As I write this, my wife and I are expecting our third baby girl to join us within the next week. I wish I could say there is nothing but pure excitement in our house, but as anyone who has kids knows, there are a number of things to do once you know it is “time.” Depending on your situation, which you can’t predetermine, you may not have much time to accomplish everything and get out the door, so most of us put together a checklist to help us remember.
I use checklists all the time. They are a prominent fixture in my life and it is inevitable that others see me using or creating them. In most cases there is one of two responses: an agreement that the checklist is helpful or a joke about its worthlessness for them.
But despite the reaction, I know I’ll stick by my list. I’m all too aware of the shortcomings of my memory. Even if I remember an item the first 50 times through, eventually it becomes second nature and I’ll be unable to recall if I completed a task or just think I did. It’s much like trying to remember if you closed the garage door. You’ve done it so many times that the task is automatic and there’s nothing to trigger your memory to indicate that you actually did it this time. So you’re left wondering if it happened at all, or turning around to make sure it’s shut.
In the case of going into labor, I want my focus to be on helping my wife. But I still need to make sure all bags are in the car, the hospital is aware that we are coming, that someone is home to watch our girls, and on and on. The situation could be one of extreme urgency (at least to me) and yet I want and need to be attentive to my wife. Thus, a checklist to spell out these mundane but important tasks.
I have a list of things to do that kicks off the moment my wife starts having contractions. It doesn’t make me a robot, it gives my mind the freedom to be attentive to situational needs without worrying about what comes next. The potential for urgency and stress is high. In that moment I want to be there for my wife and not wandering the house trying to make sure I have everything in place. This checklist is far from impersonal. It allows me to be present.