The birth of a child is precious. It’s exciting. It’s beautiful. You’re told to expect to lose sleep. You don’t understand the extent of this truth until it happens to you but still you’re warned. You’re told that you can’t imagine the love you’ll feel for your child. You’re told that your house will soon become cluttered with baby supplies and then toys.
Nobody tells you to expect to lose the ability of one of your hands.
It’s true. Being a mother to a small child means that you do everything with one hand and one hand only.
When that child is born you’ve signed off the rights to the other hand to your child. It is theirs.
As a newborn they sleep in your arms and that hand gently holds them in place. They’re snuggly. They sleep a lot (in the day). Then they get a little bigger. Holding a toddler is trickier. They don’t keep still. Ever. Maybe when they’re sick. You’re constantly trying to keep said toddler from doing something completely destructive like create a mural made of crayon on your dining room wall.
Here is a list of tasks that motherhood demands you do one-handed. It is not a complete list. I can’t type all day, people. I have children to raise and a house to (not) clean.
- Drive. Did you think your only job while driving was to ensure the safety of your passengers? Wrong. You must retrieve dropped/thrown pacifiers. Rescue cups (with lids that do not actually prevent spilling no matter what their packaging said) before the contents completely soak into the floor (thereby leaving a lingering stink that you can’t escape for days). You must find missing toys. Open snacks. Open more snacks. No not that one. Open another snack. Refill drinks. Tickle feet. Play and pause movies. Rewind movies. Fast forward movies through any parts deemed scary. Change movies. Referee sibling fights. Drink your coffee. Yes, that last one is important. You’re sleep and shower deprived. Enjoy that coffee, mama.
- Eat. It is completely against the rules to enjoy a meal without a baby in an arm. When they’re tiny they sleep and your meal is peaceful even while your range of motion is limited. All bets are off when that sleeping beauty turns 1. Eating out with a toddler is all about cramming as much food in your mouth before that squirmy little one makes his way into your lap. Because it’s happening, folks.
- Eat soup. Like regular eating but harder. You’ll only try it once.
- Warm a bottle.
- Drink. Tea. Water. Wine. Coffee. Whatever. Enjoying a beverage is easy peasy with a small baby. You use their sweet little body as a lap table. Or at least I did. Holding a toddler while wetting your whistle feels like trying to contain a tasmanian devil whose only goal is to spill as much liquid as possible. And they will win.
- Go to the bathroom. Of course you can do this one handed. But wouldn’t it be a treat if you could use the restroom behind a closed door, with nobody talking to you, without having to wrestle an entire roll of toilet paper from a little one’s grip, and with the use of both hands so you can enjoy playing on your phone in peace? Don’t tell me this isn’t your dream. I won’t believe you.
- Scrub the toilets. Just kidding. I don’t do that.
- Twist the stem off an apple.
- Twist the lid off a jar. Any jar.
- Change a diaper. This challenge is very present in my life at the moment. My almost two year old has decided she only wants to be changed while standing up. Even if there’s poop. There. Are. Not. Words. While she’s trying to flee I must use one hand to prevent her escape, hold her dress up, and swat that chubby little hand away that’s trying to touch her filthy bottom. Why she wants to touch her poop I do not know. But she does. This leaves me with only one hand to wipe, unfold the diaper, line up the diaper just so, pick it up off the floor when it’s fallen, line up the diaper just so again, attach the diaper, and reattach the diaper when I see I’ve done a crummy job. This skill requires ninja-like training, many prayers, and twenty to thirty wipes. Meanwhile once a week when my husband changes her diaper she runs to him and lies down like a perfect angel.
- Feed the dog.
- Put on socks and shoes. It’s harder than you think.
- Pull hot food out of the oven.
- Butter toast. The toast never wants to stay put when you’re trying to spread the butter. It’s annoying. I need something (obviously not my other hand since that ain’t happening) to hold it steady. I should hire someone for this task. Any volunteers? I’ll need you between 6 am and 6:03 am.
- Peel an orange.
- Open the milk carton. Every. Single. Morning. Twisting off that lid is an acquired talent. You will acquire it. It’s either that or suffer the wrath of a tiny sleepy tyrant.
- Install batteries.
- Repair a toy.
- Change the sheets on a bed. Ha ha ha ha ha ha. I’m just going to laugh. Give up now.
- Peel a carrot.
- Speed clean the entire house before the husband gets home or guests arrive.
- Write. You never know how important it is to hold that paper still until you can’t do it.
- Put on makeup. When your baby is new this is no problem. You just time up your makeup application according to when the baby sleeps. I’ve applied makeup while breastfeeding with minimal trouble too. There’s a good deal of balancing involved but it can be done. When your baby is mobile, nap times become less frequent and you are suddenly expected to leave the house on occasion. It gets more complex. My daughter’s face lights up when I pull my makeup bag out. She plops on the floor and waits for me to place it in front of her for her to explore. Every lipstick tube must be twisted. Every mascara wand pulled out. Every powder compact opened and slammed against the tile. With one hand I’m trying to prevent her from destroying my favorite products while simultaneously getting my face ready for the world. So give me a pass when I have mascara smeared on my eyelid please. At least it’s in the proximity of where it should be.
- Vacuum, sweep, or mop.
- Chop vegetables. Cutting off one of your child’s digits is frowned upon. So good luck with this one.
- Chop an onion. Yes it’s similar to chopping vegetables but there’s lots of crying involved (yours) so it warrants it’s own number.
- Shop. It’s almost like my husband has trained my children to do their very best to prevent me from purchasing anything.
- Grocery shop. Like regular shopping but with snacks.
- Do laundry. This doesn’t seem so intimidating until you try it. Bending down repeatedly to move clothes from the washing machine to the dryer while holding my 29 lb helper is my gym workout. And then there’s folding. That freshly washed shirt might as well be origami. It is that hard to fold one-handed.
- Wash your hands.
- Be sick. Don’t do it when you have small children. Nobody cares. You’ll still be called to do everything you already do but you must do it while feeling like death and with one hand.
- Paint your nails.
- Prepare raw chicken. I am a freak about uncooked chicken. It creeps me out. I make it a lot but I am so very careful about the preparation. My mother in-law laughs because when my husband fries chicken I follow him around with my 409. I know he won’t clean up after himself. I have this mental image of my children getting salmonella from his chicken splatter. I once ate at a friend’s house and watched her flip her fully-cooked chicken with the same (unwashed) tongs she used when it was raw. Although I managed to not throw up at the sight (point for me) I did politely decline to have any on my salad. I tell you all this so you can understand why working with raw chicken while holding my child is such a nightmare for me.
- Read stories. Yes, reading doesn’t require hands. Turning the pages does.
- Open a candy wrapper.
- Unload the dishwasher. If I want to do this at any point during the day other than the 30 total minutes that my toddler is entertained by something other than me, I have two choices. I can bend repeatedly with 29 lbs in my arms. That’d be a no. Or I can put my toddler on the floor and let her assist. It is a race to see which of us can reach the knives and breakable dishes first. I (usually) win.
- Style your hair. Just do what I do and don’t.