older, but I think that motherhood subconsciously made me revisit that decision. I’ve been trying to take on the world, and there are a few chinks in my armor as a result. My nails are a bit misshaped. I carried a brown bag with a black outfit last week, and I haven’t been to the hair salon in three weeks. (For me, this in particular is a tragedy. I used to go to the hairdresser every Thursday.)

So I’m hanging up my golden lasso and seeking balance. It’s far more important for me to spend time with Elyse than to clean house or run errands, so I want to get that stuff out of the way. But if I’m wiped out from the race against the clock, then the time that I have with her isn’t well spent. I’m learning to sit my butt down and stop obsessing over the forks in the sink or the clothes in the hamper. I’ve decided to work in a couple of long baths or get a pedicure instead. And the next time I turn on the mobile, I’m going to stay in the room with Elyse and see if I can figure out what that brown thing is supposed to be. Maybe it’s a buffalo.

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