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I stopped folding laundry to prepare for my 3rd baby

i stopped folding laundry- pregnant mom folding clothes
nomad studio/Stocksy

When I learned I was pregnant with my third baby, after the initial shock and excitement, I couldn’t stop thinking about this question: how was I going to do it all?

As a seasoned mom, I already knew what the answer was—I wasn’t. Even though my heart, metaphorically, grew in size after the births of my two other children, my capacity did not. I did not require less sleep, fresh air or adult connection. As I attended to the needs of the ones I loved so much, I could not escape the simple reality that I had needs, too. And I had prior life experience that had shown me the consequences of ignoring those needs.

During my first pregnancy, I read stacks of books about labor, delivery, lactation and parenting. During my second, I researched sleep schedules and the prevention of sibling rivalry. But, during my third? I didn’t read a single parenting book at all. I hoped I could remember the basics. Instead, I devoted my energy toward strategically planning to do less.

My first trimester was a great training ground for this exercise. With two children and an older body, the nausea and fatigue was even worse than I’d remembered. I looked at the piles of laundry each evening and realized—dish towels don’t actually need to be folded. It began to seem ridiculous that I’d ever sorted socks. In fact, why did we own such a variety? All matching black was easier, and no one’s fashion sense was worse for it.

Gagging on unisom and vitamin B, I considered the time it took to cook a meal. What was I trying to prove slaving over the stove in the evenings? Sandwiches were a perfectly acceptable dinner. Did I really need a clean plate for that slice of pizza? My kids learned how to operate the microwave on particularly exhausting nights (add water to the easy mac and press “2”). I told myself I was teaching resilience and life skills as I coached them from the couch.

I valued my sleep still. But my hygiene? Less so. My polished toenails were nearly always concealed with closed-toe shoes. My hair built up a tolerance to a slightly less-frequent washing schedule. I questioned whether every workout required a shower afterward. I was pretty sure a fresh application of deodorant was enough to mask the sweat I’d broken from half an hour of barre.

This was my preparation strategy for baby number three: to figure out what I could outsource or what I could cut. Not the things that mattered—the time at the park with my kids or my mental health walks—but the little things that somehow became big and started to take up too much room.

And while I know that throwing my jeans back in the closet rather than in the wash won’t actually account for the amount of time it takes to raise and love another human, it doesn’t feel like nothing.

I’ve learned time and again in parenting and adulthood that saying yes to one thing always means saying no to something else. I want to remain open to the things and people that matter. I want to unapologetically neglect the busywork that does not.