How do you do it? That’s the question that I sometimes get from stay-at-home moms of one or two children. How do you make time for yourself in addition to making sure that the kids’ needs are met without going mad? I’d like to tell them that I don’t. Sure, I like to appear to have it all together but in all honesty, my life can be anything but all together. There is always dirty laundry in the hamper and sometimes even dishes in the sink. Things go undone. I am ashamed to admit, but hair sometimes also goes uncombed. Thank goodness for hijab, right? I learned to prioritize, though. The tasks that matter get tackled first and the ones that don’t matter as much get pushed towards the bottom-and often recycled into the next day’s list. In a perfect world, things would go according to plan. My kids would get out of bed in the morning when told, brush their teeth without argument, and not forget book bags on the way out the door. But in real life, the opposite happens. And the cat doesn’t clean his own litter box. So for the mothers who would like to know exactly how I do it, I thought I would offer some insight by giving you a glimpse into my average day. Yesterday being the example.
My children are not really normal children. I know that sounds mean, but I am only being truthful. When I was their age, I did what I was told. My mother didn’t have to ask twice. I followed directions without any complaint and was epitome of a well-behaved child. Okay, that might be a bit of an exaggeration. I probably did grumble when asked to do something. Anyhow, my day started off with waking the kids. Of course the alarm on my phone is so soothing that I slept right through it. That means that I was running way behind schedule. It was 7:54 in the morning, and I had twenty one minutes to get everyone across the threshold and on their way to school. Scoff if you want, but I am a miracle worker. I can get an entire clan dressed and ready quicker than many of you can fry an egg.
I opened the curtains to let the sunlight stream in, shocking the kids into awareness. It didn’t have quite the effect I was looking for, so I went to my trusty back-up: clapping loudly and banging on doors. I am obnoxious that way. Thing One hopped out of bed as she normally does, and pranced off to the bathroom where she stood for 2 minutes before even putting toothpaste on her toothbrush. I do not have two precious minutes to waste, so I took command of my post at the bathroom door as the “Time Keeper”, making sure that everyone’s teeth were brushed and faces were washed with great efficiency. No “lollygagging, smiling in the mirror, making toothpaste designs on the counter” sort of tom foolery can take place while I am on post. As the children filed out of the bathroom, I stuffed everyone into clean pants and shirts. Lined up in perfect formation with the threat of a beating held over their heads if they didn’t comply (I had a plastic spatula in hand just in case), everyone received one squirt of lotion into their palm, which was used to de-ashify faces and hands. Granola bars were thrown into back packs, and the entire crew filed out the door behind my husband at 8:12. Three minutes to spare. Yes, we are that good.
I got myself dressed and out the door just as quickly. About an hour after arriving to work, I received a call from the school nurse. I have her programmed in my phone and we are on a first name basis. Can you tell we are in touch often? Of course, Thing Two had a headache. I have never seen a kid spend as much time on the cot in the nurse’s office as he does. I am beginning to suspect that he has a crush on her. Since my husband was working later in the day, he went to fetch the boy. Thing Two spent the rest of the afternoon watching television and playing with toys. Said headache mysteriously disappeared without intervention.
Things don’t really get hectic until after work. When I leave the building, I go straight to my mother in law’s apartment to pick up the kids, since she watches them from the time I drop them off after school (on my lunch break) until I come to pick them up after work. Despite the fact that I have a limited amount of time left in the day, she insists on filling me in on the latest from Basketball Wives and Dancing with the Stars. I have told her repeatedly that I am not familiar with any of the people she is referring to, but she needed to vent about it nonetheless. I also got the lowdown on the shenanigans and foolishness involving the popsicle pimp across the hall. After the briefing, I gathered the kids and headed home as quickly as I could without getting a speeding ticket. Once I got there, I still needed to cook dinner, check homework, and make sure everyone bathed. Speaking of baths, I have been slipping big time on the sniff tests. The kids have taken advantage of this lapse in judgment. After everyone was seated at the table, I went into the bathroom and noticed that the bar of soap had never been moved from the sink to the bathtub, and it was still bone dry. Funky kids.
Dinner never goes by without a complaint. “I don’t like this. Are there any other choices?” Yes. Your other choice is to go to bed without eating. I am not a short order cook. Complaints ceased and dinner was eaten. Little Linebacker then requested hot tea for his sore throat. What does a four year old know about hot tea? We aren’t in London. Did he mean sweet tea? Because that’s how we roll in the south. But, no. He said “hot tea” and meant it. The remaining children demanded equality, and wanted hot tea as well. That presented a problem. Since my husband and I are normally the only people in the house who drink hot beverages, I only own two coffee cups. I know, that’s pretty piss poor. It just never dawned on me that one day, we might have to entertain multiple guests who would suddenly have an inkling for hot tea. I’ll be heading to Ikea this weekend to stock up on cups, so cut me some slack.
With only two coffee cups and four children who wanted hot tea, everyone had to take turns. That meant the first two children had to let their tea cool enough to drink. And since it was a novelty, they took their sweet time drinking it while the remaining two waited impatiently, hemming and hawing the whole time. Eventually, tea was served hugs and kisses were distributed, and everyone was tucked into bed. I had 10 minutes to relax before my husband came home, which I spent washing dishes, wiping crumbs off the table, and picking sticky grains of rice out of the carpet. “Why doesn’t your husband do the dishes?” I am sure some of you may be asking. Well, he believes that the dishwasher has a built in garbage disposal, and loads it with food still on plates. Which gets baked on during the drying cycle. Then I have to pry the food off and re-wash. Have you ever pried dry pasta off of a plate? It just isn’t worth the headache. My husband means well though, and I love him for it. He does handle the wiping down of the counters and stove, as well as sweeping and mopping with precision.
After watching 30 minutes of entertainment via Netflix, we headed to bed. I still had not ironed clothes for the next day, and I forgot to make Little Linebacker do his homework (and he is in pre-kindergarten, for those of you who were wondering). But I do what I can, and hope for the best. Any that’s how I make it work.