Shortly after having written about the general tendency to warehouse our children and later our elderly, I got an email from my wife. I thought I would share it as the practice of keeping your kids out of warehouses is generally left up to the women; since we men go off somewhere to do work and only deal with the kids part-time. My wife is absolutely heroic. There are many stay-at-home, home-schooling mothers like her. This one is for them and the dads who annoy them.
A day in the life of a stay-at-home, home-schooling, working, mother of three kids under the age of ten….
My day started at roughly 2 AM as I rolled over to nurse the rooting baby in my bed. After about an hour-and-a-half of sucking and chewing on my increasingly dry boobs, I lie there praying for him to just please, please, please let me sleep just a little. I tell myself to ignore my dry mouth and sore boobs. Just block that out. Just ten minutes more and you can sleep…
But alas…no rest for the wicked. At 4 AM I get up with the fussing baby and quickly leave the room where I am sleeping with my other two kids, ages 4 and 9, to prevent waking all of them up, and go pee while holding a 22-pound 11-month old. I tip-toe, ever-so-quietly into the other room where his father is sleeping. Since there are only four rooms in the house, including the bathroom, this makes being up at 4 AM with a fussing, teething baby a dicey piece of work.
Dad awakes and agrees to take the boy (he fears for his only begotten son’s life after looking into mom’s eyes). He tells me to go to sleep as I laugh sardonically and a bit psychotically. Nevertheless, I fall asleep sitting up on the floor. After hitting the floor I crawl back into bed. Did I mention this was also on the floor? It makes it all so convenient. I sleep until roughly 5 AM. Baby is again crying so I get up. He nurses my flaming sore breasts and falls asleep. I lay him down and close my eyes, but before the horrific dream of being sucked to death by rats with pink straws really gets underway, I am again awakened by a very upset and stinking baby. Diaper change! Baby sleeps a little more, I think. I can’t quite remember at this point. At about seven I get up with the darling boy, and feed him some scrambled eggs, milk and toast, most of which he throws on the floor to be eaten by the dog. Then "we" take a shower. At least he’s not screaming. I forgo shaving … it’s been only about six months after all. At this point it seems kind of silly.
8:30: Dad wakes up. Bleary eyed, he stumbles over to make coffee and comment on what an exhausting night he had.
8:45: I start breakfast for the other two kids, now awake. Cold cereal and yogurt all around. It’s that sort of morning. I pour a cup of coffee for myself (however, I do not drink the cup of coffee) and eat the cereal that gets too soggy and stirred up. They beg for Halloween candy and I say "sure," while baby hangs on me screaming.
9:15: I negotiate a path from the living room still destroyed from the sleep-over two days ago and go into the "office" which is really a large room for my husband to store his guitars in. However, I have now started working from home, so I have his laptop set up in the corner between the mixing board and the amps. (Don’t ask me why my three kids sleep on the floor in my room while my husband uses the only other bedroom in the house as his play room)
9:30: Fetch baby out of bathroom, wash off toilet water, change clothes, administer all-natural antibiotic drops.
9:45: Return to office, nine-year-old enters to say her new earrings make her ears swollen. In fact, they do look infected. I stop to make hot salt water to clean her ears. She takes a shower.
10:00: Four-year-old needs butt wiped and new panties. Look at long list of tasks and phone calls that need to be returned, stack of files next to laptop.
10:10: Time to start "school." Get out material for nine-year-old to work on report about Polynesia. Set four-year-old to copying letters on wipe-away work book. Start picking up toys, dishes, clothes and food from floor.
10:30: Sneak back into office. Drink cup of cold coffee.
10:33: "Mom… what type of canoes did the Tahitians sail in? And how do you spell Polynesia?"
10:40: Four-year-old brings work book to show progress, review letters and start over. Find a hot-pink crayon because the letter E can only be written with a hot-pink crayon.
10:42: Return calls to CPA, Credit bureau and business partner. Threaten death for interruption. Four-year-old colors, nine-year-old colors page for report, baby eats crayons.
11:00: Baby hungry again… feed baby … feed self. After making two fried eggs and toast, four-year-old announces she is hungry again too and wants fried eggs. Since those are the last eggs in the house, I eat a piece of dry bread and cheese, then sop up leftover cold yolk before washing dish.
11:30: Change poopy-diaper…Baby naps.
11:31: Back in office. Nine-year-old swears that none of her books list what the Tahitians brought on their migrations. I give permission to use other laptop for research, after reminding her Hannah Montana is not Hawaiian. Four-year-old gives up on school and decides to pull apart a beaded necklace and leave the seed beads scattered all over the floor. She then takes apart all of the "learning puzzles" so her dolly can do school too. Meanwhile I attempt online research and place an order for some online material to bring me up to speed on the profession I haven’t participated in for six years, swearing to myself that I will read all of this sometime between midnight and 2 a.m. every night until I am caught up.
Noon: Start downloading files into Quicken to prepare for tax time. Files do not come over as expected. Accounts don’t balance. Curse all technology and every technologist who ever lived. Start over… click ACCEPT ALL>
12:45: Baby wakes up… nurse while continuing to look for missing $234.45 and answer questions about long canoes, pit roasted dog meat and kinship systems. Ply four-year-old with every pen on my desk and old files as scratch paper. Look for paper bank statements to reconcile account. Realize that four-year-old has been quietly and industriously writing A’s and E’s all over last year’s accounts. Call bank. Order copies of paper statements.
1:00: Give up…
1:01: Make lunch
1:02: I place baby in high chair while standing barefoot on 100 scattered size 8 seed beads and mashed banana. Give baby some cold noodles to eat/play with until lunch can be prepared. Baby did not order cold noodles. Commence screaming. Now, I haven’t mentioned the previous screaming that is more or less the soundtrack of my life, but this screaming was just the exact pitch required to make me reconsider my life choices for the 374,273rd time. I cannot put baby down on the floor because he will eat the seed beads (they are tastier than cold noodles). I know this because I have spotted them occasionally next to the corn (maybe those were the pony beads I lost hmmm) Baby now takes his arm and in one fell swoop lands all of his noodles on the floor to join the banana, beads, milk, and egg mess.
Mommy gets "that look" on her face and the other children begin to appear very busy. I push screaming baby still strapped into high chair into the bathroom and close the door. My transformation is now complete. In true Indian-orphanage fashion I begin to bark orders: ‘I want all of these toys off the floor or I swear every last one of them will be in the trash! Pick up those shoes! If I find one more towel on the floor you will be drying with baby diapers!! GET THIS!!! TAKE THAT!! THROW THAT AWAY!! MOVE !!!!!"
Amidst the screaming (mine and his) and the four-year-old’s rapid movements, the nine-year-old-announces that it’s "very hard to concentrate on Pele and the formation of Kona with all this noise". I announce I am now channeling Pele and she had better move her butt and pick up her crap because I am getting the VACUUM. They all know what that means…
I send the four-year-old into the bathroom with the baby, armed with two very nice and developmentally appropriate toys with orders to "entertain the boy." To her credit, she puts on quite the dog and pony show and he condescends to take it down a notch.
I vacuum like I am on fire…like lava is crawling up my backside… I pick beads out of my heel and keep laying waste to the village.
Peace rains down amid folded futons and floors waiting empty, patiently to be filled once again with the detritus of life. The lives of five people are ready to spill over and upon all 600 sq ft of living space. How do the Japanese manage?
The children peek out from behind doors.. Pele has left the building.
1:53: We eat…PB&J, even the boy. And only one crust falls to the floor. I pretend I don’t care.
2:15: School continues. I plug the four-year-old into a "learning program" on one computer while I sit at the other, googling Hawaiian history. We find the answers to our questions and I leave her to write them down. I clean up the now-happy boy and notice that one cusped has managed to poke through the gum. This is brought to my attention as he stands holding onto my chair and looks up mouth all agape and smiling. Why, there it is!! There is the source of all this unhappiness. Then he bends down and lays his sweet little head in my lap and bites my inner thigh as hard as he can.
Do not fear, Dear Reader, he lives.
I reprimand… he cries. HE cries!
2:30: We are done with Polynesia, for today. Now, on to math, the dreaded subject. However, since we have an instructional video to accompany the curriculum, my chief role is to nag her to completion. I decide to multi-task and do a bit more work on the laptop while periodically goading her to “Hurry up or we’ll be at this all day.”
3:00: The nine-year-old takes a break to ride her bike and get the mail. The four-year-old is happily destroying brain cells in the name of education and sanity for mom. The boy is eating frozen blueberries and looking oh so rakish and adorable.
I take this quiet moment to do the dishes, put in a load of laundry, fold and put away a load of laundry, clean up the chaos in the bathroom (those dogs and ponies sure are messy), clean-up and finish vacuuming the office.
3:29: Screaming baby alarm. I notice poop coming out the sides of his diaper and mixing with the smashed blueberries. I also remember that I am out of wipes. I pull baby out of high chair while carefully holding away from body. In the bathroom I wipe the worst of it down with toilet paper, all the while keeping those cute, chubby hands out of it and out of the toilet where I am throwing the nasty mess. Then I place the baby in the tub and hose off. Note to self … clean tub before bathing kids tonight.
3:47: I call the nine-year-old back in. Back to school!!! She powers through parts of speech, paragraph editing, human anatomy and spelling. I sort the mail. Done? YEA!!!! She can be released from servitude, but first, put away the dishes, please. And tell your sister her computer time is up. “Can I…?” … “NO!”
4:30: Time to start dinner. "Would you like to hear our specials tonight, madam?
"We have spaghetti: spaghetti with butter and spaghetti with sauce." But wait, this isn’t just any spaghetti, this is organic fresh from the farmers market Spaghetti with pastured pork Italian sausage.. Oh crap, I forgot to take that out of the freezer. I’ll just throw it in hot water while I make the sauce (yes Dear Reader, I did say MAKE the sauce). I dig through the fridge for vegetables that might taste good in marinara…zucchini, bell peppers, onions, roasted garlic, fresh basil. I chop, I dice, I sauté. Every movement calculated for efficiency. I am Zen. I am ambidextrous. I am about trip over the baby and all of the bakewear pulled out onto the floor. But he is not now currently screaming so I dance around and make happy faces at him. I reach into the fridge and pull out the arugula. "Ugh, already bad, how about the cucumbers? Uh oh." I hear my husband’s voice in my head “What a waste of money and good food. You know, we should really stay on top of this.” Yes, yes so true we should…
5:30: Sauce is bubbling, pasta is on the stove. I finish the dishes. More voices: “Do I always have to do ALL the dishes? Even the lunch dishes?”
5:45: Round up children, prepare plates, undress boy (it is spaghetti after all) and place in secured high chair.
6:00: Husband walks through door, “Wow, great I’m starving. So, you look tired, hard day?” To my credit I neither break down hysterically weeping nor run screaming into the street, but simply nod my head.
6:15: I’ve now missed my window for eating (new diet and all that, have to have last morsel of food in mouth before 18:00 hours), so I eat a spoonful of peanut butter and the half of Italian sausage that was too spicy for the baby.
6:45: Baby has eaten and thrown around all the food that’s going to keep him entertained. Time for a bath. Ooops …see 3:29…
6:47: Clean tub…ah what the hell, might as well clean the sink and toilet too.
7:10: Bathe the baby, wait, bathe all three kids while dad cleans up the bedroom. I’m in bedroom denial. I just close the door during the day and pretend it’s the garage.
7:15: I go to Office Depot. Yes, I know your thinking, “Well, that’s a treat!”
Indeed. The truth is I would rather have my pinky nail pulled out than take all three kids into any Big Box store. I must have manila folders and various other sundry items by tomorrow or I will be forced to continue to look for the missing $234. Instead I can look for the missing tax receipts.
8:00: Walk in to girls in their nighties and a diapered boy crawling around made beds rolled out ready for sleep. Dad puts the boy to sleep while I unpack my bags from Office Depot. It’s Christmas in November. There are new pencil boxes, construction paper and even sticky notes! I label some file folders and stack them neatly next to the box of miscellaneous papers. There are mechanical pencils and their very own CD organizer. They immediately organize. It’s just all so fabulous. And who can sleep when it’s this exciting!
8:30: I lie down and "pet" the four year old. Two rounds of "Tula Tula" and she’s out for the count.
8:45 I get up. My nine year old has run me a bath (ahhhh). I finish the kitchen. I get into my very nice smelling herbal bath. I relax. This is a little challenging as the-nine-year old has decided this would be a great time to have a little mother daughter chat about boys and girls and Hannah Montana and why baby’s penis doesn’t look like daddy’s and why some girls wear bras when they are only ten and when I think she might wear a bra etc etc. Until… oh what is that? Did I hear a boy waking up? Of course I did…
9:15: nursing… nine-year-old lays down in her spot, still chatting.
9:18: “No more talking it’s time for sleep.”
“But I just…”
9:30: I get up. OMG… it’s almost over. I have a short adult conversation, mostly about how great Ron Paul is and how absolutely for sure he is going to win the primary, how Hilary sucks, how much money he raised in one day, how CNN is now all over it. How absolutely GREAT he is… um, did I mention how GREAT it is that he made over 4 million dollars in ONE day. You know maybe you should write an article about how great Ron Paul is …oh you did… well…GREAT!!
Maybe I’ll write an article too. No, not about Ron Paul. I know there isn’t much else worth writing about… still….
10:07: I write about things that aren’t really all that important and I’m sure CNN won’t be covering me…still… It seems sort of satisfying somehow…
10:40: write…eat three crackers and a glass of milk.
11:00: bad dream… pet pet…
Midnight: Lay down on the floor, nurse… doze…nurse…doze…
The sun rises….
Rick Fisk [send him mail] is a 45-year-old software developer and entrepreneur. He is married, has 3 children and resides in Austin, TX.