Deep But Narrow: How Parenting In The Trenches Is Like My Cluttered Pantry

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Toddlers and tidiness don’t go together, but regardless, I’m trying to get my spring cleaning on. Last week I started with my pantry, taking an inventory of the things that were expired or stale, consolidating duplicates and overflow, and strategically organizing for easy access and optimal visibility.

My pantry is deeper than it is wide, which forces me to create rows – one in front of the other. The most used items sit in the front, the bigger items and extras sit in the back. After awhile, I forget about everything in the second and third rows because they’re obscured or altogether hidden by everything in front of it. That’s how I end up with things like three open bags of folded up Cheerios and five-year-old corn syrup.

Parenting small children is, for me at least, similar in scope to my pantry: deep but narrow. With all of its facets and layers, motherhood has incredible depth, but in the early years, it’s hard to see that I’m doing anything as a mom beyond the small and often messy day-to-day tasks that demand all of my attention – diapers to change, meals and snacks to prepare, outfits to change, hair to fix, laces to tie, hands to wash, teeth to brush, naps to take, parks to visit; the list goes on and on. Out of sheer survival, I compartmentalize and place these checkboxes front and center.

Focusing only on the functional side of motherhood gets me into trouble not only because I feel guilty if I can’t get it all done – which seems often – but most importantly because it overlooks the other intangible stuff I’m doing each and everyday as a mom – the stuff that operates underneath, behind, and between all of those small jobs.

Like my pantry, my perspective of motherhood needs occasional reshuffling. The stuff I place in the back needs to be dusted off and brought to the front to remind myself it’s been there all along. I forget about all of those inner qualities that direct and inspire each and every thing I do for my children – the love, the patience, the gentleness, the honesty, the forgiveness, the generosity, the encouragement…these things are the big things, the important things. They may not leave any traces of proof like a dish washed or a diaper changed, but they are the things that shape our children into who they’ll become.

Even though my pantry looks great now, I know it’s only a matter of time before things get jumbled again, and there’s no getting around the fact that I still can’t see the stuff in the back. That’s okay because cleaning it out was not only refreshing but useful because it reminded me of all of the good stuff I have in there.

What’s on your spring-cleaning list? I would love to hear all about it. Comment below and let me know!

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