Friday, October 02, 2009

Making it work

And not really in a Tim Gunnian sense (although, I am repurposing my summer sundresses by wearing them with tanks, scarves, and jeans. A cheapo way to get through the awkward between season weather because, as Cathleen pointed out in the comments of the last post, cutting out the weekly mall trip is a good first step in creating a sound budget. That is wayyyy easier said than done, by the way, especially when you live 2 stoplights from the mall. The mall that has H&M which is so cheap they are practically paying me to sop there and Sephora which is teh awesome, to borrow Internet parlance.)

No, I mean, we're not biting each others heads off; we are relatively ontime for most of our commitments; the house is clean; the laundry s current, and we're still cooking healthy dinners at least 5 nights a week.

But we are exhausted.

Most days, I get up at 4:45 so I can start laundry and have some coffee before heading to the gym. I switch the laundry and start load number 2 as I walk in the door from the gym, hit the shower, and have my makeup done by 6:45, which is the time Ben tries to be out the door for work. He spends his early morning waking up with Harry and Jack and fetching them milk and little bowls of cereal so they can wait to eat breakfast until I'm dressed. Then he entertains them and gets himself dressed. On his way out the door, he takes out all the trashes and makes sure the final load of laundry is in the drier. The kids and I eat breakfast and clean it up (and since they are both huge yogurt eaters right now, the clean up involves a quick washing of the floor under their chairs). Then we take the laundry upstairs, fold it, put it away, and put all our clothes on.

By the time we leave to take Harry to school, I've been up for 4 hours and have done a Duggar-size amount of laundry.

Jack and I have lovely mornings together, but he is a bit needy and rambunctious these days, meaning I can't count on getting any sort of work or housework done while he's around. Instead, I have to play read play read play read play read until my eyes glaze over and I am begging him to snuggle with me on the couch for a few minutes and watch some Dora before we have to get Harry from school (and we better not forget to bring Harry a sippy cup of milk, or there will be HELL TO PAY). Or we go to Little Gym where I invariably collapse on a soft mat and try to interest Jack in a game of "wake mommy up while she pretend sleeps."

Our evenings are crammed full, too. We have to heat up dinner, eat it, clean it up, get everybody's clothes, backpacks, etc ready for the next morning's rush, do 2 separate and elaborate bedtime routines, make food for the next day, and collapse in exhaustion on the couch to catch up on DVRed TV. Twice a week, we clean the bathrooms during our "relaxation" times, and we drag out the central vac to do the stairs every other day.

We have to pencil in playtime, so that we remember to just relax for serious sometimes. I have to force myself to build an elaborate train obstacle course, read the fifty five hundred books Jack brings me throughout the day, set up their indoor playhouse and sit inside it while they serve me weird bits of plastic food, not because I don't enjoy these activities (which, for realz, are pretty damn boring after a few minutes) but because I am always thinking about the next item on my list, the next thing I can cross off before it's time to relax, before I fall into bed to sleep not nearly long enough, before my alarm goes off when the morning is black, and I start all over again.

And I know. I have heard all the cliches about your laundry can wait because your kids are only young for a little bit of time. I do enjoy them and play with them and lay on the floor doing nothing but inhaling them and marveling that their feet can still fit in the palm of my hand.

I read a really disturbing study that MSNBC reported on about how the children of SAHMs are thinner and healthier than the children of WOHMs, and I got so mad. Not because I categorically reject those results or anything. Because, oh, I don't know, it didn't mention working dads or frame the study in terms of working parents, which it certainly could have. Because it seems to be another story that fits our mythical cultural narrative better than the demographic facts about SAHMS v. WOHMs. Because I work, and I know that my kids are not sickly or fat because we are MAKING IT WORK. They're in lots of athletic activities, and we eat well on purpose, and we both flex our time to be with them and to PLAY with them when we'd rather be working.

I know that aggregate statistic don't break down at the level of the individual. Intellectually, I KNOW this. We're just working so hard everyday at work and at home, I can't help but feel defensive.

I promise to link the the study and to a great Washington Post article (thanks Lara) about what the "real" SAHM looks like next week when I'll try to sort the issues out better and write a bit more analytically. Now I have to slog through some work so I can go home and feed my sloth-like children Cheetos in front of the tube.
frosting face?

ice cream sundae?

popcorn and a slushie? not to mention screen time? tsk, tsk, tsk.


  1. Sister you need to slow down! You made me exhausted just reading that. You are a better woman that I because I would just cut out the gym and sleep in every day because I am slothful. I can't wait to see the SAHM article, because I am sure the description is totally just like me. Fully showered, make-up'd, eats three meals per day, dotes on her children 100 percent of the day, never loses her temper, does not ever say "Just a minute, Mommy is looking at the Internet" and feeds her children baked-from-scratch non-processed snacks. Oh and had a spotless house (no cleaning lady), spotless kids and a clean car.

  2. A) good for you for managing a crazy schedule like this! B) why do you feel you have to? Is it really necessary to do laundry everyday? Can the bathrroms maybe wait to be cleaned only once a week? I don't maintain a cleaning/laundry schedule this rigourous, and I have nothing else to do during the day (like work). Take it easy on yourself! nothing will fall through the cracks if you don't clean your house spotless constantly or if you wait to do laundry in a few big loads in one day on the weekends. I am so impressed that you can make all of this happen, but no wonder you are tired!
    I'm also interested in the SAHM article. I don't blame you for being defensive - look at the care you give your children and home and menu planning! They would not be in any better hands if you stayed home - so don't feel any guilt for being a working mom. The only guilt you should feel is for putting so much responsibility on your own shoulders. Just take it easy and things will be great.

  3. In the name of all that is holy, are you meaning to tell me you do laundry every day? And you clean your bathroom twice a week? I find this fascinating as it reveals to me I am a hopeless slovenly slobb-o probably jeopardizing the health of my young kids (that's what my grandmother says to get me to clean stuff). I just thank my lucky stars the hygiene hypothesis has got some legs, to relieve my feelings of guilt.

  4. I agree with lonek. We do laundry once a week. And bathrooms get cleaned when they need it (about once a month they get really cleaned, picked up regularly though).

    And you are not the normal working mom. Your schedules allow you to be with the kids a lot more! That makes a huge difference because you are involved in their lives daily!

  5. tripod6:50 PM

    You guys do a beautiful job in all the dimensions! I am just glad to see comments that tell me that lots of people are more the way I was (read "sloppy"). I always thought you were clean because you grew up in the messy house I kept, but never mind...
    Here's the thing, when you keep house, you are always looking at what needs to be done, and you never enjoy how nice it looks!
    It would be great to look at it and like it, though

  6. Damn you are busy!! I SAHM and cannot for the life of me stay on top of the laundry. I honestly did a better job when I was working. I think it's because when your life is as freeform as mine is there is always "later" to do almost anything. It's not good.